Realities and Perceptions – Are They Synonymous?

I just finished reading a post on sub/reddit titled What is exactly wrong with locals here?” and I must admit, based upon the thread comments, the OP of this article really struck a chord – with some readers that agreed with him and others who adamantly defended against everything he said. Below I have inserted his reddit post verbatim as a testament that all expats do not see living in the Philippines in the same light.

For many expats here, it has become like….


I’ll be the first to agree that much of the online propaganda which one finds about the Philippines has been sensationalized to the point that makes living in the Philippines very appealing.”  But everyone must realize that this country is still “third-world-ish” in many ways. Those who wish to paint the Philippines in the brightest of colors will be more politically correct and tend to use the description “Developing Country.”

Check out the post:

“Ever since I moved here about a year ago, I thought it’d be a blast. I thought I would make new friends, hit up some beaches, and have an all around great time. The stuff I hear about the Philippines is usually legendary, but now that I have lived and experienced what it is like to be an expat here, I have to say this place is overrated. My gripes are mostly regarding the people…

People here don’t mind their business. I’m an introvert so when I leave my building, the stares and gossiping start getting to me. These people don’t even know me and little do they know that I can actually understand some of what they are saying. I can understand being a relatively new resident, but if I have lived at the same spot for a few months or longer, I still don’t understand why these idiots continue to stare or harass me. Or if I am passing through a security checkpoint, guards shit talking and cackling. Too many people ask me how much I make or how much my rent is or whether I am here for business. It’s none of their fucking business…

Fake friendliness People constantly trying to be your friend and working some angle in order to get information and shake you down for money and then acting standoff-ish when you decline. It’s a scamming culture so they use the women or they try to turn on the charm waaay up to get to your pocket

Weird about social norms I have to mind what I say and what I do here bc with the amount of foreigners getting killed lately. People here don’t really respect human life. You need to coax them and smooth their brittle egos and ingratiate yourself bc of their inferiority complex.

I really don’t know what else I can say. The people here are fake as fuck and not hospitable. I wish they’d leave me the fuck alone. TBH, it’s my fault for not doing more research on this country. I just get a bad vibe from them overall. The reason you don’t hear too much about it is bc most people are out working long hours or chasing pinays…which might be the only redeeming thing about PH (the girls).

I can deal with the rundown 3rd world drab surroundings, but the people really make living here hell on earth.”

———————————————– End of Post ————————————————————

There are certain points within his post that I can agree with, especially from his introverted perspective;

  • Privacy – There is very little privacy in the Philippines. Most people and families live a somewhat communal lifestyle, and in very cramped conditions as compared to more western-styled accommodations. The only real privacy one will enjoy here is to remain locked-up in a cave somewhere (and close the curtains!). More outgoing people tend not to feel this way. Personally, I am not an introvert but I do cherish my privacy, and it does come at a premium. Outdoors, I am always shooing children (and the occasional adult) away from peering through our gate into our compound. Yes, it happens more often than you think and it is more out of curiosity (and maybe boredom) than anything else.
  • Minding One’s Own Business – There is a lot of truth to this. I am constantly asked about things that normal folks would be considered personal. For example, most expats experience the same questions over and over and over… “Where are you from? Are you married? Do you have a gf? How many children do you have?” And sometimes the questions ca be even more prying such as “Where do you live” or “How much money do you make?” In all honesty, the routine does get old after a while. And then there is the “tsismis” or gossip. The rumor mill runs 24/7 in this country and never shuts down. When you think about it, when people have nothing better to do (unemployment is high), they surmise, they assume, and they talk… allot!
  • Staring – This comes with the territory. Most all western expats are NOT brown-skinned and we stick out like a rotten mango. Of course we are going to generate stares, mostly out of curiosity. Whenever I do anything outside my home’s compound, onlookers will gather. Even when I might be trimming the grass with my electric string trimmer, folks will occasionally stand around just to watch the  “foreigner” work. It can be annoying at times. And if I ever decide to walk down to the beach or into the jungle, there will always be kids following me, just because they have nothing better to do I suppose. We are the main attraction (the Rock Star) when living there.
  • Fake Friendliness – I’m not sure how to comment on this. While the Filipino people are generally warm and friendly natured people, there are some that can appear to be overly friendly and that should raise some flags. Those few people who seem to be overly friendly usually possess an ulterior motive… which equates to money. I’ll leave the rest of this alone as it is a very subjective observation.
  • Social Norms – As a westerner, I do acknowledge huge cultural differences, with some Filipino norms bordering on weird. As a devoutly religious society, there seems to be conflicting understandings of faith and fear. On one hand, superstition is based on the ignorant faith of an object having magical powers. Another word for superstition is “idolatry.”  The Bible does not support the idea of things occurring by chance, but nothing is done outside of God’s sovereign control. Either He causes or allows everything in keeping with His divine plan (Acts 4:28; Ephesians 1:10).  In summary, Filipinos tend to allow their fear of myths and the supernatural to override their faith. As a raised (non-practicing) Catholic myself, I find it all rather ignorant.
    Another social norm is one that can be considered a hinderance to Filipino progress: That is the tendency to NOT speak out about civil injustices or something that might be wrong. Filipinos live by the mantra of “bahala na” which translates to “Whatever will be will be” or “It is what it is.” It doesn’t seem to bother anyone when someone cuts in line, or cuts them off when driving. Filipinos are experts in the self-administration of “fatalism” and “crab mentality,” both strong negative traits that are hugely responsible for the lack of social and economic progress which continues to plague the country. From destruction of natural resources and environmental negligence and pollution of the very ocean that feeds the masses, to non-education and alcoholism and drug abuse. And let’s not forget noise pollution! The Filipino people have this propensity to surrender their future to a perceived fate.  There is also much discrimination and separation of the classes that permeate societal behavior here.
    These norms are way out of kilter with accepted norms of the western world, and it is hard for many expats to accept without a whisper of a complaint. Some expats simply escape it all by hiding behind the “When in Rome…” catchphrase while others complain way too much.
  • Respect for Others – Discussion on this topic can go from one extreme to the next. Typically speaking though, there seems to be a general disregard for safety and security of others. Assassinations and killings of people for such simple justifications (could be simple revenge or assassin for hire) can build a strong argument for such uncaring traits among Filipino people. When you disrespect, offend or publicly embarrass someone here, they will have the last word… so to speak. From pissing people off to seriously disrupting someone’s financial situation… it can all be cause for termination, unfortunately. What goes around here comes around here… especially if one acts like a jerk. Life here can be cheap as they say.


Barangay Rubbish Collection – Sometimes!

The Philippines definitely has some good things going. Beautiful lush tropical island scenery, great beaches, good food (a much disputed topic for later), and in general… a party atmosphere. The people are warm and friendly and family closeness is one of their greatest attributes. The cost of living is low and the weather is… well, warm (at least there is no snow and ice). People are very helpful, even if a few would expect something in return. Many of the good things we enjoy here can be somewhat overshadowed by the negative, or the other way around, depending on where one hails from. After living here for some time, my personal concerns have been identified, in level of importance to me, as:

  1. Health Care
  2. Healthy Living including air quality/contaminants
  3. Safety & Security
  4. Infrastructure (emergency services, reliable power, etc.)
  5. Human Rights
  6. Privacy

… all of which many westerners take for granted anywhere else. I’m definitely no different. To those individuals who protest living in such perceived squalor, they should simply end their complaining and move away. To those who are happy living in their chosen paradise, good on them. For anyone else contemplating living in the Philippines, you mus learn to focus more on all the stuff in-between the lines when reading everything that is “legendary” about the Philippines. For me and my wife, after spending nearly 5 years here, health care has become our number one concern and we have acted accordingly (now part-timing it between Philippines and Guam). In summary (and my wife agrees with me), I like to say that the Filipino people are the most considerate-inconsiderate people in the world… only because they have not learned any better. And we will more strategically enjoy the best of both worlds from now on.

blank The Paradox of Pollution

Disclaimer: One should note there are more than subtle differences in all of the above claims based upon where one chooses to live in the Philippines, keeping in mind that Manila and Cebu tend to be more progressive minded and Provincial living is a far reach from being modern.


Readers thoughts and comments are welcome as we all tend to have our own unique perspectives based upon where ye came from and where ye currently live.

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Stishit Early Adopter. Enjoying life in the "Domain of the Golden Dragon." Blogger, Vlogger, Social Media Marketing consultant. Check out my personal blog (website) and YouTube channel for a slice of life in the Western Pacific - From Guam to the Philippines... "One Day at a Time!"

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