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10 mistakes when moving to the Philippines

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Everybody makes mistakes in life, but when making a major life decision it is good to do it with as few mistakes as possible.  Last week, I was listening to a Podcast on the Internet while out walking, and it was about the “10 Mistakes” that people make when doing this, that or the other.  It got me thinking about what kind of mistakes people make when moving to the Philippines.

I thought back, also, on the mistakes that I have made – both when moving here, and after living here.  Some of my mistakes cost me money, others cost me pride, and all of them caused me grief of one kind or another.  So, in thinking, I decided to come up with a top ten list of mistakes that people make when they move to the Philippines.  None of these mistakes is life threatening in any way, but still, if you can avoid making these common mistakes it might just lead to having a much happier life in the Philippines, and certainly fewer problems in life here.

Tagalog Buddy

Let’s see what I came up with, and why I feel they are mistakes.

Top Ten Mistakes People Make When Moving To The Philippines

  1. keep-calm-and-accept-changeNot being accepting of change.  Change is inevitable in life.  Even if you are staying in your comfortable home that you have known all of your life, change comes.  Change happens.  You can’t avoid it.  Things change!  Imagine, if you have decided to uproot your life and move half way around the world into a completely foreign culture and society?  Talk about change!  Pretty much everything in your life will change, to some extent, when you move to the Philippines.  Even the things that you think will be “pretty much” the same, you will find out that they are much different than you thought at first glance.  So, the difference between a successful move and a not-so-successful move comes from how you deal with change.  Can you accept change, or will you fight it at every step of the way?  If you are like most foreigners who move here, myself included, you will fight it.  You will actually come to the feeling that the Philippines should change to accommodate your needs instead of you changing to fit in to society in your new home.  If you are smart, before this feeling goes on too long, you will come to realize that the 100 Million + residents of the Philippines are not all going to change to make you feel good.  You have a choice, you can either move back home where you are comfortable with life, or you can make changes in your life to fit in better into society here.  None of us needs to completely change, but be adaptable on some things and you will be forgiven for those things that you just can’t change.  If people see that you have made an effort to change yourself to fit in here, they will accept you, and even help you.
  2. Hanging Out

    Hanging Out

    Focusing all of your time on hanging out with other foreigners.  This might be a bit of a touchy subject, but the truth is, if you move to the Philippines it is probably not the best plan to spend all of your time hanging out only with other Americans, other Brits, other Aussies, or whatever country it is that you came from.  Try to have some Filipino friends, because they are the ones who can help you with #1, to change, and to understand what you need to change to have a happier life here.  Nothing wrong to have friends from your home country, or other foreign countries, nothing wrong at all.  But, you should also try to mix with some of your neighbors and other local people that you meet.  You never know, you may find a few who will have a profound effect on your life.  I know I did.

  3. Not Learning at least some of the local language.  Learning at least some of the local language will change your life a lot, and change it for the better.  Whether you become fluent in the language, as I did, or just learn enough to be able to say some common phrases, you will find that people will be very friendly and accept you much more if they see you are making an effort to learn the language.  The Philippines has many different languages used in various places around the country, you should make an effort to learn some of at least the language that is widely spoken in the area where you decide to live.
  4. don_t-give-upGiving up too soon.  Adjusting to living in the Philippines is not easy.  It is a difficult transition to make.  So many things are different.  Dealing with government agencies can be quite taxing (in more ways than 1), lots of reasons why many expats become negative about life here.  Many people give up and move back home where they came from.  Too many people move back, and they tend to do so too quickly, in my opinion. The cycle seems to be that a person moves here, and quickly sees challenges in life here.  Next, they let those challenges make their life negative and influence them to dislike life here.  After that, they start hanging out with other people who hate living here, which only makes them feel worse about living here.  After enduring this for a while, they just give up and leave.  Alternatively, if you find it challenging when you move here, try to examine what you can do to make your life more enjoyable.  How you can deal with the challenges in a positive way.  If you can figure that out, and make the necessary changes, you might come to find that you love living here.  That is how it worked in my life.
  5. Buying a house too quickly.  A lot of people will buy a house immediately after moving here.  Some actually buy even before moving here!  That, in my view, is a big mistake.  I feel, quite strongly, that you should come here and rent a place to live for at least 2 to 5 years before deciding if buying a place is right for you.  Doing it this way gives you a chance to decide a few things.  Firstly, are you going to be happy living here.  Secondly, are you going to be happy living in the city or area that you chose?  You might want to move across town, or even to a different island.  You are moving to a place that is new to you – take the time to check the place out before tying yourself down to a certain house.  If you buy the wrong place, it might be impossible to sell it for the price you paid, or anywhere near that price.  You might be stuck for years.  Rent for a while – you might even decide that renting your residence is the right move permanently.  I have no problem if you want to buy a house, but I just advise that you should live here for a while before making the final decision.
  6. Moving here without first visiting.  I hear from a lot of people who tell me they are getting ready to move to the Philippines, and ask me a few questions.  From the questions asked it becomes fairly apparent that they have never visited the Philippines, so I will ask them, just to be sure.  “Oh no, Bob, I have never been there before.”  Big mistake!  Spend the money to take an exploratory trip here first, see how you like the place!  Living here is very different from vacationing here, but at least you will get an idea of whether this is the type of place where you can live a comfortable life.  When I say “comfortable life” I really am not talking about being financially comfortable, rather whether you can live here happily.
  7. researchNot doing any research.  This relates to #6.  Many people move here without researching anything about living here.  That is NOT a good idea.  Inform yourself.  Become an expert about living here.  Being better informed is never a bad thing, and it may help you make wiser decisions if you do your research about your potential move!  With the Internet at our fingertips these days, doing the research is not a difficult or expensive thing to do.
  8. Listening to the wrong information.  There is a LOT of wrong information out there on the Internet.  I try to be accurate, but let’s be honest.. nobody is 100% accurate 100% of the time.  So, your best thing that you can do in making decisions about moving here is to talk to multiple people and get a consensus opinion.  If you talk to 10 people and 9 of them tell you that City A is a terrible place to live.. well, you probably can be fairly confident in what you are being told.  Research multiple sources of information, and balance that all out to see what is logically the correct information.
  9. i-want-to-complainInstead of finding solutions, just complain.  As I said earlier, there are a lot of complainers, and a lot of people get sucked in to these groups of complainers.  Most people, when they get into this type of group of people decide that there are no solutions to the problems, if there were solutions these folks would not all be complaining!  Friends, I tell you, if you are diligent and resourceful there is no problem in life that you cannot solve, or at least improve.  I went through my time of not liking life here.  I complained.  I acted out in stupid ways.  I was unhappy.  A time came, though, when I decided to have a happy life instead of being miserable.  I looked for ways to improve my life, and guess what… I did.  I am very happy with my life in the Philippines now, and have been for years.  When you are ready to enjoy your life in the Philippines, stop complaining and put that energy into finding a way to make life better.  You will be happy that you did.  And.. you will then avoid #4.
  10. Not enough money

    Not enough money

    Moving to the Philippines without the proper finances in place.  This is, in my opinion, the number one worst mistake, and the most widely made mistake that I see.  Too many people move here without having enough money.  Too many people move here without having a source for ongoing finances to live life.  Make a plan.  Stick to your plan.  Don’t get caught in the Philippines with an empty wallet.  It is a big, big mistake.  There is no safety net here.  No government welfare.  No Obamacare, Aquinocare or any other kind of health care, except the kind that  you open your wallet for and pay for.  There are not many jobs here that a foreigner can get.  Either come here with ongoing income in place through a pension, Social Security, or a job that you can keep doing no matter where you live, or come up with a way to work for yourself here and make enough money so that you don’t have to struggle.  This is the most important advice I can give you.  If you come here without a good financial plan, and later on your get desperate, you may find it nearly impossible to fix your situation without leaving the Philippines and going back home.  If you come here with a financial plan, but after a time you see that it is not working out the way you expected, try to fix your situation early enough that you can save yourself from free fall, and get back on your feet.

So, these are the things that in my view are very important mistakes that I see people make in moving here.  Try to think about these things and do what you can to prepare for them, and to avoid these mistakes at all cost.  You will be happy that you did, believe me.  I will see how the comments go, and if there is a lot of interest in any of these thoughts, perhaps I will write future articles to expand on those mistakes that people seem to show the most interest in.

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Nilda
Nilda
7 years ago

Wow! Bob, very well said! Excellent article and it’s absolutely true!!!!

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Nilda

Thanks for stopping by, Nilda! I am glad you found the article to be on the spot. I do feel that by making a few simple adjustments most people can drastically improve their lives in the Philippines. I know it worked for me!

Zan
Zan
7 years ago

Yes, great article Bob. This is sound wisdom everyone should heed.
I’ll be visiting Cebu in a couple of weeks… exploratory as you suggest.

Thanks.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Zan

Hi Zan – Thanks for your comment! Glad you found the article to be interesting and informative. Making an exploratory trip is an important first step toward moving here! Too many people move here sight-unseen. That is not a wise move, in my view. Enjoy your trip!

Zan
Zan
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I’m considering going over to Bohol or Palawan…are those locations too far and or good choices…Thnaks.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Zan

Hi Zan – I would say that they are both nice places. The only thing I would consider is that they are both a bit remote, and not that many services. That statement applies more to Palawan than Bohol, but to some extent to both places. The availability of some products and services is limited in areas like that. My primary concern would be quality internet.

Zan
Zan
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Thanks Bob…your advice and knowledge is much appreciated.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Zan

You are most welcome, Zan.

Brenton Butler
Brenton Butler
7 years ago

Hi Bob – Good article! Always like reading your posts.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Brenton Butler

Thanks, Brenton.

RJ
RJ
7 years ago

Excellent article Bob. I am a long time reader, but first time commenter. I’ve learned a lot from from you and the other writers of LIP and I would like to thank you and all the other contributors as well. I’ve visited the phils close to 20 times over the past 5 years and will likely decide to live there at least for part of the year in the near future. I, like you, especially like Mindanao and continue to visit there regularly. In my opinion, the attitude and approach you express here would also serve people welll in facing… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  RJ

Hi RJ – Well, my friend, it’s about time you decided to leave a comment! Years of reading, you should have commented a long time ago! Ha ha… just giving you a hard time. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words, RJ, I appreciate it very much. I hope that your plan works out and that you are able to make the move sooner than expected, and that it all goes smoothly! Where do you like to visit in Mindanao?

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob, t discovered your site about a year ago, so a procrastinator, yes, but not for 5 years. LOL. I’ve visited a number of places in the phils and as far as Mindanao goes, I’ve visited Davao City, and out to Samal Island to Pearl Farm, Gensan, Butuan City, Dipoolog City, Dapitan, Malaybalay, Ozamis City, and Cagayan de Oro. I’ve spent a lot of time in Manila, mostly in Makati, and in Cebu city. I’ve had short one week visits to Boracay and Bohol. as well. I just returned last week from the phils and I will return in… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  RJ

Hi RJ – Wow, you are a really prolific traveler! You have just about covered Mindanao! It is a beautiful island, no doubt.

Lunch? Hey, that sounds great! Give me a shout when you are in Davao next.

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Prolific traveler, LOL….well I would just say that I am interested in visiting and learning about different places…..Sorry Bob, I didn’t answer your initial question…of course I like Davao City, but I enjoy all of the other places also…so I’m not sure where I would decide to be most of the time. Davao City is a clean and safe place and I feel very comfortable there… I’d like to spend more time there and continue to learn what it has to offer. I know you have writers that live north of Manila…I’ve never been to the Subic bay area or… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  RJ

I think you are doing the right thing, RJ, by visiting many places and seeing which place is right for you. That is the only way to really know for sure! Keep it up, and you will find just the right spot!

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob, I agree …many people ask all kinds of questions about a place and the people that know try to respond and be helpful, but at some point ..you just need to go there and see for yourself. Thanks to you at least people have information to consider in making such an important decision.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  RJ

For sure, RJ!

Anah
Anah
7 years ago

Bob,

Great job with this article! Very helpful and couldn’t agree with you more 🙂

Take care,

Anah

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Anah

Thanks, Anah!

papaduck
papaduck
7 years ago

Bob,
Your spot on with your top ten mistakes. I hear about expats making these mistakes all the time. Hopefully alot of people looking to move here will read this article and avoid the pitfalls.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  papaduck

Thanks, PapaDuck. Yep, I pretty much wrote this article based on my own mistakes that I made over the years here. I have not made them all, but have made plenty. I have observed all of them, some with disastrous results!

scott h
scott h
7 years ago

#9 is near and dear to my heart Bob. Us Americans are so used to seeing something and trying to improve on it, and it drove me crazy as to why they don’t do things “MY WAY”. Watching them build our house nearly gave me a stroke lololol. Now I just observe, smile, chuckle at times, and think things over. I do have a Filipino friend that I will ask “why do they do that?” Usually the answer makes me go AHHHHHHHH. But every so often I see a light come into his eyes and he says “that’s a good… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  scott h

Hi Scott h – I hear you! I have been there and done that myself. I kind of got turned around in this attitude due to a carpenter that we have used for many years. His name is Jun Jun. Jun Jun does excellent work, and he always pleases me with the results. But, when we first started using him, I would keep a close eye on him, instruct him exactly what I wanted, and I would correct him when I saw him taking what I considered a “wrong turn”. One time, I decided to just let him do it… Read more »

SteveC
SteveC
7 years ago

Good article Bob,
Couldn’t imagine moving there without visiting first. We’re on a four year plan trying to get prepared for the move . With every successive visit as we visit another area or meet more family members or whatever, another piece of the overall puzzle falls into place. I think three words might appropriate, planning, planning, and planning.
Thanks,
SteveC

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  SteveC

Hi SteveC – You would be surprised at how many people I hear from who have everything prepared to move here, and they have never even visited. It is very obvious by the way they talk. Lots of people will tell me they are moving here and wondering if they should learn Spanish or not. I ask them… “Spanish? Why would you learn Spanish?” They reply “So I can talk to the people there.” When I tell them that they don’t speak Spanish here, sometimes they tell me that I don’t know what I am talking about! 🙂

Bill
7 years ago

Hi Bob,

I was thinking of moving to Russia because I’m fluent in Japanese. Some say I’m indecisive, but I don’t know. haha Seriously, great post! I’m coming in August this year. I’ve read a ton of information, but I’ve just come to the realization that reading it and living it are two different things.

I’m just going to strap on the jet pack and enjoy the ride!

I have learned a great deal via your websites and books.

Thank you!

Bill

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Bill

Hi Bill – My favorite singer, Jimmy Buffett, has a line in one of his songs where he says “Indecision may or may not be my problem!” I’ll stick with that. 😉

Yeah, most stuff that causes us problems in life are things that we cannot change anyway, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. Just do your best to prepare then adjust the best you can to the reality of life here. If you can’t do that, the Philippines is probably not the place for you.

I know you can do it, though, Bill.

Bill
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Nice quote! 🙂 Thanks Bob! I know I can do it too. I’m looking forward to it.

Blessings Always!

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Bill

Thanks, Bill!

Gerald Glatt
Gerald Glatt
7 years ago

Not sure about Number 10. I do not mean the premise but I have never moved or went somewhere for any period of time where I had enough money. That’s whether it’s 6 figures or 3 still can’t see, eat, drink (not always alcohol) or meet enough people, heck can’t even buy them all a Coke if they sing. I think when we come I will put away enough to return to US and a couple of thousand for in case.. The rest I’ll probability party with and any left over just waste. LOL
.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Glatt

Hi Garald.. hmmm.. I am talking about coming here with enough money to be safe. To be able to provide for your family. To pay for the costs if your wife or child gets sick. That kind of thing. If it is a permanent move, I think that is very important.

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