Who is Real, and who is just an Expat Pretender with skeletons in their closet?

This is the first and only time I have lived outside my home country of Canada, so I am not sure whether this is a situation that is typical of the Philippines or rather a broader one where ever there is a large population of people with no long term ties to the area they live in. This issue is people who seem to take large liberties in their portrayal of who they are and what they have done in their life. I call them Expat pretenders and at the least their stories can be amusing, but at worst they also can be very damaging.

Helping out my wife in her real estate business I probably run into more than my fair share and they have caused me anger, frustration and a lot of wasted time. The most prolific and easy to spot, now that I know what to look for, are those trying to impress their new young Filipina honey. Outwardly they appear well off, dressing the part, and they talk a good talk. They are important people back home like lawyers, stockbrokers or high level executives with multi national conglomerates. The young little chick in tow hangs on his every word like he is a god and he publicly extols the many virtues he has found she possesses in their short relationship.Sometimes her family is with them, after all he has to show that it is not only her, but all her relatives that are going to benefit from this kind new benefactor with deep pockets. The properties that they are interested in are the most lavishly expensive ones on the market and rarely does the talk turn to whether they are good value for the money. They are after all only props in this game and the bigger prop they use the better this game plays out for them. Without fail, even the best properties shown will have fatal flaws that save this pretender from having to “show the money”, his lies exposed to his naive, star-stuck little companion. Usually these expat pretenders are only in country for a short time and are not even actually interested in living in the Philippines, but merely trying to have as good a time with their catch in the little time they will be here.

Next in line in the expat pretender gallery of rogues are those that actually do intend to stay here but want to live a lifestyle beyond their means. They usually are involved in a longer term relationship and the Filipina in tow is rarely dressed in high heels and a skimpy dress. I believe most of these expat pretenders are in love and their girls love them. He is probably not broke but definitely cannot afford to buy. The properties they want are not cheap but definitely do not compare to the lavish extravagance eyed by the first group. Some at least are more up front and will state off the bat that they will need financing, but the majority will wait until a lot of peoples’ time is wasted before disclosing that they really cannot afford to pay in the only way that is usually possible in this country. Cash. The terms used at that stage are “maintaining cash liquidity” or “waiting for funds to be released”. Some will even go as far as declaring that they must live in the house for awhile to ensure it is the right one for them. A lease to own maybe???

Another expat pretender is the one that washed up on the shores of the Philippines who are usually younger and have embraced a more bohemian lifestyle. They like the country and want to stay but simply do not have the financial means to do so. They are looking for work to extend their vacation indefinitely, but have not actually done any pre-planning. Usually broke to the point of being unable to pay their visas, keep a roof over their head, or even pay for a flight back out of the country. They started knocking on doors with an impressive resume of skills and work experience, but the reality usually is that these resumes bear little true resemblance to their actual skill level or past work history. They also have some real elaborate sad tale of woe that will thoroughly explain why in their 30’s or 40’s they find themselves in a foreign land with little money. The truth is usually that they were unemployable or failures in their home country and will be the same here. The majority of them are not key employee material (which they would need to be to justify the higher wage you would have to pay them over their Filipino counterparts), and the worst of them will be liars cheats or con men. They were probably like that back in their home countries and will do the same here, causing much pain, aggravation and possibly lost money.

The examples of Expat pretenders I have used so far are ones I run across in business. They can be huge wastes of time and money. I myself have naively fallen to their cons and paid some heavy prices. I try not to be too hard on myself because this is a phenomenon I have not really experienced to this degree before, but do take responsibility for allowing it to happen. Now that I have recognized it, I have no excuses and tend to believe little I am told without thoroughly verifying.

The next groups of Expat Pretenders are more likely ones that we all run across. Some are harmless. You usually find them at the local Expat water holes and as more beers get quaffed the stories gain in incredulity. In their former lives, these guys were spies, covert operatives, special forces or war heroes. Of course everything they did was classified so though the stories are long on boasts, they are short on details. After all, if they tell you, they would have to kill you. These expat pretenders are not worth getting too worked up over. Their lies are transparent and if you are in the right frame of mind, they can be quite amusing. I sometimes even  egg them on with a few beers and provocative questions, just to see how easily they can bend their stories to my queries.

The last group of Expat Pretenders are different and by far the most dangerous. They are usually criminals, on the run from a notoriety in their home countries which limited their ability to operate. They are thieves, con men or worst of all, sexual deviants. We all know there are pedophiles rapists or women beaters that have found the Philippines an easy picking ground for their victims. These we should not laugh at or ignore.. If, or more definitely, when they cross the line we should not tolerate it. They should be exposed for what they are to make their world a little smaller and that they cannot continue their victimization. I of course believe this should be done carefully though. Not only can there be risks to you, but a wrongly accused person’s life can be damaged beyond repair. If you have 100% proof of one of these guys operating, take that proof to the authorities and let them deal with it.

Why are there Expat Pretenders?

I believe the simplest answer to this question is the closest to the truth. It is harder to lie when surrounded by people that know the real truth. Here we do not usually have that concern because most of us expats are a half a world away from anybody who knows the “true” us. For the vast majority of us, we just want people to like or think well of us, so we think a little self-embellishment will not cause any harm. Problem is , once we tell one lie, we usually have to cover that lie with more lies and once we start down that road, where does it end? For the other small minority,  lies are carefully conceived with true intent to deceive for a purpose. Maybe get that hot chick in bed, con another expat out of some money, or get a girlfriend’s little son or brother alone to be abused. Its sad to say but as much as I love the Philippines, I have had to learn a lesson that maybe I missed earlier on in life.

 Trust needs to be earned, not given freely! No where is that more important to remember than in a country where few of us really really know each other.