I received this comment from a reader recently and it points up a couple things about living or retiring in the Philippines that are important.
They have been discussed before on my blog and on other forums but they often get glossed over in the rush people seem to be in to find out how much things cost in the Philippines and essentially, nothing more than that.
It’s cheaper here in the Philippines than in the USA. A LOT cheaper if you r4eally want to live that cheap. Why not just leave that subject alone for a while?
Retirement in the Philippines: Bigger Issues than Cost
The thing I see as a big potential stumbling block to retiring here in the Philippines is the adjustment process. Things are very different here, it’s not a little mini-USA, despite the Filipino’s insane devotion to US entertainment and pop culture.
As Dorothy once said, “We’re not in Kansas any more”.
For those who do think about the differences in culture, the majority seem to only think the issues revolve around the foreigner coming here to a land very strange to him.
However, having been in the line of helping people retire to the Philippines for more than 10 years now, I think a great many readers often ignore the fact that there are big changes in store for the Filipino members of the family. Especially wives who have been in the USA for years.
These issues are often bigger than the male foreigner spouse will ever have to face. Likely he won’t even know about some of them.
Coming back to the Philippines to live and to “make a home” is a big, big, big culture shock to almost any Filipina and there are many hidden issues and pressures that the “foreigner half” of the partnership are likely to be completely oblivious to. Read along here and think some of the comments and issues through, perhaps. The fear being talked about here is in answer to a question I asked recently, “What Are You Afraid Of”?
I don’t have a fear of moving, I have a very defined plan of sorts. (Pay off all bills first)
First of all let me make one little comment regarding debt and planning. I think a lot of folks are in this same planning mode … pay off all our debt and then we can make our move.
In general I think this is a good idea, but you might want to consider a few things I cover in these articles here:
And don’t forget that the chief topic of conversation among many Americans, their “Credit Score” means absolutely nothing in the Philippines:
When my wife and I made the decision to make the move to our Philippines retirement, I was till carrying a big burden I had brought into the marriage … credit card debt, mainly run up by a lot of reasons, good and bad. in my previous marriage and messy divorce.
I was drawing a retirement in the USA and also working, and my dear wife started working in the USA the first month she arrived there, and never went a single month without a job.
Every spare penny was going to clean up our debts (m6y debts, really), bu5t after almost 6 years in the US we were still paying every spare penny.
So we said, tama na .. enough is enough and made the move.
Guess what? In less than two years here in the Philippines we were totally debt free! (included in that first two years was buying and completely paying off a brand new car)
A wonderful feeling. We both no longer work outside the home and yet I can do things like go to the US on impulse to visit my son, spend a couple grand (USD, not Pesos ) and arrive back in the Philippines still with zero9 cred8it card debt … it’s called pay as you go, instead of running up debt.
So all of you worried about personal debt and retirement might want to consider that:
It might be faster to just make the move to the Philippines and pay things off after you get rid of the massive “carrying costs” you are burdened with back there in the USA.
My other item that IS causing me some concern is the “other half”.
I think I will be just fine in the Philippines. My other half however during our last trip exposed some items that may have to be taken into consideration. While their are several issues, the biggest is her losing her cool when dealing with the locals. See she has been here (in the USA) for over 20 years and is not at all amused by the lack of customer service, smile of yes when the answer needs to be NO or I don’t know.. etc. Our last trip to SM Hypermart was a doozy and deserves its own post…maybe.
Yes indeed. Please do write about it. I have my own Hypermart story. My wife and I went to look at a cheap plastic table for the patio. The sales help was not only unhelpful, but demonstrably downright stupid, in a condescending nasty sort of way.
I could feel myself losing my temper, so I gained control and walked way far away from my wife and the uncaring, ignorant so-called “help” who were actually being insulting in the typical “passive aggressive” Filipino way that you use to insult people while pretending to be courteous.
A call was put into the manager as voices were being raised.
A few minutes later a harried, “managerial-type” lady came rushing from the back room, looked around the area, spotted me, sticking out like atypical foreigner sore white thumb over on the sidelines, and rushed over to ask me “What’s the problem, sir”?
My reply? “Me? I have no problem, although I do think that lady with the two sales staff over there by the tables is a little upset.”
The manger was so, so, so taken aback. She was so sure that any dissatisfaction in the store HAD to be with a foreigner, and not with a Filipino (who are used to being told, “take it or leave it. this is good enough for you”, that she really didn’t know what to do next.
Passive Aggressive Disorder:
This is very, very common here. The attitude toward the common “massa” here, the common folk is, “you will take what we give you, and smile as you take it too, it’s good enough for a Filipino”. It’s sad and it’s a nasty attitude which holds the whole country back.
It is the single most common issue that would make me think about moving back to the US. After the weeks in Colorado and the smiles and friendly transactions I had with store help0 and wait staff in restaurants (not a SINGLE “out of stock, sir” in three weeks), coming back to the Philippines and dealing with the snotty, slipshod attitude of most businesses is a big turn off. Shopping here seems as if staff get a bonus every time they can say “no”, or find a way to make sure you don’t get what you came for.
And if is that way for me, everyone should think hard about how it will be to their spouse. Regardless of how “liberated” any man reading this may feel he is towards equality of the sexes, it is the woman who bears the major burden in setting up and keeping a home here.
And the smallest issues that pass day after day in the States, without hardly a comment often become a huge battle of conflicting wills, paperwork and animosity here. (just try getting a phone installed in your house, for example.).
It’s fun for a foreigner to live in the Philippines. It is NOT always fun for the returning Filipina.
Then comes personal issues like family planning.
Would it be appropriate for me to just come right out and ask any of you, are you planning to have children? Why don’t you have more children? Is your wife pregnant yet? If not, why not? Probably these questions would seem a bit personal to answer, especially in public. Maybe if I asked them to you in public you’d even get pissed. No matter.
You can expect to get asked questions like this by family and even total strangers on the street … and believe me your spouse will get asked them in a much more direct and personal way, things like (assuming she is not pregnant, “What’s’ the matter, is your husband ‘decrepit” … Philippine code word for erectile dysfunction … It will happen, believe me.
She may not tell y8u about it, but it I the way things are for Philippine women. See why I tell people that the “broken record” issue of how much things cost in the Philippines is NOT the most important sort of question to decided on Philippine suitability for retirement?
Then comes money.
How many times have you heard foreigners commenting on family members “asking help’ regarding money? The chidden are always sick, the carabao always just died, the car always just had a breakdown, you name it and disaster follows foreigners like that little black cloud guy in ‘Lil Abner”.
But trust me on this. As the foreigner half in the marriage, you don’t even begin to hear the requests that your Filipina wife will deal with every single day she is here.
It’s hard to deal with. Believe me. specially when the requests come from (or for) family members and Philippine women are taught from their earliest days of girlhood that you do NOT say ‘NO’ to elders.
Puts her in a terrible posito9n from time to time I can tell you.
Finally, one humorous recollection for you all. when I was leaving during my last trip in August, the line was: Tito (name withheld) is an OFW now, he LIVES here, but WORKS in the USA. My head nearly exploded from laughing, but then it hurt because it is a little too true.
Amen. The What’s Yours is Mine Issue.
It doesn’t matter how you make your money or how much you make, there is always a Philippine attitude regarding share and share alike … or at least, share with me, if YOU have anything.
Many foreigners think this is a Filipino/Foreigner issues, but I can assure you it is not limited in that way.
I know about 20 or so families on my street and around the corner on the street where my late mother and father in law lived. and not one of those families has a single family member who goes off to work.
They all sit around and wait for someone else (usually in the family) to send money. One guy whom I used to hire frequently to drive me around before I had a car lives off his occasional driving jobs but is waiting patiently for his 80-yo mother (yes, that Is not a typo) who lives (and works) in California, to send him money for anew car. About six other people live in that house, all dependent upon the old lady’s Social Security check and income she still gets from the family she worked for more than 30 years in California.
I don’t know how much “Lola” still performs as a worker, I’m guessing that the family she has been with so long still pays her a token salary and lets her live with them because she raised the children and such over the years, but there is not the slightest effort “on this end”, here in the Philippines, to do anything to relive the dependence on the grandmother’s small salary sent “home” to the Philippines every month.
I mean why plan ahead to relieve this burden on such an elderly lady? She might live to be 100 you know, no need to look ahead to anything aside from monthly ‘remittance” checks until you have do, right?
If anyone comes here with an income. even Social security old age benefits from the US and thinks that the6y will NOT be looked upon as an OFW, they had better think again, because the attitude here is kind of like some game where what is “mine id mine and what is yours is mine too” when it comes to money from overseas.