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Trying to pull things together…

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It’s hard for me to decide exactly what this article is about.  I have in mind a few different thoughts that are seemingly unrelated, yet I believe that for the terms of this post, and for my thinking, there is a relationship between my thoughts.  Let’s see if I can write my thoughts down in a way that both makes sense and also relates a couple of seemingly unrelated things.  I hope I can succeed in doing that.

Durian - The King of Fruits

Durian – The King of Fruits

49 Ways to Make a Living in the Philippines

A few days back, I was reading a blog of another expat.  Normally, if I write about something that I read on somebody else’s blog, I will link to the article, but in this case I am not going to do that.  Why?  Because what I say may be deemed by some people to be negative about that person, or what he wrote.  What I will say is not intended to be negative at all, only to ponder and consider his thinking and relate it to what I think.  Because of the possibility that some will think it negative towards the other person, I will not name him, although if he reads this, I am sure he will know that I am talking about him, and other readers here may feel the same.  That’s OK, but please know that I have no ill feelings toward the person who wrote the other blog post.

The Skin Tax Issue

Anyway, as part of that blog post I was reading, the writer was talking about the “skin tax” in the Philippines.  For readers who may not know what I mean when I say “skin tax,” let me clarify.  Many expats call it a skin tax when foreigners are charged a little more here in the Philippines, simply because they have “white skin,” or skin of some other color, and thus are obviously not Filipino.  Yes, the skin tax exists.  To me, it is a relatively minor inconvenience.  I rarely feel that I get hit with a skin tax at all.  Most of the time, I feel that if I go to the market, or elsewhere, the prices I am charged are pretty much the same as what Feyma would pay.  I know that from time to time I pay a bit more than she does, but it is such a minor amount that it just does not bother me.  You can bet, if I go to the market, I negotiate on the price of almost anything I buy, and I feel that I can get a pretty good price through such negotiation.

So, anyway, on this other blog post that I was reading, the person was talking about needing some repairs done at his home.  He said that he had hired a certain handyman in the past to do home repairs, but that the repairman overcharged him, but that in the interim, he and his wife had found a new handyman to help at his house when needed.  Anyway, this new handyman came and did some repairs, and wanted only a very small amount of money for doing the repairs.  The writer remarked that his wife was going to pay the handyman more than had been asked for (I would guess, based on what was written, that she was going to pay him about double of what he was asking).  When the writer heard about this, he pitched in even more, and paid the worker double what the wife was going to pay, making it, I believe, about 4 times the price that was asked for by the handyman.  What he said in his article was that because this new handyman was obviously giving a very fair price, he was kicking in some extra money for him… basically because he was so honest.

So, as I read this, it got me thinking.  I hear this same logic from a lot of foreigners who live here.  They find a Filipino worker who is charging them a very fair price for work that they have done, but since they are so honest in their pricing, they are given a bonus.  Think about it.  If the worker had simply charged the higher price (which he got in the end anyway), the foreigner would likely complain that he was hit again with the Kano Tax, or the Skin Tax.  But, since the worker did not apply the Kano Tax, they go ahead and give it to him as a reward!  Does that make sense?  To me it does not.

If it is offensive to be charged the supposed “Kano Price” for some work done, or for some fruit at the market, some fish, or whatever, then why would you give that same amount to a vendor or worker who is asking for half or even a fourth the price?  If you were going to pay that anyway, why complain about getting hit with the foreigner price?  I don’t know, it seems to me nothing more than creating something to worry about and fret over, even to raise your blood pressure, when in the end you were planning to pay the same amount anyway.

Caution: Left Turn

Now is where I am going to take a quick left turn.  It will seem that I am veering way off topic, but stick with me, I’ll come around full circle and hopefully tie these things together. 😉

Durian is Delicious

If you have been reading my site for long at all, you know that I like durian.  Durian is the King of Fruits.  It is, in my opinion, delicious.  A lot of foreigners, and a few Filipinos even say that it stinks.  I used to think it stinks, but now I love the smell of durian.  I am not joking, I really do love durian.  A lot of foreigners tell me that they don’t like it.  Know what I tell them?

It’s OK if you don’t like durian.  If you don’t like it, don’t eat it, no problem.

So, if I told you to not eat it if you don’t like it, would you be offended by me saying that?  I doubt if anybody would, because it is not intended to be offensive at all, it’s just saying that it’s no problem if you don’t like it, because you can eat something else instead.  Have a mango, rambutan or a banana instead, and enjoy life.  No biggie.

Do you like Adobo?

What about if you go to a restaurant in the Philippines, order Adobo, which is almost officially the national dish of the Philippines.  You are served your adobo, and you don’t like it.  It doesn’t taste quite right to you, and you think you know why… it needs more garlic!  Would you get up from your table at the restaurant and walk back to the kitchen and tell the chef that his adobo is terrible?  Would you take it upon yourself to show him how he should cook adobo?  I doubt if you would.  After all, he is a Filipino, cooking the Filipino National Dish, and you are a foreigner tasting it for the first time.  Odds are that he knows how to cook adobo, and you don’t.

Is all of this related?

So, what do all of these things have to do with each other?  Now, it’s time for me to tie them together!

A while back, John Miele wrote an article entitled “If you don’t like it, then leave.”  Basically, John talked about how a lot of foreigners complain about the Philippines, and to make a long story short, he suggested that if you don’t like the Philippines, just leave and go live somewhere else.  A lot of people got angry about John’s article, as is evident in the comments on that article.

Now, let’s look at the points I made above in relation to John’s article.

  1. Regarding the skin tax, or the kano tax, i.e. paying a higher price than Filipinos pay.  As I pointed out above, I hear a lot of foreigners complaining about this skin tax.  I also hear a lot of the same foreigners talking about paying more to a Filipino who does not overcharge them.  In effect, they are volunteering to pay the skin tax, as a reward to the Filipino whom they consider more honest.
  2. As I said, I like durian.  I said that if you don’t like durian, don’t eat it, have something else instead.  I don’t think that is offensive.  But, on John’s article, he said that if you don’t like the Philippines, you should not live here, it is best for you to go live in a place where you will be happier and like the place.  Really, John and I are saying the same thing, just about different subjects.
  3. Regarding the restaurant example where you were served adobo that you did not like, let me explain how that works in.  I hear a lot of Americans and other foreign nationals here who complain about different aspects of life in the Philippines.  They sit around with other foreigners and say that they want to teach Filipinos how to do things correctly, so that the country can prosper and improve.  Since they are foreigners, they believe that they know better than Filipinos do.  Let me give a clue here… this country belongs to the Filipinos, they run it the way that they like.  When they go abroad, they might think that the way we run our countries is not proper either.  I won’t speak for other countries, but if you take a quick look at how things are going in the USA, I think it is pretty obvious that we are not experts and don’t have a paradise, in fact we have a lot of problems in the US right now.  So, instead of going to the kitchen and telling the chef how to cook adobo, it might be better to either adjust to the taste of adobo, find some other food that you like, or go live in another country where you enjoy the food more.

My final thought on this is that if you come here to live and find that you don’t like it, if you sit with a group of expats and can only complain about how things are here, if you feel like the only way you can like living here is if you first “teach” Filipinos how to do things in a way so that you feel happier… well, perhaps the Philippines is not the place for you.  You know what, there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  There are plenty of countries in which I would not be happy living, but I am not ashamed of that.  If you are not happy in the Philippines, why sit around and be miserable?  If paying P5 extra for a kilo of carrots will get under your skin, well, you might be happier if you do what John Miele suggested a while back… leave.  Paul Thompson also has a saying, he says that if you don’t like it here, he’ll be happy to drive you to the airport. I tell people that planes come and go every day.  Nothing shameful about deciding to move to Thailand, to South America or Spain.  How about the Azores or Malaysia?  Do what it takes to be happy.  If the Philippines makes you happy, then you will even be happier if you look for the positive sides of life here, instead of complaining about the few things that you find odd or uncomfortable.  If you don’t like Adobo, order a bowl of spaghetti or a steak instead.

So, how did I do?  I think I brought each point home to a point where you can see what I am talking about.  Maybe you don’t agree with my reasoning, and that’s OK, but I hope that you can at least see the logic in my reasoning.

Wanna have a bit of adobo, and some durian for desert?  Maybe we can hire somebody to cut the grass while we eat! 😉

Posted 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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Ron
Ron
7 years ago

Bob I think it got it. If you don’t like it don’t complain-adjust. If you can’t adjust consider alternative living arrangments. (-: Ron P.S. Marlou has durian in my freezer. That however does not mean that I am eating it. I might as I have never reallyl tried it. Perhaps its time.

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Ron

Hi Ron – Yeah, I think we all complain, but in the end it is healthier to adjust. Those who can’t adjust are best to go elsewhere. It will be healthier for them to do so, rather than continue to live in a place where they hate!

donna west
donna west
7 years ago

Well said Bob. I agree with you completely. People dwell in negativity. It is like cancer that spreads through their soul. america is filled with negative people. If every little thing isnt perfect then they complain, complain and complain more. they dont like living here and the way things are here, the prices of stuff, the government, and etc. but if I tell them many people are choosing to move to a foreign country and are much happier there, they think I am bonkers. but it does end the subject quickly. My son and I get more negative comments about… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  donna west

Hi Donna – I think that the whole world has plenty of negative people, not only the US. I know what you mean about getting attacks over your plans to move to the Philippines. Been there… experienced it. When Feyma and I told people of our plans, people thought we were crazy. A few people supported us, but mostly they just looked at us like we were idiots, and that includes my family too. Well, things worked out for us, and we are so happy with the move that we made!

Neal in RI
Neal in RI
7 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Bob/Donna Perhaps if all the bitchers and complainers would spend some time back here in the US they would realize that things here are not all they remember it to be. Not 1 single Friend or Family member is supportive of our plans to relocate to the RP and they are negative to the point that we no longer talk to them of our plans, we have herd thousands of What If’s from them all and sick of hearing it. I would think people would want you to try to live your dreams out, but most want you to suffer… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Neal in RI

Hi Neal – Like I said to Donna… been there, done that, or rather heard that. When we decided to leave the US and head to the Philippines, I got all of those “what if’s” too, got a lot of warnings from people, got questions about our sanity, etc. You know what.. I’ve been here 12+ years now, and from time to time I still hear from friends in the States that I was stupid to move here…. ha ha… if it has been working well for more than 12 years, I think it turned out to be a wise… Read more »

rick
7 years ago

Love Adobo, Hate Durian. Now what?! haha.
Great article Bob!

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  rick

Oh no, rick! Now we are in serious trouble. I’ll have to completely re-evaluate my article! ha ha 😉

sugar
sugar
7 years ago
Reply to  rick

Ha ha.. where’s the like button?! 🙂

AmericanLola
AmericanLola
7 years ago

An excellent article! I too, bargain a bit when I buy things, but frankly, most people I would buy from in the market work hard, give me friendly service and are very poor. Why should I dicker about an extra peso or two? If someone is really trying to gouge me, I move on and buy someplace else. Pretty simple. But overpaying contributes to the skin tax problem. Workers will automatically jack up the price to what they got from the last foreigner. Our policy is to pay workers what they ask (established before the job is begun in written… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  AmericanLola

Hi AmericanLola – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to say, when I negotiate at the market, it really doesn’t have much to do with saving money, I mean if I save P5 on something it really has little impact on my budget… but rather I find it fun, and also it is a cultural thing. It is what Filipinos do, and I like to try to do it too. You are so right that when one expat overpays, it creates the impression among many Filipinos that what the overpaying expat is paying is what all foreigner should pay.… Read more »

scott h
scott h
7 years ago

Bob, well thought out article. I think a lot of the (I can only speak from an American prespective) expats are 1) used to complaining (its in our nature, look at the revolution) 2) used to identifying the problem and coming up with a fix. Is it possible, do you think that part of the misery of those who complain the loadest is the sense of hopelessness they might have at identifying a problem and that they are powerless to effect change? They know that if they make a suggestion about how to do something to make things better their… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  scott h

Hi Scott – Perhaps you are correct in your thinking. I am sure that at least some expats think that way. But, think about this… when somebody complains about being overcharged for an item, then they get charged a low price and they give a tip that equals what the “overcharge” would have been in the first place… is that thinking straight? Is it fixing a problem? To me, it just seems almost backward. I mean, they sit and complain and complain and complain about getting overcharged, but then when they are not overcharged they pay the price voluntarily? ha… Read more »

Mats, in Gothenburg Sweden

Hi! As a newcomer, I want to start off by thanking everybody who writes here! It’s a wonderfull sorce of information about the Phillipines and I have become addicted to read here every day. I have only visited PI for five days. I went to my cousin on Bantayan island for three days and then we went to Cebu city for two days. During this time my cousin talked about the diffirences in culture non stop, but i never thought about it as complaints. It was very funny and interesting to hear of the PI culture and it’s made me… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago

Hi Mats, thanks for joining in, nice to have you here. I do not consider talking about culture to be complaining, talking about it is healthy, and that is how we learn about such things. However, when a group of expats sit around daily complaining about how stupid Filipinos are, when they cuss and swear about the Philippines, when they say that Filipinos are brain dead, that sort of thing… Well that is complaining, it is unhealthy, and it really serves no good. I hear these kinds of comments daily, and this is the type of thing I am talking… Read more »

Mats, in Gothenburg Sweden
Reply to  MindanaoBob

I agree. That is stupid and I guess that they are very unhappy people who never will find a place where they can live and be happy

MindanaoBob
7 years ago

Exactly, Mats.

Lenny
Lenny
7 years ago

You know Bob your correct…I however only bargain (and sometimes only) about tricycle fares it seems every driver has their price, as an example most drivers charge me 60-70P for my ride home, where sometimes a driver will tell me 100P and I tell him no I will give you 70P and he will come back at me for 80P and then I say ok…hahahah…I live here and I generally pay what is asked, everyone seems so good and nice I deal with, I have had work done by handy men…………. for instance replacing a bearing on a motor and… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Lenny

Hi Lenny, tricycle fares here in Davao are fixed at P7 for most distances, and tricycles are only allowed in residential areas, not on the main roada, so no negotiation needed. 🙂

Steve Ames
Steve Ames
7 years ago

Bob, I agree with most of what you are saying but I have a thought that you did not seem to include in the part about paying voluntarily paying more than charged. What about this third possibility, you think the first charge is way overpriced so you find some who may be much cheaper so you give extra, but only something between the overcharge and what you think is a fair price? Also I agree with Scott that some of us can’t help but try to come up with a fix for a problem we see. I also spent many… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve Ames

Hi Steve, I really have no problem with offering a suggestion on how to fix a problem, but when it is an attitude like “your culture is wrong, you need to change to be like my culture,” well I do have a problem with that. Like in my example, I would never presume that I should show a Filipino how to cook adobo. Di ba?

Rex Davao
Rex Davao
6 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Taaamaaah!! hahahaha.

just hit the “Like” button. 😀

MindanaoBob
6 years ago
Reply to  Rex Davao

Thumbs up for that!

Scott Fortune
Scott Fortune
7 years ago

You know, it wasnt’ so long ago that I was a closed minded person, never considering moving to a foregin country. I didn’t try new foods, and stuck to the same old routine. Routine is good to a point, but after a while, you need some change. I liked the article Bob and agree with you. The same thing can be said for “Living in Michigan”, or “Ohio”. Where I live, people complain all the time about the weather, taxes, politics, etc. And what do they do about it? Nothing! So, I’m tired of living in this cold state, and… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Scott Fortune

Hi, Scott, nice to hear your take on this. Trying new things makes life fun and interesting.

By the way, jackfruit is great! 🙂

Jack in Davao
Jack in Davao
7 years ago

Bob, I agree 100 percent with everything you’ve said here. Except maybe the part about the Durian, haven’t quite progressed that far yet in my development as an Am-Fil. (Filipinos in the US are referred to as “Fil-Ams”, so I figure that makes me an “Am-Fil”.) So does this mean you’ve come around to my way of thinking on the matter of what is variously referred to as “fixers”, “corruption”, or “tips”? 🙂 It’s been a couple years since our previous good-natured exchange of views on that subject (https://liveinthephilippines.com/2010/06/bobs-plan-for-ending-corruption, and https://liveinthephilippines.com/2010/07/jacks-plan-for-not-ending-corruption), which was shortly before my wife and I moved… Read more »

MindanaoBob
7 years ago
Reply to  Jack in Davao

Hi Jack – I do recall our discussions, perhaps not in detail, but in general I do. I don’t have time to actually go back and review it. To be honest, my views on this topic have been pretty consistent for the past 8 to 10 years I would say. I tip people, and sometimes I tip them pretty good. Does that make me a hypocrite based on what I wrote today? I don’t believe it does. What I wrote today was that it is hypocritical for a person to complain about skin tax, then pay the same amount in… Read more »

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