My namesake, Davy Crockett, has been credited with the saying, “Be sure you’re right, the go ahead”. Wise words, but a bit to definitive for me. If I waited until I was sure I was right before making a move, I’d still be back in elementary school. It’s nice to be sure of yourself, but especially if you come here to live in the Philippines, it’s just not possible.
I prefer my interpretation, which I picked for today’s title. I think things through to the best of my ability, ask advice from the best sources I have available, and then I go ahead and “git ‘er done”. So far it has been working pretty well for me. (and yes I know about the well known cautions regarding ass and u and me, but I live my life, in company with the majority of my friends and associates, in the real world. We do our best to be right, but we can never be sure, and when you are as sure as you can reasonably be, we go ahead and do it). Some folks, instead, sit on the fence waiting until there are no assumptions left in the equation … and last I looked they are still sitting.
I wanted to speak about a couple common threads I see over and over again in this Web Magazine community, in other online sources for Philippine information and in personal conversations with many fellow foreigners over the years.
Language: I want to ask a favor here. Please read the next sentences. I greatly admire Bob and the others I know who are studying one or more Philippine languages. I also would be first in line to state that your life here, whether on vacation or long-term living would be enhanced by learning a local language and especially being able to speak it well enough to talk with people on the street regularly. The reason I asked you to pay special attention to those preceding two sentences is because I have been trapped by statements like I am going to make next … if people didn’t read my preamble. You do not need to learn any language before you come here to the Philippines. This does not mean I am critical of those who are learning … just that you do not need to know any other language other than basic English skills before you come to the Philippines. Learning the local language is a great benefit and again, I highly recommend it … but I see far too many people waffling and vacillating in their decision using language as a “go – no go” part of their decision process. It really isn’t as big a deal as you think.
Health Care: I think many many folks are on the health care ‘fence’ in deciding on a possible move here than possibly any other issue. Especially in the USA where we have the 17th or so ranked health care system in the world (check the WHO rankings), yet by far the world’s most expensive. It’s certainly not up to me to tell people to ignore this issue, but I also see a tremendous number of folks who would probably love living here denying themselves the chance to even give it a try because they are paralyzed by the specter of life without US health care insurance and especially without Medicare. A couple facts you might want to consider to help balance out the continual scare talk you hear from groups like the AARP who exist just to get rich off seniors being overcharged for health care in the US.
- Many US health plans will cover your medical care here. You have to deal with the plan itself to find out your true limits, not the hearsay and the ‘what happened to Joe’ stories that circulate on the ‘Net.
- Almost all medical care here is on a cash basis, but you can deal with this in advance by having some savings … not a bad plan even if you don’t get sick.
- For those eligible for Medicare … many seem to get confused when they run across the fact that Medicare does not pay for services outside the US. (actually, they do cover short-term emergency care outside the US, such as a person getting ill while on vacation … check the information with Medicare directly.) A number of folks I know have confused the fact that Medicare won’t pay overseas with the notion that if you live, long-term overseas, you aren’t covered by Medicare. This is not so. You would have to return to the US for procedures or hospitalization … but you are still covered by Medicare no matter how long you live outside the US … Medicare can’t dictate where you reside, only where they pay … an important distinction.
- I have a health plan that covers me here in the Philippines. So far (knock on wood), in three years I have yet to spend enough to even come close to the plan’s modest ($300 per year per family) deductible, so I can’t even tell you how fast they pay, etc. I don’t say ignore the issue, but I do say that health insurance is blown way out of proportion by many. Make sure your caution is not really an excuse for putting things off.
Doing Things On Your Own: This could be a big blog post, or even several all by itself … but I’ll take just a nip out of it for now, because I think it holds a lot of people back. First of all, let me state that I am eternally and immensely grateful to my loving wife and her wonderful family. If I had come there on my own and lived my life every day on my own I would miss their support big time. But do not for a minute think I couldn’t get along on my own if I had to. I’ve had people ask me, “You went and did such and such on your own”? Almost as if it was flying to the moon or something. You are xx years old. You’ve been getting things done for yourself ever since your mom sent you to the store the first time on your own. This is a foreign country, but it’s not another world … you’ll do fine. There are even times having a Filipino along ‘looking after you’ can get in the way … the more people you need to try to explain what you want to, the harder it gets … much like the old kids game of “telephone”, where by the time the message gets back to the start of the circle, no one can recognize it.
- Going to a government office? Take your time, read the signs, ask for help. In my experience, even government clerks are nicer to foreigners than they often are to their fellow Filipinos. Just make sure you are rested and have time and be patient. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what you can get done on your own.
- Going to buy something and worried about the all too familiar warnings about jacked up prices for foreigners? First of all, if you buy in large, formal stores like in a mall, the price is going to be marked anyway, so what’s the issue? If you are going to buy something in a local market or informal setting, do your research and ask around before you buy. If you are offered a price that sounds out of line, first tell the merchant … with a smile works best … “Oh no, that’s way more than I planned to spend.” If he makes a decent counter offer, buy, if not just walk out … there’s always another place to buy it. I’m sure there are times I paid too much, I also know of many times my family or neighbors have been very approving of my bargaining skills. It the long run it will all work out just fine … especially if you are pleasant and smile a lot .. even if it’s a phony smile (I didn’t just type that, did I? LoL)
- Give the other person ‘wiggle room”. The mistake we Americans commonly make is being too abrupt and “cut and dried” about things. The world isn’t going to end if it doesn’t happen “right now”. Also, even if the other person is dead wrong, and you know they are wrong, and you have every right to insist they admit they are wrong, remember something you have in your ‘hip pocket’ which costs you nothing but a little pride … monetarily. (don’t worry, you’ll get your pride back, most of us have an inexhaustible supply). Just relax, make chit chat and let the person in the wrong work things out in their own way so that they aren’t forced to admit their error. Believe me, this is one of the things I have personally ‘stubbed my toe” on plenty of times, but it’s one of the easiest mistakes to avoid if you just remember something … is it your object to prove the other person wrong, or to get something done so you can move on? It’s absolutely amazing what you can get done if you keep your eye upon the goal, rather than playing the “I am right” game.
Okay, that’s a few of my tips to think about, particularly if you are one of those readers here who is “on the cusp” of making the decision to come to the Philippines to visit or live, but just don’t now if you can do it.
My answer is, yes you can do it … decide what you want to do, assume it will work, and do it … my guess is you’ll be glad you did.