The Harvie family have been living in the Philippines full-time just over 7 years now. Right from the start it was intended to be a full-time move, and it remains so. Most people I spoke to who had lived here as Australians in the Philippines for a long time told me that the gloss would rub off and within 3 – 5 years I would hate the place and desperately want to come back, but we’re still here.
Why do Australians stop living in the Philippines?
This would apply to most westerners (or “foreigners”, as we’re called here) living in the Philippines, but I’m an Aussie and so are most of the readers of FilipinaWives so I say “Australians”.
Why would an Aussie say “had enough” and go back to Australia after a plan to settle here?
Money issues in the Philippines
Yes, clearly I would think money would be the number one reason to stop living in the Philippines. You can live cheaply here, or you can live the high life. All extremes are possible. The issue is when someone has needs and wants which are more costly than their income. Many an Aussie comes here with rose-coloured glasses on, believing that life here will be an extension of their trips here. The reality is that many underestimate living costs and overestimate their financial capability. This applies both to those on fixed incomes like pensions, and to those who think they’ll make a successful business here.
Pressure from Filipino families
This would probably be the number two reason, although in some families it may be number one to cease living in the Philippines. And this will depend largely on where the priorities of you Filipina wife lie. I have a very loyal wife, and her relatives all know this. Our nuclear family, ie Mila and myself and our kids, they always come first. The wants and needs of the relatives come a clear second, and they know this too. They don’t even suggest that they get handouts or special favours under the table, and in fact I’m more generous toward them than Mila is.
This is not the case in every Australian Filipina relationship here, though. Many a Filipino family regards the Australian husband as balato (a lucky windfall that they all get to share in, like a lottery win), and many a wife….especially a younger wife…..has difficulty in saying NO.
If you can’t be confident that you won’t be abused by mooching relatives, you are better off not coming here in the first place. If you’re not sure, this should be something you and your wife discuss long before you come here. When I first met my inlaws many years ago and there were some clashes of expectation, I told her she needed to choose where her loyalty would lie because she couldn’t expect to please everybody. Fortunately she chose well. Not all ladies do.
The ”dignified poor” Filipinos versus the “beggars”
I discussed this issue with Mila yesterday. She grew up in a nipa hut. Mum and dad and nine kids. Mila at 7 years old with one of her sisters used to walk around the town selling food that her mother had cooked, and she did this before she went to school. She washed clothes by hand for the neighbours when she was only a few years older. This was her life.
I asked her if her parents or older siblings had ever encouraged her to beg? Ever send her to win favour with wealthier relatives or neighbours in order to get a handout? Never!
We have relatives and relatives-of-relatives as well as those very keen on being friendly with us, and it’s been for the sole purpose of begging favours, handouts, gifts and support. You could just about cut the insincerity with a knife. I don’t blame the kids. They’re just doing what they’re told to do. I feel sorry for them being trained to be beggars, and I have nothing but contempt for the parents using the kids in such a way. This can certainly make life here very difficult for Australian expats.
Best advice? If you think you may want to live in Philippines, then great. You may be one of the successful ones, and I hope you are. I think this is a wonderful place to live. But do yourselves a favour and try living here for a year before you make a full commitment. Don’t burn your bridges.