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How will you choose where to live?

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As you can imagine, through this blog and my other blogs, I get a lot of e-mails from people who are thinking of moving here.  I also talk to a lot of other ex-pats who live here.  Often times, if you are in the mall or whatever, you see other foreigners.  Sometimes I strike up a conversation with the other foreigners, and some of the things you learn are fascinating.

One topic that is always a little fun is to ask a person where they decided to live when they moved to the Philippines, and why.

If you ask a guy who still has not moved to the Philippines, but intends to move, where he plans to live, almost all the time, the answer is “My wife is from XYZ, so we will live there.”  So, they settle in on the area where their wife is from as their choice for their new home.

If you meet an ex-pat who has lived here for a while, and ask about where he has lived in the Philippines, here is what you usually hear:  “Well, my wife is from XYZ, so when we moved here, we settled in XYZ.  After a year, or two, we couldn’t live there anymore, so we moved to ABC.”  I will ask… “why couldn’t you live there anymore?”  The answer is always the same – “had to get away from the wife’s family!”  Ha ha… it always works out like this.

So, just to reiterate, guys who plan to move here invariabley choose to live in their wife’s hometown.  After moving to the wife’s hometown, after a year or two, most guys either move somewhere else, or want to.

Why is it like that?  Well, I can’t give every answer, but I’ll tell you about my experience.

My wife grew up in the area around General Santos City.  When we moved back to the Philippines, we settled there in GenSan, maybe 2 or 3 kilometers from the house of my in-laws.  I quickly learned that 2 or 3 kilometers was too close.  I rarely had any privacy.  The in-laws would show up at any time of the day or night, just to hang out there.  It would not be unusual that I would have 5, 10, even 15 in-laws hanging out at the house.  Of course, this meant that they were eating there, drinking, whatever.  It costs money to have guests all the time like that.  But, the worst part was not the money it costs, but the lack of privacy.  I got to the point where if I was at home, I would just go hang out and watch TV in the bedroom, leaving all the in-laws hanging out in the rest of the house.  For many, another thing that happens is that the in-laws ask for money all the time.  I am lucky, my in-laws don’t ask for money, at least they don’t ask very often.  So, basically, for many guys who live in their wife’s hometown, they have constant requests for money, no privacy in their house, etc.  It’s not a good situation.

To be honest, in our experience, even Feyma wanted more privacy, and thus wanted to move away from General Santos.  It’s funny, in the society where I came from (USA), privacy is something that we value.  We like having time alone, not having a lot of people around all the time.  Feyma lived in the USA for 10 years, and she got used to that lifestyle.  Here in the Philippines, the society is different.  People like having big groups of people at the house.  Gathering of all the extended family is important to people here.  In the US, I have cousins that I haven’t seen in 30 years.  Here, even your 4th or 5th cousin is just “part of the family.”  It’s just not the same.

After living in General Santos for 2 years, we decided to move to Davao City, which is about 150 Kilometers north of General Santos.   It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive in your own car.  It’s 3 1/2 hours or more on the bus.  We didn’t move here just because of the family, but for a number of reasons.  We didn’t realize until after moving here how nice it was to have a little distance from the family.  I like it, and so does Feyma, I think.

Don’t take me wrong, we still see Feyma’s family.  We go to General Santos regularly, and some of Feyma’s sisters take the bus up here from time to time.  But, they know that they should not just show up any time – call us first and see if it would be ok to come at the time they desire.  It’s only polite, after all.  Feyma’s Mom is old and rather sick.  She lives with us, and we care for her.  So, it’s not like we have abandoned the family, we’ve just made it a little hard to “live” with us, so to speak.

Anyway, this is just a rundown of my experience regarding living near to family.  Everybody’s different, so your experience may be different too.  But, my experience mirrors nearly 100% of the other foreigners that I have talked to who live here.

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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russel
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russel

hi bob, i can't help but read your blogs. you see i got google alert setup to email me for 'gensan' and 'general santos city' keywords. your blogs almost always triggers these alerts daily. not that i mind it, no. actually i find your blogs interesting…seeing gensan through the eyes of a resident foreigner. it was funny cause i was reading your old blogs yesterday and was wondering why you decided to move to davao. well, i got my answer today. well explained. i'm also checking out your photoblogs from time to time. nice to see some photo updates from… Read more »

Bill
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Bill

Bob,

Another helpful blog, thanks.

As you may recall my wife and I are planning to visit Davao and a few other areas in the Philippines next Winter. She is from Cebu, for the reasons you mentioned in this blog, and because Cebu seems to me to be polluted and congested, I am considering other areas to live in.

Anyway, I'll be following your blogs. Hope to meet you in person next Winter.

Bill

Bob
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Bob

Hi Bill, welcome to the LiP blog! I agree about Cebu. I used to like it alot, but it's grown so big anymore that it's not for me.

Good luck on finding your place, and if I can assist you, don't hesitate to let me know!

Bob
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Bob

Hi Russel – nice to hear from you! I don't think we met before, but I consider Job to be a good friend. If you are back in the Philippines, get in touch with me, I'd like to meet you!

Peter Bennett
Guest

Bob, a thought provoking subject, hahaha, how to live in the Philippines without having family showing up at all hours of the day, thats the trouble with us in the west, we are self dependant, I read this artcile you authored as we stood in the kitchen of our appartment chatting, she laughed and said " Hmmmm yes, thats normal" but dont worry honey, my family will not show up, you just have to be firm with them, and yes I am guilty as charged, I just bought a house in my wife's home city, lets see what happens when… Read more »

Bob
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Bob

Hi Pete – Don't take me wrong, I love my wife's family! But, as you say, we westerners are pretty self dependent. I don't mind having visitors, but only from time to time, not every day. And, I like it if they let me know they are coming!

zois
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zois

Hi bob I am greek I live in athens greece my wife is philippina for you very easy because you speak english and also in philippines speak english for me more difficult I speak greek and I speak english little. I read this story about the relatives of your wife they coming in your house every day .and after you hav'not private life. I am thinking about relatives of my wife what I am doing. I have plan to stay in Bacsil barrio of municipality San Juan 20 minutes by bus of city Vigan Because I am skirt stay and… Read more »

Bob
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Bob

Hi Zois – Yes, I remember getting your e-mail before! Nice to hear from you again. Regarding the bread, we also don't care for a lot of the bread that is available here. We purchased a bread machine, and we make our own bread much of the time now. Maybe you could do that too?

julius
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julius

Bob, I would also like to add that by moving with your wif'es hometown is much safer than trying to strike it out on your own, especially if you're both unfamiliar with the new environment. Being close to relatives give one that sense of security, especially if the husband has to go back abroad to earn a living. The wife and kids can always run to relatives in case of emergencies. The downside to that is the wife is also accessible to the relatives in case they need financial assistance, which happens often once the relatives know your wife needs… Read more »

Bob
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Bob

Hi Julius – I understand that things work differently for everyone, and I don't dispute you. Having the family around could have positive sides too. For me, I find that our situation works best with the family far enough away that visiting is not an everyday thing, but still easily done.

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