Pretty much everything I write on this site is about having to make some kind of adjustment in your life when you decide to come and live in the Philippines. Although I have lived in only three countries in my life (USA, South Africa and the Philippines) I would venture to guess that any time you move from one country to another, there are adjustments that you will have to make. Even in countries that are very similar, for example, if you moved from the USA to Canada, which share many similarities, there are certainly adjustment that you will have to make.
I find it common that many Americans, when they come here for two weeks of vacation, they will tell me that it isn’t that much different here than in the States. They will tell me that it won’t require very much adjustment if they come to live here. Frankly, when you just come for two weeks or such a vacation time, it can be difficult to realize just how different it is here from your home country. I know that I used to feel the same before I lived here. When I was about to move here, a number of expats who already lived here warned me that it would be difficult to adjust to living in the Philippines, but I thought to myself that I had already been here many times, and just could not understand what would be difficult about it. Feyma was from here, and lived for the first 21 years of her life here, so it certainly could not be difficult for her to live here again, no adjustment would be required at all in her case.
Boy, I could not have been more wrong.
This morning, as I sat down to write this article, I started thinking of what things people would need to adjust to. I quickly came up with a short list of the very important ones… language, food, culture, weather. But, as I thought about it, I realized that I simply could not compile a comprehensive list of things that needed to be adjusted to. The fact is, that you will need to adjust in every aspect of your life.
Last week, an American fellow befriended me on Facebook. Almost immediately, he sent me a message and I replied to him. We kept exchanging messages from time to time over the next several hours. He told me that he was married to a Filipina for quite a few years (I have forgotten how many). He told me he was soon coming here for a vacation and wanted to meet. He told me that he was a plumber in the States, and was wondering if he could continue as a plumber in the Philippines, as he was planning to move here. I answered all of his questions as best I could, giving him honest answers, and pointing him to resources that I thought might be useful to him. His next message really floored me.
Bob, I’m really looking forward to moving to the Philippines, I can’t wait. I’ve never been there before, but I have loved the country for many years already.
Wait! Stop the presses!
You’ve never been to the Philippines before, but you are in the middle of planning to move here? I’m sorry, but that is a big, big mistake! Frankly, even if you have been here dozens of times for vacations over the years, moving here is still going to be a big step for you. If you have never been here in your life, to be honest, you really don’t have any business even thinking of moving here. It’s way too early for you to make any such decision, or even to consider it.
The adjustments that will be required to live here are huge. They are not so apparent on the surface, but as you spend time here as a resident, the adjustments will sneak up on you, and become apparent.
On some things, you will have to change your life. On other things, you will have to do things to make the adjustment more tolerable. For example, the other day I wrote an article about how we are making bread with a bread machine. So, in the case of bread, we make our own. That is a change we made to make our life here more enjoyable, because the kinds of bread that we enjoy are not always available in stores here. In some parts of the Philippines, bread that fits western tastes is never available. Frankly, it is only going to be found in stores in big cities, and when you find it there it will be expensive. So, we did something (bought a bread machine) to make life more bearable and enjoyable. In other cases, you may find that there is nothing you can do.
Nothing you can do? You can always do something to make things better, right? Not necessarily. For example, the driving here is way, way different than it is in Western countries. Traffic on the roads can be near chaos to your western eyes. You will not be able to change the way traffic works here, and make everybody else drive the way that you are used to. There is no “bread machine” that you can buy that you push a button and suddenly traffic is orderly. No, my friend, in this case you have two choices.
- Don’t drive. Use Taxis. Ride in Jeepneys. Use some kind of public transportation to get around, just don’t drive yourself. If you do this, you will leave the hassle to somebody else, but you likely will still be sitting there looking out at traffic and will be scared, or at least apprehensive at what you see.
- Accept the way driving is done here. I adjusted the way I felt about traffic, and started driving the way they do here. Now, I don’t find it scary or even strange the way they drive here. I am able to drive with confidence, without fear, and I get where I want to go.
Basically, if you want to live here, when it comes to adjusting to the way traffic works here, those are your choices. If you can’t choose one of those, you better just not move.
So, when you think about it and try to decide what kind of adjustment you will need to be making, just accept that pretty much every aspect of your life will be different in some way. That’s not necessarily bad, in many cases it is good. You get to re-invent yourself, try to improve yourself as you adjust. It is not easy to make all of these adjustments either, but nothing in life is easy anyway. Just accept it, or don’t try to make the move.