American expat Rick is satisfied with the decision he and his wife made to spend their retirement years in the Philippines, a country where he feels very much at home. Here he shares some aspects of his expatriate life in Metro Manila, where they have "a good thing going," because of factors such as the lack of a language barrier and the reasonable cost of living.
-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
Quezon City, Philippines
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my wife. We are child-free.
-How long have you been living in the Philippines?
Since August, 2005
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in the Philippines?
This was my wife's idea, which she hatched around 2000. She wanted to retire to her birthplace because it thought it would benefit us both: no more job stress for me, closer ties to my wife's family for her, and in general a more comfortable life for both of us.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
There was some red tape in getting the permanent visa, but nothing out of the ordinary.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
As in the U.S. the average person is on his/her own when it comes to health coverage. We did get medical insurance here. I might add that our premium is about 1/4 the cost for identical coverage in the States.
-How do you make your living in the Philippines? Do you have any type of income generated?
Our income is mainly our respective social security benefits from the U.S. We get along just fine by living a comfortable but modest lifestyle. There is no way we could do this in California (where we lived prior to relocating here).
-Do you speak Tagalog and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.
My wife is a native, so she speaks Tagalog fluently. Not so for myself. Fortunately, English is the second language in the Philipppines, so communication is generally not a problem for me. The older one gets, the more difficult it becomes to learn a new language.
As for the culture I already had a heads up on the way of life here having traveled here before. Plus I have a big advantage by being married to a Filipina. But aside from all that, I believe that it's always important to be mindful of local customs and to follow them to the extent that it's practical and not morally or ethically objectionable.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes? And describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.
Occasionally I miss my few remaining family members in the U.S. But I'm also close to my in-laws, and on the whole I'm very happy that I overcame my initial objections to and reservations about relocating here. I'm very glad that we made the move.
My main activities here are writing and Internet surfing. Here in Metro-Manila, when it comes to recreational acitivites, there's something for almost everybody, regardless of one's interest.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
My wife and I plan on staying here indefinitely, possibly for the rest of our lives. We've got a good thing going here and feel that we would have a very difficult time surviving on our income in the States. The political/economic scene here is turbulent, but it appears that things are turning that way in the States as well. I'm glad that we got out when we did.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We rent a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit in a high-rise located in a nice area called Eastwood City. Our rent is the equivalent of about $475.00 USD per month. You can't get a garage for that amount in the U.S., at least in California.
-What is the cost of living in the Philippines?
In a word, cheap. Our rent is an is an example. Other expenses like food and public transportation are also very reasonable.
-What do you think about the Filipinos?
Filipinos are known for their hospitality, especially to foreigners. I feel very much at home here. But there is also a dark side to their psyche which I discuss in detail in my blog, "Your Guide to Living In The Philippines".
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in the Philippines?
One positive aspect is the inexpensive cost of living. Another is the great cuisine.
The disadvantages are private business and government inefficiency and corruption, as well as laxity in public sanitation.
The climate is tropical, and temperatures in Metro-Manila rarely fall below the mid-60's. Rain of course is frequent. All this can be a blessing or a curse depending on one's personal preferences and location in the Philippines.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in the Philippines?
It helps to have personal contacts here especially if you're new to the culture. Family or friends who are locals can show newbies the ropes and can facilitate adjustment to the society.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about the Philippines?
My blogsite "Your Guide to Living In The Philippines" (http://adjusting2philippines.blogspot.com) gives an in-depth take on my impressions and experiences about life here.
I also wrote an article "Moving To The Philippines--My Story" for the "Expat Focus Newsletter." This narrative details how we planned and carried out our decision to move here. (See http://www.expatfocus.com/moving-to-the-philippines-my-story)