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Results of Survey of Westerners Living in the Philippines

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Survey Results: Western Expats in the Phillippines

 

This article is copyright 2014 by Robert Howard but may be used freely on any website. 

 

Thanks to everyone who did the survey. Results below are from 134 respondents. 

 

            Most migration between the West and the developing world flows in one direction. People in developing nations seek better economic and educational opportunities, safer and less polluted environments, and less corruption.  But in the last few decades, Westerners increasingly have been moving to developing nations, perhaps to one often visited as a tourist. Often the main motive is lower living costs. The global financial crisis and the neoliberal onslaught have made living in the West insecure and impoverished for many, and many are unable to retire comfortably at home.

            There now is a minor publishing industry advising on how to make an international move. These books often have a very optimistic tone, implying that anyone would be crazy not to leave a politically correct, expensive, regimented Western country for a developing nation like Cambodia or the Philippines, with its low costs, friendly people, and vibrant culture.

            Researchers have been studying how well such moves actually do work out, particularly after a few years residence.  Researchers have examined expats in Indonesia, Malaysia, and various Latin American nations. In 2005, I did a study of Western residents in Thailand. The move worked out well for some but not for others. Many left after a few years in-country, as the honeymoon glow wore off, assimilation proved illusory, and the reasons why many locals wish to leave a developing nation for the West became apparent. One major concern was increasing health problems in later years. Thailand and Cambodia have many elderly Westerners whose money has run low and who cannot afford health care. Embassies often may help them little.

            Little is known about Western expats in the Philippines. The country is a bit off the well-trod tourist routes and has a dangerous reputation. However, the East/West cultural gap is not quite as great as elsewhere and most Filipinos speak an English dialect. The nation reputedly is foreigner-friendly and many locals see marrying a Westerner as like winning the lottery. Is moving there a good option and for whom?

            The 2010 Philippines census lists 54,246 Western residents but many actually may be of Filipino descent and some Western residents are not counted. They live in-country only part of the year or are on successive tourist visas.  From various embassy estimates, I calculate very roughly around 218,350 Western residents of non-Filipino descent.

            Most of the 134 survey respondents are male retirees, with a median age of 56 years old. Nearly half are from the United States. Most are married to a Filipina or have a live-in Filipina partner. Of the three female respondents, one was married to a Filipino, one to a non-Filipino, and one was single. Most hold at least a bachelor’s degree.  Their median length of stay in-country was four years and median annual income was U.S. $45,000, with over half living on pensions and/ or investments.

            The most common cited reasons to move to the Philippines by far were the low living costs (cited by six  as the only motive) and the climate.

 

Table 1. Reason/s moved to Philippines. Percentage citing each alternative. Any number of alternatives could be cited.  

 

            Low living costs                                    65.67

            Climate                                                 54.48

            Filipino lifestyle                                     31.34

            Dislike home country                            26.12

            Filipino partner returned                       7.91

Availability of sex partners                   5.67  

            To take up job                                        9.0

            Other                                                      36.57

 

             Some comments were ‘... pension adequate to live here, not in U. S.’, ‘To survive on a low income’ and ‘ ... everything here is super-cheap’. Some had come to an expat job arranged overseas and 17.91% had a Filipino partner who had wanted to return. A few met a Filipina online and moved to the Philippines to be with her. Some disliked their home country. Some comments were; ‘Too much red tape, taxation. Government watches your every move’ and ‘We were very dissatisfied with the U.S. in general’. An open-ended question asked for what they missed least about life in the West and some comments were; ‘High cost of living and too much work and not enough holiday time’,A life that revolves around work’, ‘Surveillance state, taxation, extreme political correctness’,  and ‘Cold weather, cops on every corner ready to write a ticket, unfriendly and rude people’.   

            Additional stated motives were ‘Low stress and low taxes’ and ‘English widely used and understood’. For the advantages of living in the Philippines, 50% cited the low cost of living, 28.36% the possibility of having a Filipina wife and a family, and 20.15% the climate. Some comments were; ‘Easy way of life’ and ‘Less stress and great family life’.

            What did they miss most about life in the West? Some just said ‘Nothing’ but 19.4% cited the food and 15.67% cited family and friends. Comments were; ‘People obeying laws and rules’, ‘... parks, playgrounds, cleanliness’, ‘Intellectual conversations’, ‘Non-Mafia police, sane driving, unblocked sidewalks, people who speak English’ and ‘Mental kinship’.

            On the main problems they had experienced living in the Philippines, 10.45%  cited health care (high cost, low quality) as concerns. Some comments were; ‘Most medical facilities are unclean and have low-skilled practitioners’ and ‘You have to pay for all medical care upfront. No money. No care’. Others cited legal problems; ‘Westerners have no rights in legal disputes with a Filipino. You will lose’. On what they liked least about living in the Philippines,  corruption was most often cited, followed by trash and general lack of cleanliness.  Some comments were; ‘The food sucks and you are viewed as a cow to be milked’,  ‘Pollution and heat drive me nuts, along with the traffic’, ‘Insane traffic’, ‘Lack of pride in workmanship’ and ‘Nobody seems to want to do anything well or better’.

            A recurring theme on expat websites is problems with a Filipina partner, particularly sending money to her family. One Internet poster summarised a common Western attitude with; ‘The best advice ...regarding marrying a Filipina is live at least two islands or six hours away from her family’.  Another recommended marrying only an orphan. But few respondents cited this problem. One comment was; ‘My wife’s family think we are ATM machines’. Two cited their main dislikes as ‘The common attitude that all foreigners are rich and should therefore hand out money to everybody around them’ and ‘People always asking for money’.

            About one third of survey respondents reported that local crime was a concern but nearly half were unconcerned, sometimes because they lived in a peaceful rural setting. Some comments were; ‘Many thieves and low-level crimes’,  ‘There is never an opportunity to let your guard down’, ‘Need to be very security aware all the time. If there are two or more Filipinos present, they start talking in the local dialect, even if they speak English very well’ and ‘Limitation of personal freedom due to danger of crimes’.

            Nearly 40% had been a crime victim.  Some comments were; ‘Have been held up at knife point’, ‘Burgled twice’, ‘Gold chain snatched from around my neck’,Pick pocket gang once in Manila’, ‘ATM card skimmed’, and ‘In three years I have been robbed seven times’.

             Most described their own well-being and the overall quality of life for foreigners in the Philippines as excellent or good.

 

Table 2. Well-being and quality of life.

 

            Own well-being

 

                        Excellent                      27.61  

                        Good                           52.24  

                                    Neutral                         17.16

                                    Poor                               2.99

                                    Very poor                      0

 

            Overall quality of life for foreigners in general

 

                        Excellent                     16.42  

                                    Good                           50

                                    Neutral                        25.37

                                    Poor                             5.22

                                    Very poor                     2.24

                                    No response                0.7

 

            Many respondents personally felt accepted by Filipinos but nearly half did not or were in between. Some comments were; ‘Many Filipinos are very suspicious of foreigners’,... too much discrimination against foreigners here’, and ‘I sit in my front porch smiling and waving. People look at me like an ape in the zoo’.

            Indeed, many reported socialising mostly with other foreigners or in the bar scene and a few said they did not socialise at all. Some comments were; [i socialise mostly] ‘With foreigners with Filipino wives’ and  ‘Wife’s friends and family’, ‘Mix of other foreigners, Filipino friends and family’, and ‘Foreigners with Filipina wives’.

            Most still were happy with their decision to migrate but some were not. Barriers to leaving may include cost and a Filipina partner who wants to stay on. Some comments were;  ‘Life for expats in the Philippines was better before 2000. Wouldn't plan to stay if my wife wasn't a Filipina’ and ‘The Philippines is very hot, very polluted, very corrupt, has ... dangerous roads and ferries, customer service is not good (i.e. can't return things, long queues, etc). The positive is really a lower ... cost of living ... I've lived in Ecuador and I think it's a much better place for a retiree however my wife has family here ...’.

 

            The polarisation of views on living in the Philippines is particularly striking.

 

‘People who come to live in the Philippines either leave after a short time or stay for life in my experience.

I would advise all not to move here. ... They want your money but they don’t want you here’,

 ‘Some love it here and some cannot adjust.”

‘Those who fight the Philippine ways are unhappy here.’

“Many other countries that have lower living costs, less hassles, seem attractive now.’

“I hate the place.  Hate the food, hate most of the people, hate the culture.”

The food sucks and you are viewed as a cow to be milked.’

‘Retirees tend to be happy.  Foreigners working here tend not to be due to the incompetence of staff and laziness.

You can turn a blind eye to most of the drawbacks but in the end it wears you down.’

I  think my experience is better than most...It's a wonderful place, but individual experiences, obviously, will vary’,

Most Westerners seem happy enough. Local girls take care of older guys with health problems’.

 ‘Expats on modest incomes and with some serious medical conditions should be very careful before opting to retire here’.

“If you are a self- sufficient individual who loves and respects people, believes that family centred cultures work well and have enough income to live comfortably ($25,000 per year), The Philippines is a pretty nice life. If you are a wuss, "redneck", or think Filipinas are submissive little wives, don't even bother!

 

            In conclusion, the move works out for some but not for others. Many may have left soon after arrival so the successes may actually be a small percentage of migrants. But this is true of migration to Western nations as well. Many migrants eventually leave. So any stay needs a long trial and the possibility of exiting if necessary.  

 

 

The author

 

 

 

Robert Howard until recently taught at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He first visited the Philippines in 1981. He has research interests in tourism and the lives of Western expats in Southeast Asia. He is the author of five books. The latest (2012) is Islands in the Orient Sea: Travels in the Edgy 21st Century Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paul

By your user name, I am under the impression that you are the author of this work?

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ROVER

This paper is for who?   Certainly not for expats, there's nothing there we don't already know...The same thing in the paper is said here on this forum every single day... :rose:

 

ADDED: And it's free, you don't have to buy a book to get the same information.... :ROFLMAO:

Edited by ROVER
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Bonjon

I would be quite interested to know where the survey was carried out.  If I were to guess I would say Luzon.

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RogerDat

Greetings! I thought this is the survay that we took as posted on the forum?

His results of questions ask are the same from form I filled out here.

rhoward was the member who posted the web address for the survay.

.

Edited by RogerDat

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Davaoeno

 Filipino lifestyle                                     31.34


            


            


Availability of sex partners                   5.67  

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ex231

 

 Filipino lifestyle                                     31.34

            

            

Availability of sex partners                   5.67  

 

 

I thought those two went hand in hand.

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Paul

 

 

If you are a wuss, "redneck", or think Filipinas are submissive little wives, don't even bother!”

 

I'm still waiting for him to log back on, so I can address the above quote with him.

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Paul

Greetings! I thought this is the survay that we took as posted on the forum?

His results of questions ask are the same from form I filled out here.

rhoward was the member who posted the web address for the survay.

.

 

This is the same guy.

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SomeRandomGuy

I am pissed none my words of wisdom made it.

 

 

 

Bah humbug

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Jawny

"In conclusion, the move works out for some but not for others. Many may have left soon after arrival so the successes may actually be a small percentage of migrants. But this is true of migration to Western nations as well. Many migrants eventually leave. So any stay needs a long trial and the possibility of exiting if necessary."

 

Not sure the survey serves any purpose except to reveal that it is incomplete and cannot come to any definitive conclusion. Sounds like a classic academic study. Largely to create the illusion of a reasoned approach to a question, but amounts to a pile of words.....most from people other than the author. The end result, need to continue the studies, this time with a larger grant ($$$$$).

 

I applaud efforts to try and assemble a study of the lifestyles of expats in the Philippines. Good for the author to make the attempt. But, it makes me think of what I witness each time a Census is conducted here. It's actually funny to watch. A group of college students, all with matching t-shirts, wander into a barangay and begin to conduct the census. The appearance is that they are actually canvassing the residents. Now to be clear, I am referring to "people who live in houses" as residents. This gets rather technical as to what is defined as a house. For many of us, that question alone creates confusion, since some people actually live in grave sites. Is this a "house"?

 

Then, what is a person? I know some may think that is a silly question. But, if a "person" should happen to live in more than one house, where do they get counted?

 

When it comes to foreigners, which makes up some of the non-citizen population, how are they to be counted? If they are here long term or short term? Permanent residents or "butterflies"?

 

In fact, what happens each time is the group of students stays as a group and only goes to a few houses and asks about the other houses. I've never had them come to our house, but we still get an official sticker to put on our gate/door to show we've been counted.

 

The author of this survey has reached his vague conclusion by contacting a minuscule number of foreigners. Not sure such a sampling would reveal much about lifestyles.

 

Someone who truly wants to know about how long term foreign residents live their lives could do well to set up a program to read this forum with filters to sort through the data contained in the posts. For crissakes, on a daily basis, the comments will reveal a bunch of cranky and opinionated members. But, over time, a lot of very useful information can be gleaned.

 

For example, does it really mean anything to know what a median income is? How much of that income goes to alimony, taxes to a mother country, support to the extended family and so forth? I'd rather know things like basic living costs, not now much income someone has. There have been frequent posts from members wanting to know if they could manage on way less than a median income of $45,000 annually.

 

As well, just look how many times the topic of "good but cheap medical care" comes up. Doesn't take much to see that this is an issue among expats (and locals alike).

 

Finally, how presumptuous to make a judgement about "successes" among the expat community. Is this the authors code word for happiness?

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Paul

 

 

‘You have to pay for all medical care upfront. No money. No care’.

 

This is not true and hasn't been for several years. Hospitals are to work out payment arrangements via a promissory note with you, if you are unable to pay the entire bill prior to leaving the hospital.

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philuk

copywrite my ass, if the survey was conducted on this forum, it belongs to the forum,

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Irenicus

You guys have nothing nice to say about anything.  Dude obviously took the time to put this together and is allowing people to post it on their sites.

 

My only beef is the editing.  It's very choppy and hard to scan.  

 

And the whole "neo-liberal" thing.

 

:)

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Monsoon

‘You have to pay for all medical care upfront. No money. No care’.

 

This is not true and hasn't been for several years. Hospitals are to work out payment arrangements via a promissory note with you, if you are unable to pay the entire bill prior to leaving the hospital.

Paul those are all quotes from survey participants.

 

I recognize at least two of mine.

 

One was regarding the question about who do you associate with or however it was worded.

 

My answer is the one saying something about "Other expats, filipino friends and family."

 

I don't think we should fault the man for publishing the data as received.

 

 

‘You have to pay for all medical care upfront. No money. No care’.

 

This is not true and hasn't been for several years. Hospitals are to work out payment arrangements via a promissory note with you, if you are unable to pay the entire bill prior to leaving the hospital.

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