I’ve often been told it takes at least five years to fully adjust to life in the Philippines for a foreigner such as myself. If true, I’m about 23% of the way there. At times it seems I’m doing just fine, others not as well. But if I’m being honest, that was true before I moved here.

In regards to adjustment, “I have Good Days, Bad Days” as one of my guitar heroes, Coco Montoya, likes to say.

I’m going to highlight three areas that have been particularly helpful, and at times troublesome for me. These haven’t exactly been as I had envisioned, I statement I can make about many things. There are a lot of adjustments to be made, and I encourage you to read my articles since I’ve moved here, as most of them are about my specific challenges and triumphs.

Ride the jeepney

I made the decision before I moved that I would not own a vehicle and would be taking local transportation, jeepneys and tricycles generally. The reasoning was twofold, I had grown weary of driving and I would have a fairly small budget to work within. Having driven as part of my work for the last 20+ years, it no longer excites me to get behind a wheel. The extra cost of running and maintaining a vehicle, in addition to the cost of the vehicle, was something I could do without.

One aspect of riding the jeepney that I hadn’t really considered was my ability to learn about Davao quicker than if I was driving. If driving, I would tend to go from point A to point B. Now I have many stops, and at times need to navigate to other areas to complete my trip. I feel it’s been a great benefit for me to help me feel more at ease with Davao and the people here.

Jeepney riding can be quite frustrating at times though. Weather and traffic are factors, also. Patience is key, as is true with everything here.

Learn the language

I’ve chronicled many times about my Bisaya lessons. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to choose Bisaya over Tagalog, and truth be told if you are going to live in Davao, both would serve you about the same. Bisaya might have the edge, but much of that depends upon what your purpose for learning involves. I plan to write more on this soon.

Anki Bisaya Phrasebook Flashcards

I had figured that learning the language would help me assimilate quicker. Possibly if I could speak it at conversational level, it would. It may be a long time, or never, before I can speak Bisaya with the speed and understanding that those that grew up here do. I do believe others can pick this up faster than me, and have seen that to be true. In some instances my attempts at using the language cause more harm than good. I have to keep making an effort though.

The aspect that it’s helped me the most with is the places that I frequent on a regular basis. For instance the coffee shop where I have my lessons. They all know me there, and make a special effort to engage with me in Bisaya. They know I won’t understand much of what they say, but it’s okay and they keep trying. I’m one of their more interesting customers now, and they treat me well because of it. It’s not that I can speak Bisaya, but the fact that I can practice with them has created the relationship.

Avoid government agencies

Without question my greatest frustration, or should I say my hardest area to adjust to, has been when dealing with government entities. I don’t mean to say that the employees aren’t friendly, in most cases they are. It’s the inefficiencies and absurd requirements that are enough to make any sane person lose their cool. Ugly Americans need to be real careful when dealing with these agencies.

As far as my strategy, I try to avoid them whenever possible. It used to be much easier, but fixers are no longer accepted here, for the most part. If you are lucky and have people who can take care of these things for you, then all means let them. I really don’t and suffer through the pain and misery of dealing with them. They do their best to keep you coming back (maybe they just miss me), as they always find something you are missing, regardless of what you were told or what checklist you followed.

If they can’t be avoided, get there very early and plan on spending the whole day. If you get done early consider it a bonus.

There are so many things to adjust to but these are three areas that have had a great effect on me during my first year.