Finding Happiness as an expat in the Philippines
The key is Attitude
After being here for close to a year now , I have talked to a pile of people who have shared with me all sorts of slight variations of the same stories. From those exchanges I have come to learn a very important lesson which I now try to incorporate into my own daily life in an attempt to finding lasting happiness. So far it is working and I would humbly love to share with you my inspiration.
There are really only two basic categories of people that I have met. those that are happy and those that are miserable.
I will start with the second category first. For these people , and I have to emphatically state that they are in the minority, everything sucks. Weather is too hot, weather is too cool, weather is too dry or weather is too wet. Their Filipina partner pays too little attention to them or maybe too much. Too much bureaucracy for them , but not enough to keep everyone else in line. Filipino culture is not like the culture from their homeland, and on and on and on. I am quite certain that in all likelihood, these people were not happy people in their own country and expected that to change with a move to a different country. Probably would have worked had they not brought their biggest problem along with them . THEIR ATTITUDES!
The first group are subjected to the exact same external stressors as the miserable members of the second group . Weather is no different on their side of the street, their partners are not perfect, they deal with the same staff at MacDonalds ,and have to deal with the same rules and regulations at the immigration department , but for the most part are enjoying the hell out of their life in the Philippines.
So lets talk about some simple facts. We are in a foreign country with its own way of life, culture , rules and regulations. Put the shoe on the other foot for a minute and think back to how you felt about immigrants coming into your country. This may not be politically correct to write , but I am willing to guess that most of you feel how I did.
Welcome to my country. Work hard, respect our culture, our laws and our way of life and I wish you the best, but come into our house, disrespect us complain about how we do things and then demand that we change our way of life to resemble that from where you left, and I will be blunt and tell you to go back there. So should I not act the same way in as an expat in the Philippines that I expected an immigrant to my home country of Canada to act? Well personally , I think so .
So more specifically , what are the cultural differences you will have to accept when you move here?
• Service is usually poor. Employees follow their company’s policies, rules and regulations to the letter and just do not have the authority to use personal discretion when dealing with customers,. Most employees are not well informed about the product/services they are selling and cannot handle queries outside of the box.
• Line ups do not mean a lot . First come first serve is not the rule. Assertiveness is.
• Little compassion for animals
• Little compassion for other people, unless they are family.
• Though English is the second language and spoken widely, the average Filipino does not comprehend as well as you would expect and they would prefer to just nod and say “yes sir” than ask you to explain. This causes many misunderstandings.
• Red tape is excessive and does not seem to follow what we consider logic.
• Family is ALL important. If you are in a relationship with a Filipina, you are now family and with that, will be expected to help out.
I could go on but really, all I can really come up with are small “irritants” and the only important thing is how I deal with them.
First and foremost on that list is Acceptance. To that I refer back to something I learned in AA as a recovering drunk. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Well, I cannot change anyone else, let alone 90 million Filipinos. It would be simply an exercise in foolishness and frustration to even try. They are who they are, individually and collectively and always will be . The ONLY thing I can change is me and how I view and react to them personally as well as to their customs, values and culture.
Following close behind is understanding, tolerance, humility and respect. Here is an exercise that helps. Imagine what it would be like to not have won the lottery that comes with being born in a First World country but rather take your first gasp of breath in a world where you would probably have 5- 10 siblings, and have to fight , claw and scratch just to survive. Access to adequate health care, a decent education or even three square meals a day would probably never be something that you could count on receiving. How would you have turned out? Maybe a little like the average Filipino? Don’t ever kid yourself , the answer to that is a resounding YES.
So to sum things up, to find happiness in this paradise, the only thing you have to do is make sure your attitude is what it should be
• Try to UNDERSTAND the people and why they are the way they are.
• Be TOLERANT and do not judge as you probably have not had to live the hardships that they have had to face everyday of their lives.
• Be HUMBLE and do not think that you are better than Filipinos just because you were afforded opportunities in life that most of them can only ever dream of.
• RESPECT the fact that most Filipinos have survived a standard of living that would have probably broken the spirit of most of us Westerners , and that they do so with genuine happiness and even joy.
And of course most of all ACCEPT and APPRECIATE the beauty of the Country , and its people. Do not focus on the negatives that you really cannot do anything about.