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Expat and Foreigner Relationships in the Philippines

Even though there are many Foreigners, or Expats in the Philippines, with the vastness of the Philippines plus the different lifestyles, there are times you hear of a person living here, but have never met. You walk through the malls and see a person that is not Filipino but many times all you get is a nod or a mumbled “how you doing.”

There are many reasons a foreigner comes to the Philippines. It can be because of a work related trip, a vacation, investigating moving here, or because they have retired here.

There are many people who have lived here a lot longer than I have and have their own views with friendships and lifestyles. I can only discuss my views and observations. One of the things I have learned in my 21 months living here is to open yourself to meet people, but take your time developing your friendships with both Filipinos and non-Filipino people.

Here in Davao there are many groups with meetings. Each has a different charter or membership conditions. They have their own reasons why they started the group and over time they have redeveloped themselves in a different direction. Then with the change of leadership the attitude or atmosphere of the group can change too. I have listed some of these groups in past articles and am not planning to give their names now. This is more about the relationships that develop or end over time.

Just as when you lived back in your home country, there are people you enjoy to have as a friend and some personality types you avoid. Over time, some people you considered as friend, for some reason, you find they are not the type of person you need in a friendly relationship. Here is no exception. Most times the only thing you have in common is that you’re a foreigner and not a Filipino.

The problem here is with all the foreigners you meet, rarely do you meet someone that you knew back in your home country. Because of this, some people find they can reinvent themselves into someone they are not. Who will know? I am open, and sometimes too open. There is little I am ashamed of in my past and do not mind relating items about myself.

When I first moved here and with my need to find people to talk to in English and share common knowledge I joined some of the groups. I would go to every activity they had. Each one had a different theme but for me it was meeting English speaking people. Over time, I left one group and joined another. Sometimes splinter groups develop.

Now I have developed friendships. Some are casual friendships and some are developing into deeper friendships. That is something I prefer. A family dinner together, a lunch or a day’s activity. I am more comfortable with a few friends or couples instead of large groups.

With this, my best advice is once you move here, be open to meeting people, go to meetings or be open to having a coffee or lunch with people you meet. Let the friendship develop slowly in its natural course. If you sense a problem, move back and see if the problem clears and the friendship redevelops. Offer information about yourself, but not your whole life. This has caused problems with me from my openness.

Because of the life here, at times bitterness develops. Someone you trusted as a friend turns around and starts their campaign to discredit you or drive people away. It is the same as back in your home country, but magnified mores so here because of the smaller amount of Expats and the sharing of information between them. Be careful, even though tsismis (chiz’-miz) is a popular activity, at times, Expats are not to0 far behind.

24 Responses to “Expat and Foreigner Relationships in the Philippines”

  1. Gene says:

    I agree with your thoughts 100%. It’s fun and interesting visiting with people from your own country here; and even those from other countries as well.
    Imigine yourself riding a city transit bus in Los Angeles. (I drove one there for years) over 90% of those passengers on any given bus you would NEVER allow or invite into your home. It is wise to have the same attitude here as an expat. There is good and bad in every culture and people. I think most people from other countries are basicly nice and decent people. But many may not be; and many here in the Angeles area where we live are here for the “wrong reasons.”
    Make friends but as at home choose your friends carefully.


    • Bruce says:

      Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately Angeles City has a reputation that attracts the wrong types. Be safe and thanks for visiting and commenting.

      • Tom says:

        There is a good sized foreign community in the Angeles area. There are a lot of them that do not participate in the nightlife there. You rarely see these guys (Because they are normal people doing normal things instead of out bar hopping all day and night) giving you the impression that almost everyone is involved it that.

        Just like everywhere you need to choose your friends carefully. Just because someone is from the same place you are doesn’t automaticly mean you should associate. That is certainly true. Even when the pool is smaller there will be people you are compatable with.

        • Bruce says:

          That is my point, many I have met here, if I was in the states and we were neighbors, we probably would not be friends. But you need to give them a chance, with caution, of course. We all need to get over the “Mine is bigger than yours” attitude which happens when you first meet and get down to knowing them as a person.

  2. Eurasian says:

    Hi Bruce, it’s nice to find your blog. I would really like to know what proportion of foreigners who marry Filipinas actually end up living here? So if anybody reading this knows the answer..

    As a Eurasian Pinoy I would really like to meet more of my own kind because we have unique experiences and can’t simply just be categorized black or white. In the west I knew many of my own kind but I find it much more difficult here.

    About my parents: after they parents married the family of my mom pressured her into helping them pay off their debt. My dad took out a big loan to pay it. To this day they pretend it didn’t even happen. So be careful, just because a woman can be trusted does not automatically mean the same for her family.

    • Bruce says:

      First i want to thank you for visiting and commenting. I see a mix of mainly three types of marriages, some who met their wife here and brought her to their home country and then retired here. Some who met them in their home country, married there and then retired here together. Lastly some who retired here and then married.

      I have heard that many times, if a lady lived in America or Europe, it was the mans idea and the Filipina wanted to stay in the other country.

      I know of a few ladies who look for a foreigner husband just as a financial way to support her family. There are some whose family actually supported her to go to a town with an internet cafe to just find a husband for the family support. I know of Filipina, when asked by my wife if she loved her new husband and her reply was, “He takes good care of helping my family and maybe someday I will feel love for him.”

      I am glad I have a wife that loves me, and I think it is because we are close in age and not the huge 40+ year age gap. I am not saying this is in all relationships, there are good and bad relationships either here or in someones home country with a woman of the same culture. Love is a word with no real definition, it has different meanings and reasons for all.

      • Christine says:

        Hi Bruce and Euroasian, I have heard that these kind of marriages, (where the Filipina marries in order to help her family) exist and apparently quite common in the Philippines, and even here in Australia. When I mean “common”, I meant it is not unusual. But I think it is sad that a woman has to sacrifice herself to help her family. My question is, do the marriage last? And are the family appreciative of her and the European man? Years ago, I met a very young Filipina lady here on a Fiancee visa to an older Australian guy. Because she did not drive,I used to take her shopping, etc. I could tell she did not love him because whenever she was with me, she was very happy. I asked her older sister (who organized the marriage)if she forced the younger sister to marry this old Australian. And she said no. But to cut the long story short, the marriage lasted 3 months, but because she got pregnant, she did not get deported. In Oz now, we have an immigration law that if you are a foreign spouse, you have to stay with him/her for 2 years and 2 months, and if you don’t and you don’t have children, you can get deported. But I have yet to see this imposed.

        Sorry to deviate from your topic Bruce, but yes, even here in Oz, there are thousands of Filipinos. Doesn’t mean they get along. I noticed the pattern of socialization here is, Filipinas who are married to Filipinos socialize together. And Filipinas married to whites socialize together. This then gets broken down to Filipinas from the same province and speaking the same language socialize together, but not necessarily. Some of the newer arrivals who are married to say, a University lecturer tends to put their noses up in the air, and consider themselves above everyone else. This tend to limit their social networks, for obvious reasons. Sorry for my post being long, Bruce. have a nice day.

        • Bruce says:

          I just know the foreigners here and some Filipina American relationships in the US. Yes, there are many marrages in America where an illegal alien or a lady who arrived for marriage was waited the 2 year period and then divorced their husband and got half the property. Here there are a few variations to the mixed marriage. (1) Couples who met in America, married and at retirement moved here. (2) Men who met their wife in the Philippines, brought her to the US and again moved back at retirement. (3) men who moved here, met a Filipina and got married and (4) Men who met their lady on line and moved here and married.
          Since I have been here less than 2 years, I do not know about how long marriages last. I have heard of some separations, Some men who have been married a few times. This is just in passing and I have no real knowledge.

          • Christine says:

            Hi Bruce, interesting reply. Waiting for 2 years and getting half of the property as well? My, she must have some patience! I can just imagine what goes through her mind every time she looks at the husband = lots of $$$$$! 🙂

            But yeah, that happens here too. And as you probably figured out by now, Filipinas are fond of “tsismis”, so whenever someone leaves her husband as soon as the required 2 years 2 months is up, the conclusion is, she was just after the visa all along. I was told that Aussies are only allowed to import foreign brides twice. So if you were unlucky with wife no. 1 (Russian) and she divorces you, and you were also unlucky with wife no. 2 (Filipina) and she divorces you, you can’t import another one. So if a guy really want a Filipina partner/wife, he has to try and find someone already here. I guess our Oz govt passed these laws to, maybe protect our Aussie men from more exploitation? or maybe to stop men from using serial marriage as a business. Years ago, before these laws were passed, some Australians (not necessarily white) and men and women alike undertake marriages of convenience in exchange for cash. From what I remember in the early 90’s, some of our citizens’ fees were around $5000 per marriage. Of course, since the “2 spouse and you’re out” law, this has put a stop to that.

            But re-property. I don’t know about your US laws, but here in Oz, I believe our current law (passed around early 90’s) states that if you have accumulated your wealth prior to marriage, then he/she cannot claim on you pre-marriage wealth. She is only allowed to claim on what she had contributed to the marriage. I haven’t heard of anyone testing this law. Not personally anyway. Sorry to deviate from the topic again. Have a nice day and thanks for the reply.

          • Bruce says:

            In the US each state has different divorce laws. Some are what they call “no Fault” where you do not have to prove adultry, abuse or anything. Also the property division varies. California is only marital assets, but that can be faught in court. Just as, in most cases, Per-nuptial agreements will not stand up in court.
            Here in the Philippines, land can only be owned by a Filipino except gifted or by inheritance. If a foreigner outlives the Filipino spouse, technically, owns the home and land. But in some cases, the Filipino family can claim rights as next of kin. Luckily I am 13 years older then Elena, so in all probability, I will die first.

          • Christine says:

            In Oz now, it is “No Fault” divorce in all states now. I believe it hasn’t been that long since that was introduced, around 70’s I think? Neither party were not required to appear in family court anymore. It is so easy. The last time I heard about divorce stats here, it is something like 1 in 5 marriages. I’m not sure how easily Pre-nups get challenged here. I know in the US, it get challenged a lot. But here, it is only worth contesting if it is substantial, i.e. running into millions. As some have found out bitterly, the Lawyers usually takes nearly 50% if not more once the dust settles. 🙂

            I’m aware re-foreign land ownership laws there. Personally, I think the foreigner is better off having the land on a 50 year lease (with tight conditions) even from his wife. This is to protect him should the marriage breaks down, or if his Filipino wife dies. I know families (or even his wife should the marriage fail) can still mount challenges, but hey, if they want to do this, I wouldn’t be making it easy for them! 🙂
            Again, it depends on what the estate is worth. My brother tells me Filipino lawyers are not that cheap either. Though some families may mount a challenge just to give the foreign husband a hard time. Which to me I think is totally insane, but I’ve heard this has happened before.

            13 years difference? That’s nothing Bruce. If both of you lead a healthy lifestyle, then there’s no telling really. Just make sure she doesn’t add MSG (Mono-sodium glutamate) in her cooking. It’s hazardous to your health.

          • Bruce says:

            With anything here, agreements can be broken, rules change. It is more than buyer beware. I have banned MSG, but when you eat in restaurants and packed foods, they are loaded.

  3. Marvin says:

    There are many times I just give a nod or a “how ya doin” mumble because I just don’t feel like getting into the old “so where you from”…blah, blah,blah story for the one millionth time. Sometimes I just want to do what I came there to do and go home. I mean I don’t snob anybody if they look as if they really want to talk to me or I’m just having a smoke…”Hey dude, how’s your life goin”? I guess what I’m saying Bruce, don’t get too bent outta shape if they only nod at ya, hell some of them can’t speak english anyway. But hey if I come to Davao brother you better answer the door.

    • Bruce says:

      I am open to meeting all people, but it is up to them to want to meet too. If you knock at the door, you will be greeted and handed some iced tea, if you need a beer, I will have to send one of the girls to get it. Then you can get in our car and buy me a nice steak dinner. 🙂

  4. David says:

    I’m considering retiring to the phils. What’s your opinion on the best city to live in? I don’t care about the beach and prefer cooler weather. Davao vs. Bacolod City and Tagaytay?
    I currently live in China so I’m familiar with expat life.

    • Bruce says:

      From what I have heard, since I have never visited anywhere in Luzon, Baguio is the coldest area. Tagaytay is cooler but not as cool as Baguio. Both have a higher cost of living. Both of these areas are in the typhoon belt.
      Davao never really gets cool unless it rains straight for more than a day, and that rarely happens. Their is an area about 2 hour drive from Davao on the Bukidnon/Davao borders. Hence the name Buda. It is cooler there.
      I have just lived in Davao, but had visited Buda.
      Sorry, but that is all the help I can give. Maybe others will comment and better advise.

      • Per says:

        I always hear Philippinos say that Baguio is the coolest place. But looking at annual weather charts and after checking a couple of times a week for some time, I found that Bacolod is actually the coolest city in Ph.

        Also, Bacolod is an academic city with many and high-quality schools. And – if one should trust the local governments numbers – it has the lowest crime rate and also a wopping over 90% crime-solving statistics (they have put down lots of money in police presence, both to prevent crime and solve crime)! Looking at photos it also seems to be one of the cleanest cities in the world (but we all know that photos can lie, but they claim to be Ph cleanest city).
        But it is more expensive to live there, from what I understand. But Id say, give it a real look.
        I plan to visit Mindanao (Davao, Compostela Vally, Cagayan de Oro City and Butuan) since that is where I know people. But if I move to Ph, Id try to live in Bacolod.

        • Bruce says:

          Thank you for the research and information. My family here has ties to this community, so I have no option but live here. I would prefer a cooler environment, and maybe one day be able to relocate somewhere else.
          I look forward to meeting you when you visit Davao.

  5. Sam Cason says:

    The weather around Eden Garden Resort is quite a bit cooler and a dryer climate. Its about 1 hour north of Davao city. Its country but safe. You run the a/c during the day but turn it off at night. Its in the mountains. Temperatures dip into the 50f degrees. Its pretty cheap there. We stayed at the Eden Garden Resort for our honey moon and its was about 1500p a day. Probably more now. Its really beautiful up there.

    • Bruce says:

      I was at Eden during the day once and it was beautiful up there. Another place that is nice is Buda, on the Bukidnon Davao City border. It is cool and green, but not much else there and 2 hours drive to Davao for supplies.

  6. Peter Johansson says:

    Hello my name is Peter and im a swedish national residing in Dasmarinas, Cavite, i wonder if there is any foreign community groups in and around Manila which i can join ?, thankful for an answer

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