I love spending time with local manufacturers everything from the 2 sewing machine uniform maker to furniture manufacturing but its small business I am interested in. Why? Because I find firstly they are artisans of a trade and can even produce personalised goods due to their skill level with manual tools. Secondly they are appreciative of the business and also just as important they offer high quality goods that put the Chinese rubbish to shame (well not really hard with the Chinese crap I often come across!).
In reality these businesses are struggling in many cases because of the big boys and their junk from China, people talk of Pinoy pride in reality I would say buy local and buy from the small businesses first. It may not be cheaper but the quality is better, its not damaging the economy by being imported and more importantly its keeping jobs local. Now it doesn’t always have to be clothing or furniture things like buying vegetables and fruit locally and making sure its not imported from other countries that do it cheaper is just as important. In fact more important! The bizarre case of importing rice when the Philippines can produce it in abundance is a typical example of things going badly wrong as the Philippines should always be able to care for its own and not play for profit. This is a big issue when corporations control everything in the same way the financial crisis hit the Western countries due to a fake housing market boom. In reality you need to trust your own instincts and also remember the richest people in the Philippines are generally Chinese origin and although business minded it also means they are both Filipino and Chinese so taking jobs from the Philippines to China on manufacturing to save money and increase profits I doubt they lose any sleep at night.
The world is a changing market and supporting local business is all about sustainability. Lose your artisans today you may not have any left tomorrow.
We experienced our bill being over priced for several months until we discovered that the guy doing the readings had changed and he didn’t know where he meter was so just guessed. Thing is not all meters are numbered, easy to locate or in many cases even easy to access. Take a look at these ones in Cebu not the best to be balancing with a pencil and paper.
I get a lot of people asking me about life here and its not an easy topic to cover when people are so different. A lot of the people I meet online are completely different in real life and a lot of the people I meet I have no issues with but generally aren’t in the same social circles and mindset as myself. Sound arrogant? not at all the point I am making is like the last few days I have worked until 4-6am and constantly looking at business concepts on how to improve our life here. I have given business ideas, contact details to other Expats who were whining they can’t make a living here to find what they actually mean is they don’t want to work for the money.
Life can be as easy here or as hard as you want to make it I know Expats skimping through each month financially close to going broke completely and any major disaster they would be broke and destitute. I know others who have been burned and are very business savvy as they learned the hard way. These two groups alone are complete opposites but when you start bringing in the 30 something’s who are going to find a job here and build a life or the retirees they are another two groups that are completely different.
If your thinking of coming here to find a job I would advise against it unless you have a trust fund or some other incomes not because I am being negative its being realistic if you can drop into teaching somewhere all the better but generally most jobs offer a poor salary and although you think you can adapt to local living I often wonder why would you want to when most people that have “local living” seem to be wanting to escape it which is the reason for 10million overseas workers. Now its not to dampen your hopes but to think more on the lines of other ways to fund your life here. There are several business operations we do ourselves and a lot of expats are either working online, exporting or in the rental business all take initial funding but depends on what you really can do here compared to what you think you can.
In reality the majority of people who first come to the Philippines have a different view from things they have read online and seen on things like Youtube compared to what life in Cebu is really like. I have noticed a trend of very little “bad stories” getting talked about which is wrong as people really need to share the good and the bad so people can understand what is right and wrong with living here. Prime example is electricity which seems to be increasing considerably over the last 2 years if people talked about it more they would see the cost of living has increased a lot more than people are willing to accept. The exchange rates are against incoming funds yet the costs have remained high and increased compared to many other Asian countries. What the Philippines can offer in many terms is a better way of life once you have increased your income, let it stay stagnant I can only see peoples pensions and other funds devaluing if having to bring money into Cebu the remittances are helping to keep the economy afloat and artificially inflate the peso value while that continues the gap will only widen.
To live here as an Expat long term involves researching a lot and also looking at how you can make it viable. The first few months are the killing fields of expat finances as people arrive spend too much on things they either don’t need or assume “that’s cheap” to quickly find they are financially run aground. I will talk more on a follow up post as this one is getting a bit long..
The majority of Expats who move here are simply arriving at Cebu as a stop gap but the majority find what they are looking for and stay here not venturing much further than this island. Not a bad thing mind as so many are at an age where being near a major hospital is important the same as getting medical supplies. What Cebu does offer is an environment that is fairly low on “Foreign” crime as generally the local population leave foreigners to their own devices. Burglaries do happen but I have only heard of two in three years which for me is tiny in comparison to the amount I know of friends and contacts in the UK. There is a drug problem in Cebu at the same time that isn’t at the same levels that I found in Worcester UK where heroin is a huge problem (yet generally ignored!). For safety for the average Expat there are no real issues and often things you read about are blown out of proportion, I know people who complain about the amount they had to bribe police at the same time “they did bribe them”. If they learned a little about the law they would find in a lot of cases they could have argued the toss on legal grounds and got away with it. Generally I find most people here if confronted about something will back down especially if they know they are in the wrong. At the same time I wouldn’t advise people to be doing things wrong in the first place.
Localised food is cheap but there seems to be a problem with the Peso as the rest of the worlds currencies have dropped the Peso hasn’t adjusted any of its food costs or infact any costs in line with the fact. In other words cheese that was P280 before the recession (imported from the UK) is still P280 even though the pound devalued by 30% roughly which means the importer or stores are making an extra 30% profit. Prices never seem to go down here which is why I would say when moving here to offset some costs set up a small business with your partner. Could be a sari-sari involving sticking your hand out of the window at night selling beer but anything internal helps your external income.
Finding jobs here isn’t easy and the laws on business ownership as well as land are difficult. At the same time everything can be run via your partner and a lot of the issues are minor if your married. Getting a good job here will involve digging around and may work better to get introduced and meet Expats already in business here as going that route could open a few doors. You will find a lot of people saying “don’t come” if you don’t have a pension or a job. But what I would say if you can leave work for six months bring about £6,000 and that will not only give you the flexibility for a holiday of a lifetime it will also allow you to see if you can make it. Work on the six month time slot with the fact being you will leave at the end of it. This way you won’t kid yourself and get in a situation you can’t get out of (overspent). But it will allow you to see if you can make it here and if your lucky enough to hit one of the well paid jobs with an international company.
The value of marriage here has changed in the last 10 years probably down to the internet and the OFW market bringing in Western cultures as well as money. Abroad is the ATM of the country regardless if its you or sending someone local abroad either way all money is good to keep the country afloat. Now the down side of that is the influence has taken away a lot of the real values of a relationship in many marriages. On the positive side there are still a lot of women who hold onto the family values and a lot more that have experienced bad relationships here locally and now refusing to marry/date local guys. There is a bit of a myth on foreigners that they are all very good husbands and loyal although true for many its also probably just as many who aren’t. But the point is as a foreigner you have already got an opportunity to meet the right woman over most of the local population purely because your seen as responsible and able to provide for family. How you adapt that to the situation you have with your new found partner is upto you as often many Expats move away from relatives to remove the problems associated with being too close for comfort. On the other hand there are a few like me who live amongst the relatives and literally a stones throw from my wife’s parents. No issues with immediate family but have had some with extended.
What does the woman bring to the table is it worth the headaches? Most are family orintated and see the husband as the breadwinner of the family. Its not all about cash flow at the same time the woman prefers to be responsible for the household and making sure you and the children are taken care of. On the other side of that a good wife will also learn to keep the relatives at bay and how many of the problems happen or are solved are down to you. Why? because the culture is a “do as your told” mentality where they are used to being told by elders what they should do with literally most things in life, trying to get someone to free think is very difficult because everything they have known before is geared against it either in fear of relatives, failure or just insecure which is why you need to learn to take full responsibility early on and realise there will be problems and you need to prise them out of your partner early on so it can be nipped in the butt before they become major issues.
All in all though life as an Expat in Cebu offers a way of life that can be relaxing most of the time, 12 hours of sunshine, maids and a way of life that you wouldn’t find in the West. You could literally stay in your little piece of Cebu having people wait on you hand and foot and a lot cheaper than you think. A yaya/maid costs around P2,000 in Cebu per month which offers you the ability to just get on with work or whatever you need to do as the household side of life can be done for you. Plenty of things to see and do with some of the best waters in the world for diving as well as thousands of islands to trek across and experience new cultures. All in all the Expats life can be one of the most sought after to have.
Forums and blogs seem to run along the same lines but often in different directions. A blog being more of a singular experience with one author generally while a forum is a community.
Both serve different purposes and recently a friend of mine asked if I can help him setup LiveInThePhilippinesForum.com. After a chat about it I decided to help because he’s hoping it goes in a different direction to traditional forums on the Philippines. This being a bit of a bridge between communities not towns but nations, expats/foreigners whatever people like to be called or are called are often disconnected from Filipino forums in the same way the reverse can be said.
But we all live in the same islands and this was the point of his forum. I’m hosting it for him and eventually if it takes off it will take a life of its own. At the moment its still early stages but its also still looking for moderators and group leaders for different things. If you have a hobby or something you think would be beneficial to develop on the forum, I am sure you would be welcomed with open arms and you should register then just email the Admin.
We can only develop something we all want together and that’s the whole concept behind the idea. Everyone doing their bit to build a community.
There are things you need to get used to when moving here the first one being time. Generally people work in light to dark rather than specific hour trends, not sure if it was done on purpose or just the way things have a knock on affect making it difficult to plan an entire day because if one thing is off time so is everything else. People wonder why most people have some kind of worker be it a maid, cook, nanny etc. but in most cases it makes life a lot easier as the jobs you hate you can often delegate to send someone else out into the mad traffic as they will be grateful to get out of the house for a few hours. Thing is in the West we are used to punctuality and services moving along at a fixed pace even if it takes longer than it should you generally know how long and you don’t have to physically be there. For example my tax rebate in the UK supposed to take 6 weeks took nearly 6 months but with phone calls every couple of weeks for about 5 minutes it wasn’t really an issue (unless I was needing the money obviously) but this is a different kettle of fish as often you will be told to “wait a while” which can be a few minutes to a couple of hours and even then there is no guarantee some things will get sorted that day. An example of this was when my father in-law went to collect something from the local hospital was told “wait a while” and when asking how long is a while? the response was the person who needs to process it hasn’t turned up for work yet (already 11am). Turning up late for work seems to be an accepted trend for management who will often leave work early as well which is fine if they were efficient but in reality its why there is a backlog of things that need doing and they have no interest in changing the trend.
Now if your retired advise getting a maid to do a lot of this chasing around for you and make them aware when hiring “its expected”. A friend of mine looked after his maid a little too well and one day had some guests over due to being a bit rushed for time asked if the maid minded cooking (supposed to be one of her chores but wasn’t normally needed) to the reply “I don’t do the cooking!” following day he was looking for a new maid. More often than not you find being the bad boss works better than being nice, too often being nice is seen as a weakness and staff will try to exploit it and if not them their relatives. Which for salaries of around P2,000 a month you can understand why at the same time its not your problem overpaying gives the same results in many cases. If you have some obligation that you think you need to help people out with don’t make it cash give education as its something their extended family can’t take away from them. As well as likely to help keep your staff where they are at least for a year or two.
The social side of life in Cebu also varies depending on the circles you move and generally I am quite happy to see Expat friends a couple of times a month as the more provincial life suits my needs and there are plenty of people about doing various things from bowling to yachting depending on how much you want to do and your budget allows. If your here to retire its important to move out of getting caught up with the things that stress most people out as you simply don’t need to get involved with most of it. Most issues revolve round business,construction,families or neighbours the first 3 you can pretty much cover by buying a house in a sub-division as you don’t need the business or construction and people have to request access to the sub-divisions. The neighbours can still be issues in the Subs purely because keeping up with the Jones’s or other problems often occur just don’t entertain it.