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Honestly, do you really want to live here?

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I have a lot of websites, more than 200 different sites, and most of them are related in one way or another to the Philippines. Because of this, as you can image, I get a ton of e-mail from people who profess to me that they want to move here. Funny thing is, even after years of saying this, very few people make the move. And, of those who do make the move, more than half move back after only a short time here.

Why is it that few people make the move? I remember when I was in their position, still living in the USA, yet having a deep desire to move here to live permanently. The thought of moving here seemed to consume my mind 24/7. I was actually quite obsessed with it. However, when the day finally came that I sold my house, suddenly at first I was scared to death with the idea that I was actually going to take the leap and move half way around the world! I wanted it so badly for so long, but when the day actually came that I could do it, it finally sunk in on me just how huge of a step this was! It took a few days before the fear started to subside, but right up until we stepped on the plane, we pondered whether we were doing the right thing. I feel that this is a factor for many who want to move here, but never take the step. Another huge factor is financial. A lot of people simply don’t have the financial ability to make such a move.

Tagalog Buddy

Now, how about all the people who move here from abroad and end up going home after a relatively short time? I would estimate (although I know of no official figures) that more than half of those who move here end up leaving within just a few years. Why would this be the case? Well, I would say that the number one reason would be that they can’t adjust to the way things are here, compared to where they came from. Society is different here than in the States. Everything works differently here. If you are here on Vacation, you don’t get the feel for that, because people give you more leeway. If you are just here for a short time your Filipino acquaintances can put up with you for a few weeks until you leave. They make adjustments and give you leeway with your different ways. However, when you come here to live for good, it is YOU who must change. In the beginning, people realize that you are a foreigner and they give you the benefit of the doubt. However, after a while, they expect you to conform to societal norms here, and that is not always easy. A lot of Americans who have vacationed here always tell me that Philippine society and culture is “just the same as ours.” Well, I am here to tell you that it is not the same, my friend, it is not even close! If it were the same, incidents like what Feyma wrote about at the Bureau of Immigration wouldn’t happen. A friend of mine, Dave Starr had a similar incident recently. What about the things that AmericanLola wrote about Losing Face? These things are just the tip of the iceberg too, so please realize that you will have plenty of adjustments to make when you live here.

Another reason why people end up going back to where they came from is often a lack of income. One very common thing that I hear from people who e-mail me is this: “Hey, I am planning to move to the Philippines, what kind of job can I get when I arrive?” Well, first of all, depending on what type of legal status you intend to set up for your stay here, most likely you won’t even have the legal right to work here. If you just get off the plane and have a tourist visa, you cannot legally get a job here! If you want to work here you need a work permit. If you are a tourist, the odds of getting a work permit are somewhat small. You are supposed to be vacationing here, not working! If you get a resident visa (like a 13 series visa or a retirement visa) the work permit is automatically included with the visa.

OK, so now you have your work permit, right? What kind of job can you get now? Well, are you willing to work for local wages? Maybe P200 per day or so (that’s about $5), and that is PER DAY not per hour. If you are like me, you aren’t willing to work for that type of wage. But, don’t fret, you can still make a good living here. You need to start your own business of some kind.

In addition, if you decide to live here, I recommend that you follow one thing that Feyma and I did when we moved here. Before moving, we made a commitment to each other that no matter what, we had to stay for 5 years. If we hated it here, or if we loved it, no matter, we had to stay, and could not consider leaving until we had been living here for 5 years. The thing is, if you leave when the going gets tough, you are not giving yourself adequate time to adjust to life here. You must take time, learn from hard knocks and force yourself to adjust to life here. If you leave after 6 months or so, you are selling yourself short, and you are really wasting your time and the money that you spent to set up life here. Hang in there, and force yourself to give adequate time for the adjustment.

So, what do you think, are you really ready to make such a commitment? If you are willing to go through some hard times in adjusting, and if you have enough money to ride out the storm, I think that moving here is a great thing. Feyma and I have talked about this in recent years and we agree that at this point in our lives we would not even consider moving back to the States, or anywhere else. We rode out the hard times, and we worked out the financial side of things too.

We’ll be staying. How about you? Will you be joining us?

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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Justin
Justin
13 years ago

Bob, This is a really great article and I must say I descovered this site by accident but have since become a fan of it as I find the articles extreemly interesting and not written from the rose colored glasses perspective that is so common on some other sites , forums and groups. I think allot of expats go to PI thinking they are going to live the same quality of life in PI for a lesser ammount than they spent in America and get really deprssed when they see thats just simply not possible because like in many other… Read more »

Justin
Justin
13 years ago

Bob, I couldnt live the tarzan lifestyle either but like you Ive known some who have, a few did it with no problem but most got tired of it rather quickly. You know though some years ago ABS-CBN had a excellent expose called Pooriegners that was quite interesting, was about really poor foreigners i the Philippines who had gotten down on their luck by one way or another and either didnt have the ability to go home, didnt want to go home or more likley than not had nothing to go home to. It was in many ways a sad… Read more »

Bob
Bob
14 years ago

Hi Macky – I should have been more clear…. it’s not the falling dollar that I was talking about, but inflation in Pesos. The inflation is very high, then add that to the falling dollar and the impact is huge. Some expat friends and I were talking the other day about groceries, and we all agreed that we spend more money on groceries here than we did in our respective countries! Of course, being expats, we are not sticking to strictly local products, which drives our bills up! 😆

Bob
Bob
14 years ago

Hi macky – I hear you, my friend! I will caution you just a bit, though….. be careful about thinking too much about the cost of living here. Over the last couple of years the cost of living in the Philippines has really skyrocketed. Almost every day when I talk to other expats in the Philippines I hear it from them. They are shocked at the rising prices here and such. That said, of course I know that prices increase everywhere. Is is still cheaper to live here than the USA? Of course it is! But, it is not as… Read more »

aleks
aleks
14 years ago

so nice to hear you guys want to live in Pinas. too bad for us for we have to be OFW. gudluck

macky
14 years ago

Hi Bob – Thanks for the tip. Like you, i’m bit of a news guy, so the current rates there won’t be a surprise. I also make a good living here so that just translates to better living there. Heck, even if the dollar hits the 20’s (i’m exaggerating for conversations sake), we’d be ok. I still remember the country panicking when the peso broke 40 during the Asian crash.

No prob with the site now. Must have been a temporary glitch somewhere.

macky
14 years ago

by the way, clicking on your ‘bob’ tab doesn’t seem to work at the moment.

Bob
Bob
14 years ago

Hi macky – Well, well! You have surprised me! I thought that the issue of moving back here was already sort of “off the table” for you. Hey, if you decide to make the move back, that would really please me. I’d look forward to forging a nice friendship with you, and getting to know you even better.

Good luck! If there is anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to ask!

macky
14 years ago

hi bob – it came out in left field. the financial aspect has been quite tempting. i save so much more if i move my work there. but it’s not all money too, i get to take less work and have more free time with my – gasp – hobbies. still, there are major pros and cons on both sides that concern me, that is why i understand many of board comments. thanks for the kind words,bob, and i’ll make sure to keep you informed. i have a feeling once we transfer, we’ll be bumping into each other a lot… Read more »

Joe Parisi
Joe Parisi
14 years ago

Bob,

I don’t remember you telling us what the appeal of the Philippines was to you.

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