First, let’s imagine we’re in a post-coronavirus world. Everyone is taking a vaccine developed from China or Russia. All lockdowns and quarantines have ended. COVID-19 is no longer a threat. Even in the Philippines. Hence, visitors and future expats are once again considering moving to “paradise.” However, today’s post, “WARNING! 11 DUMB MISTAKES FOREIGNERS MAKE BEFORE MOVING TO THE PHILIPPINES” contains valuable advice for future foreigners’ forays to Filipino Land.
“WARNING! 11 DUMB MISTAKES FOREIGNERS MAKE BEFORE MOVING TO THE PHILIPPINES”
Furthermore, don’t be offended by the title. We all make mistakes. I’ve made a ton of them since moving to the Philippines in 2009. I’ve written about a lot of them since retiring here. Frankly, I wish I could say I’ve learned from my mistakes but that would mostly be a lie.
Because my past blunders give me some valuable insight, let me list the 11 dumb mistakes foreigners make before moving to the Philippines.
11. Confusing your vacation in the Philippines with the reality of actually living in the Philippines.
During a vacation anywhere, you’re in a surreal environment. When you’re lounging on a tropical beach, for example, like Boracay, you’re lulled into a false reality. Exotic beauties feeding you grapes one at a time, as you’re watching the waves gently crashing into the white sandy beaches surrounding you. Ahhh, this is the life, right.
Nope. It’s not even close. Once you actually move to the Philippines and live here a few days, the true reality sets in. Roosters crowing at 4 am. Fiestas with blaring, loud music until sunrise (remember the pandemic is over) keep you from your appointment with the Sandman.)
In addition, how about that good-looking Filipina neighbor that keeps winking at you? Look closer. Check out that Adam’s apple on “her.”
10. Counting on the Philippine Peso to Weaken
Just a couple of years ago, the US dollar to Philippine Peso exchange rate was around 55 pesos to one USD. Today, one USD equals 48.71 Philippine Pesos. The peso is at an almost four-year high.
Furthermore, despite a nearly 20% drop in Overseas Filipino Workers’ remittances in May, and a record low drop in the PH GDP, the peso is gaining strength.
However, is it a strong peso or a weak dollar?
The Philstar.com reports that the euro has risen sharply in recent months. It has rallied 6.2 percent from its March low registered at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, with US interest rates near zero, the US dollar-euro carry trade has ended. Consequently, this means less demand for US dollars
The dollar is the eventual safe-haven in times of calamities. However, many global investment banks now expect the dollar to decline since the global economy is recovering from the pandemic. Faster economic recovery in China, as opposed to the US, means that dollar weakness could increase.
Furthermore, the peso returned to the P48-per-dollar level on Tuesday. News that President Duterte may lift the strict lockdown in Metro Manila next week helped the peso to surge.
9. Not sending all your stuff over in Balikbayan boxes.
I was guilty of this mistake. While we did send six Balikbayan boxes before we moved to the Philippines, I should have sent more. A Balikbayan box (literally “repatriate box”) is a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos (known as “Balikbayans.”) Balikbayan boxes are usually shippedby sea. However, some overseas workers bring their Balikbayan boxes on their flights back home to the Philippines.
For example, I should have brought the tools from my “man cave” garage over in a Balikbayan box. My “man cave,” adorned with posters of Bruce Lee, had an abundance of tools that I didn’t think I would need in the Philippines.
As a result, once we arrived in the Philippines, I discovered that many workers don’t have their own tools. Moreover, the quality of the tools I could purchase didn’t rival the quality of tools I had back in the States.
Weed Wackers and Lawn Mowers
Here’s an additional tip: if you have a good “weed whacker,” bring it. While we didn’t need any grass cutting equipment until we moved to our newly constructed home in the Philippines over five years ago, we could have saved some money by bring our own weed cutter over.
While we did have a lawn mower, I wasn’t going to bring that over. In fact, we didn’t purchase a lawn mower until a couple of weeks ago. It’s a new Snapper with a Briggs & Stratton engine. We bought it for 18, 500 pesos after negotiating 5,000 pesos, 100 dollars, off the original price.
In addition to my “sexy pool boy” duties, I’ve also taken the responsibility of moving our lawn. I don’t mow all three acres of our property with it, but do mow about an acre of grass on our front and back lawns.
8. Not bringing enough cash with you.
When we first moved to the Philippines in 2011, we resided in a home that my wife owned in Guimaras. My mother-in-law and two twin nieces lived there at the time. Furthermore, my brother and sister-in-law dwelt in a nipa hut in the front yard with their three young children. They’ve since moved into the main house.
Because there was only one Comfort Room, CR, restrooms, in the house, I wanted a private CR for my wife and me. The termite-infested roof also needed to be replaced.
The exchange rate was around 48.14 Philippine Pesos to one US Dollar at the time. While in Manila, we had used a moneychanger recommended by one of my sister-in-laws but the cash didn’t last long.
We had already gone through thousands of US dollars in unexpected expenses. Another three thousand dollars would be needed for the new CR and roof. Fortunately, we were able to tap into my retirement fund. I wasn’t collecting Social Security at the time but had an IRS T-72 investment account that accorded us a fixed sum for five years wherein my Social Security would then kick in.
Bring more money than you think you’ll need. Expenses can add up quickly.
7. Believing most Filipina women are in love with you because of your “good looks.”
Do you think your Brad Pitt good looks are getting you all the attention from the ladies in the Philippines? Nope, it’s probably that “fat wallet” ZZ Top sang about in “Sharp Dressed Man.”
Don’t think you’re attracting the ladies with your manly physique, good looks, and charm, either. Brother, it’s that “ATM” stamped on your forehead.
However, no worries mate. Many of us have married a Filipina with a good heart. Like my own wife, some of them were already working overseas to support their family. While there’s many a gold digger out there, not everyone is. Just don’t think with the wrong head.
6. Moving to the Philippines if you have existing health issues.
First, the Philippines is woefully unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. Daily COVID-19 in the Philippines cases are rising faster than peckers in a crowded bar on a Saturday night at closing time. There’s been anywhere from 3,000 to almost 7,000 new cases a day. COVID-19 cases have soared to 153,000 with 2,442 deaths.
Hospitals in Metro Manila that treat coronavirus cases are nearing capacity. On August 1, 100 medical groups urged the government to reconsider their strategy on battling the coronavirus.
“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” the group said in a letter to President Duterte.
While I received outstanding treatment at Medicus Medical Center in Iloilo City this past February for the removal of my gall bladder, the response to the COVID-19 crisis is underwhelming at best. The Philippines health care system ranks among one of the worst in the world.
5. Believing most Filipinos will understand your “English.”
The Philippines is one of the largest English-speaking nations in the world. English is one of the official languages of the Philippines. More than 14 million Filipinos speak English. While some Filipinos have at least some degree of fluency in the language, you may discover many that don’t.
Hence, I’ve met many Filipinos who don’t have a clue as to what I’m saying. Consequently, they inform me that I’m giving them a “nosebleed.” While I have never physically hit anyone in the nose in the Philippines, my English slang was giving them that “nosebleed.”
The Bully Falls
[Yes, I have hit someone in the nose in the past. The victim? A bully, the principal’s son in our elementary school in South Central Illinois. A year older than me and taller than me. The ruffian kept teasing me throughout the basketball season and calling me names. His father, the principal, was our coach.
Frankly, despite my 6’ tall height, considered a decent height for playing basketball in the mid-Sixties, I was a terrible player. The bully kept calling me names. I did nothing.
That is, until the spring, during a softball game at recess. My tormentor called me a name again. I had reached my breaking point. I punched the punk right in the nose. He dropped like a rock, nose bleeding.
My Father was called in to the Principal’s office. My Dad was a local policeman at the time and had a reputation as a tough guy. The Principal did nothing to discipline me. He said that his son deserved what he got.]
Consequently, while you might consider becoming fluent in the local language, I consider myself too old and too lazy to learn more than a few phrases. My wife is always along to act as translator any way.
4. Thinking you won’t be supporting your wife or girlfriend’s family once you arrive here.
Give me a minute. I have to get off the floor. I was laughing so hard recalling what an expat told me once. This guy informed me that he wasn’t going to be giving his girlfriend’s family one cent. He claimed he would not be supporting his significant other’s family in any way.
Subsequently, how did that work out?
The foreigner ended up giving a substantial sum of money to the family. In addition, his girlfriend enjoyed quite a lavish lifestyle in the Philippines. She quit her job. There was no reason for her to work anymore. Her boyfriend took care of everything.
That said, if you marry a Filipina, you marry the family.
I had no illusions about this before retiring to the Philippines. Before my future wife completed her contract in Taiwan as a caretaker, I promised her I would support her Mother. That we did, for nine years before we moved to the Philippines.
Now we provide her with groceries and other financial aid. In addition, my wife’s Father, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, lives in a nipa hut behind us. We’ve been taking care of him for around seven years now. Lolo (Grandpa) is 88 years old. At least that’s what the family estimates his age to be, he has no birth certificate.
Lolo used to get a “hefty” Social Security pension of 500 pesos a month, about 10 US dollars, but that was taken away from him when we started caring for him.
3. Believing YOUR way of doing things, is the ONLY way
Because, as a future foreigner living in the Philippines, don’t assume you know everything. Your Western-style thinking and way of doing things doesn’t apply here. There’s a different kind of logic in the Philippines.
Hence, do not believe your way of doing things is the only way. You may think you’re an expert in some fields. However, you will need to adjust to a different way of accomplishing your goals in the Philippines.
Furthermore, you will need to adjust to “Filipino Time.” Many people are never on time for anything. There is not a hurry to get anything done. If you don’t have patience, you’ll have a hard time living in the Philippines.
Moreover, remember, you’re a visitor in the Philippines, a guest.
2. GIVING MONEY TO A FILIPINA ONLINE BEFORE YOU EVEN MEET THEM.
First, the person you’re so madly in love with on the World Wide Web might not even be a female. Furthermore, they could even be another foreigner trying to scam you.
Moreover, yes, I’ve made this point repeatedly on this website for over a decade. I haven’t changed my mind regarding this issue.
I probably never will.
1. Finally, here’s the number one dumbest mistake a foreigner can make before moving to the Philippines:
MOVING TO THE PHILIPPINES WITHOUT A GUARANTEED SOURCE OF INCOME.
Above all, don’t expect the embassy of your home country to help you. Check out what the U.S. Department of States says about destitute travelers:
“U.S. citizens in need of emergency financial assistance while abroad should first attempt to contact their family, friends, banking institution, or employer.”
The State Department recommends having family or friends wire money through Western Union or doing a bank-to-bank transfer.
If no one is willing to send you money, you’re up an excrement-laden creek without an oar. Don’t expect the government to give you any money. Frankly, if you don’t have the means to support yourself in the Philippines, its best you stay put.
As a foreigner in the Philippines, you would be hard-pressed to find a job. If you’re a skilled carpenter or plumber, and find a job in the Philippines, you’re looking at wages of about 10 US dollars a day.
If you believe you can raise chickens or pigs to support yourself in the Philippines, you’ll find that extremely difficult to do. Filipinos, that have spent their lives here, are resourceful people. Many of them have multiple jobs. For example, we have a policeman relative who aside from being in law enforcement, has a hollow block factory and furniture-making establishment. Furthermore, he’s also heavily involved in his church and does some preaching.
“WARNING! 11 DUMB MISTAKES FOREIGNERS MAKE BEFORE MOVING TO THE PHILIPPINES” is not meant to discourage you from coming to the Philippines. However, please take it as an advisory from someone that has lived here for over a decade. In addition, being married to a lovely, hardworking Filipina for over 20 years also gives me some additional insight.
Do your research. Buy my best-selling guide on moving to and living in the Philippines, “The Philippines Expat Advisor,” and do some extreme soul-searching before deciding to retire here.