Many are the discussions about the cost of living in the Philippines. These often go back and forth, comparing one item or service to another, and then of course the individual situations that differ for each family. The conclusion is always the same. There is no way to compare, excepting with your own situation.
I’ve been known to attempt these comparisons myself. Trying to figure out how much it would cost me to live in the Philippines. This article tells you of my true cost of living in the Philippines after 4 months. It may not be what you were expecting.
Note: For those of you that get bothered by such things, please note that this is a fairly negative article. I plan to balance it out later with another pointing out the benefits of living here so far, so if you want to see or hear nothing but positives about the Philippines, wait for that one. This has to do with my adjustment, so I suggest you don’t take anything personally.
Not seeing family – this is pretty obvious and will be harder on some than others. I left behind a mom, three sons, and a brother, not including extended family. I’m not in position financially to go back there every year, so I will miss them. Holidays are especially tough, and this was the first year of my life that I had not spent Christmas with one of the previously mentioned. Skype and other things, like my Ooma, help a lot. It is easier to stay in touch long distance than ever before, but it is still one of the harder adjustments I will make, not seeing these loved ones.
Difficult to eat healthy – after I got sick it became much more clear to me how difficult it can be to eat healthy here in the Philippines. Though some will not agree with me, it seems to me that the typical Filipino diet has to rank as one of the most unhealthy in the world. I don’t think it was always this way, as province eating was probably much more healthy, but what has been brought to the cities, along with what they’ve imported from the US and other countries, is about as bad as it gets IMO. You can just look at the population and the drastic increase in weight of the people over the last 10 years. I can not ever remember seeing any overweight filipinos when I first came to the country. It is very common now. Almost the norm. I meet very few individuals that give any thought what so ever to whether what they eat is good for them or not. Obviously what others eat is not my concern, but the point is that it is not very easy to eat healthy here. It takes a lot of effort.
Health issues – disease, smog, unhealthy practices, immunities are all things I need to learn to accept. Not growing up in the Philippines I don’t have the immunities to many common diseases here. I hope over time that will change, but not being a youngster anymore that may be difficult to endure. People say how clean the air is here, but they must be speaking relatively. Compared to Manila, maybe, but any ride on the jeepney to the city will quickly expose you to an abundance of smoke, dust and exhaust. In my neighborhood there is constant burning of trash and freshly cut foliage. The handling of meats, fish and vegetables at the markets is also quite questionable, not to mention the flies and other insects that are constantly on them. I’m not used to all of this, and it may very well be a big part to what my body is adjusting to.
Privacy & respect of others – personal space does not exist. Neither does disturbing the peace, or should should I say any law against (or perhaps any enforcement thereof). Dogs bark day and night. Parties (loud/outside) go on until they end, regardless of the time. Music and karaoke will be played at the maximum volume the system will allow, anytime the mood hits, and may go on for days. You will receive visitors at your gate all day long, and even more so during the “ber” months. The expectation is that you are somehow obligated to give them something (BTW this is true whether you are a foreigner or not). The peddlers (fish, corn, ice cream, bulot, etc.) have amplified megaphones and will start with their spiel when the sun comes up. You’ll be getting up by then, also, more often then not. Trust me on this.
Flow of people – no lines, pushing, shoving always. I’ve come to the conclusion that society reflects the traffic, or maybe it’s the other way around. But if you’ve seen the way they drive, and how vehicles interact – it is the same way with everything. If you can squeeze in and get in front of someone, it doesn’t matter when you got there, do it. If you don’t, someone will do it to you. They rarely get mad about it either. I believe because they know they will do the same when given the chance.
Technology & utilities – internet, electric, water, brownouts. I hear many stories that are much worse than mine. This isn’t the 1990′s anymore. Technology exists to supply reliable services. They keep bragging about how great the economy is here and how much the Philippines is growing. Would it be too much to ask to get into the 20th Century (note I did not say 21st) with basic services? For instance we have had 4 brownouts within the last couple of weeks. We don’t live in the province here, this is a fairly large subdivision. I’ve written on the internet before, so I won’t cover that again.
Natural Disasters – sure there are natural disasters all over the world, but you better count on more than a few each year here. Many homes are not built to withstand these and many are built in areas that will be wiped out with earthquakes, mudslides, floods and typhoons. Maybe you will not be directly affected, but count on having some family that is.
Not being understood – don’t discount how frustrating it can be to not ever be understood. You might say, no one understands me now, and I get that. But here, unless you are talking to another expat, there is a better than not chance that the person you are speaking to, no matter how well they speak English, will not understand your meaning. This, at times, has been my biggest struggle. English may be the second language but the truth is very few understand it. They may be able to speak it, but there is no guarantee of that, even if they are working retail. It is a certainty that there will be things you say that you assume they understood, but they did not. They won’t let you know when they don’t, either. This is probably one of those things that I will need to talk to other expats that have lived here for awhile to see how they have handled it.
OK, that’s quite a list. Many have asked how I’m doing, and I thought it would be good to give an idea of the things that I’m struggling with/adjusting to. Possibly good information for those that are looking to move here, and good for those that do live here and want to know what a foreigner will go through to adjust.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m planning on staying. I knew there would be many adjustments. I’m sure I have many more that I’ve not experienced yet. This (life) is a journey after all and that’s what it’s all about.