Can You “Lend” Me a Few Pesos?

Posted on 16/11/2012

We were just talking about family relations in the Philippines. Today we get to a really bizarre and complex topic. How the locals feel about money.

Item #2 Money – Money can morph into a very unusual thing when you find yourself in a third-world country. This is a perception that I formed over a few years of observing family, friends and strangers. Of course, if you’re dealing with a seriously poor person on the street, you can certainly understand what a few bucks would mean to that person. It’s pretty much the same no matter where you go. But take all of this a few steps further and you may begin to understand what money means in a country where the majority of the people are poor, by first-world country standards. Case in point. I recently went to the local “foreigner” appliance store with my wife and brother-in-law. We were there to buy a water heater so that I could replace the one in my shower. These tank-less water heaters are rather small, economical devices and can actually save money, should they ever become the standard in the U.S. Not to mention the fact that you would never run out of hot water for the shower. Anyway, I picked out the model that I wanted and the salesman took down the sign, with the price, in order to verify the unit’s features. At that point, my brother-in-law came up behind me and, seeing only the number “4” of the price, remarked, “So, how much is that - 40,000 pesos?” (about $1,000 USD). I looked at him and said, “No, it’s only $4,000 pesos” (about $100 USD) and pointed out the rest of the sign. He looked seriously surprised.

Think about this, for a moment. Here, he had spent his whole life (over 58 years) showering and bathing in cold water and he could have had a water heater for a relatively small amount (with a slight plumbing alteration). But, in his mind, having hot water was a far-off luxury and, certainly, not affordable (by the way – he’s not nearly as poor as his neighbors). This is where you will notice something interesting about the locals. They will constantly ask how much things cost. Buy your family members anything that they are not already familiar with, and they will want to know how much it costs. Don’t be offended. My wife and I recently took a niece out for pizza and the first thing after “Thanks for the pizza” was “How much did it cost?” We told her 800 pesos (about $20). Granted, it was the most expensive pizza joint in the land (Yellow Cab Pizza) – but the “shocked” look on her face was

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There Are No Such Things as In-Laws

Posted on 15/11/2012

Back where I come from, there were definite distinctions as to what the relationships were. For example, we knew who our second and third cousins were, etc. Not so much in the Philippines. This is where our first major lesson begins, when it comes to understanding the mindset of the Filipinos. Whether you’re planning a brief visit, or an extended stay that will last for the rest of your life, there is one major point that defines the cultural thinking of the Filipino native.

Item #1 - “Family is everything”. Consider the fact that you won’t see any old age homes, in this country, and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

This particular point is something that most newbies in the country say they understand. But it’s really only at an intellectual level. What most folks in the U.S. think, for example, has more to do with the concept of being close to family members while maintaining their own space. Therein lies the difficulty. You may find yourself asking questions that any normal person from your country wouldn’t hesitate to ask. Such as, “Why is this person staying overnight? They live just down the road.” At that point, you may be instantly met with a hostile look from your wife (who I will assume is a Filipina) that insinuates that you just suggested you throw her mother outside into a typhoon. By the way, I’m not talking about somebody’s mother here. I’m talking about a second cousin who just happened to wander by in search of a random TV to watch. They watch TV, they eat, it gets dark outside. Of course, you’d never send the kid home alone (to walk 5 minutes). Forget the fact that the “kid” is in his early 20s.

Here’s my advice to those who are planning to move to the Philippines. Get used to this one major fact before you consider any other cultural idiosyncrasies. Because here’s the problem - As a foreigner, you won’t be held to the same way of thinking as the general native population. But you will be placed in a category that you may not want to be in. This will preclude you from many of the family experiences that you would otherwise have enjoyed. Not to mention the fact that, those who have married a native, will soon feel the effects of living with a person who is disenfranchised from her own culture. Initially, a certain “thick-headedness” may prevent you from seeing this. But as time goes on, it will become more obvious.

But fear not. In most cases you would do exactly as I have done. Make your cultural

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Expat News Roundup - week 46, 2012

Posted By Gerardo ( on 13/11/2012

Once again, the world’s precarious economic situation is a prevailing theme through many expat news stories.

No expat is immune to the knock-on effects of the world of finance. This week, in fact, sees financial services workers themselves experiencing cuts to their expat benefits packages. Meanwhile, UK expats will soon find it harder to source mortgage products in their home countries, and American expats are preparing for the IRS to take more interest in their tax affairs – even if they’ve been expats for many years.
Back in Europe, widespread strikes, another knock-on effect of the global financial situation, threaten to disrupt travel plans for thousands of expats. Based on another of this week’s news reports, workers would do well to spend any time delayed in airports beginning to learn Mandarin!

Flight Disruption for Expats in Europe

Expats and European commuters will face extensive travel disruption this week as a result of a general strike planned to take place simultaneously across multiple countries.

General strikes are planned for 14th November in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain and will inevitably result in flight cancellations and air traffic delays.
Budget airline, Easyjet, has already announced that a large number of journeys will be rescheduled or canceled. At the time of writing, these primarily affect Greece, Spain and the UK. More last-minute delays and cancellations are expected across a host of European airlines.

Expat Benefits Packages at Risk

UK newspaper, The Telegraph, has reported that large companies are beginning to tighten their belts in terms of the benefits they offer to expat workers.

Many big firms have, in the past, offered employees generous incentives to accept a job overseas. Now, as economic difficulties spread across the world, companies are looking to cut costs, and realize they perhaps need not do so much to entice people to move abroad. The Telegraph reports that 88% of employers acknowledge that staff benefits are at risk due to budget constraints.
Managers fear expat packages are 'out of control' (

Expat Mortgages Withdrawn

UK expats planning to return to Britain will find it harder to purchase a property, with the news that the Lloyds Banking Group have withdrawn their range of expat mortgages.

Previously, the Lloyds group offered mortgage products to expats planning to return to the UK within three years. Some expats took advantage of these mortgages to buy a property and rent it out until... (keep reading)


Milestone: 500,000 prices in the Expatistan Cost-of-Living Index

Posted By on 08/11/2012

A little over a year ago, we shared an exciting fact: The Expatistan Cost-of-Living Index had collected 200,000 prices. As we wrote at the time,

Expatistan has only existed for 20 months, which means users have entered an average of 10,000 prices a month since its founding. But that average is misleading. Back in June, when I last summarized the site's growth, users had only submitted about 150,000 prices. So there have been 50,000 new prices in the last couple months, meaning the site's database is currently growing at over 20,000 new prices per month (or nearly 700 new prices per day).

Well, that was exciting then. But now we’ve reached a new level. Recently, the Index crossed the threshold of its 500,000th price. If you’re interested in the math, that means there have been 300,000 new prices entered in the last year, meaning the site has maintained its more-than-20,000-prices-a-month pace for over a year now.

For all of this, we need to say thanks. This site exists thanks to users like you, who are actively working to keep its data accurate and current. We’re grateful to and impressed by all of you who want to share information with fellow global citizens around the world.

As a small way to give back now, here are a few more facts about all the new prices that have come in over the last year. You might find them interesting.

The top five countries in total number of prices added are:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. Australia

It’s unfortunate, if understandable, that English-speaking countries are leading all others in engagement with this English-language website. (And those five countries, in that order, perfectly match the English-speaking countries with the most internet users.) But that means that if you’re from a country other than the five above, make sure your friends know about Expatistan and enter prices into its database. What better way to attract foreigners to your city, or just to see a comparison between your city and others, than by making sure your hometown has lots of current prices entered?

Interestingly, the countries above are not necessarily those with the most committed Expatistan users. The list below shows the countries with the most prices per visitor. In other words, these countries send a relatively small number of people to the site, but those who come enter the most prices:

  1. Argentina
  2. Colombia
  3. Russia
  4. Poland
  5. Brazil

So while more Americ

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Expat News Roundup - week 45, 2012

Posted on 06/11/2012

Tax hikes and price increases are a depressingly common thread worldwide in this week’s expat news. New property taxes in Hong Kong, increased visa application fees in Australia and a state of near-unrest in Portugal due to increasingly severe austerity measures all contribute to a rather glum outlook for many current and future expats.

There are, thankfully, some happier tales. Budget airline, Easyjet, has announced many new routes that will make world travel cheaper and easier for people in numerous destinations. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, economists claim that the country’s employment situation is stable and that there is no sign of an economic slump, despite relentless reports of job cuts in many well-known companies.

Property Tax Rises for expats in Hong Kong

The government in Hong Kong is taking measures to try to prevent an unsustainable property market bubble. This week, it announced a new 15% property purchase tax for overseas buyers.

Stamp duty is also being raised in a bid to prevent speculative property purchases – those trying to “flip” a property within six months will now have to pay 20% stamp duty.

Hong Kong is statistically the most expensive place in the world in which to rent property.

Hong Kong announces property tax for foreigners (

More New Routes for Easyjet

No shortage of news from Easyjet this week, with a run of announcements about new routes, some of which are sure to provide new travel options for expats.

Easyjet’s new routes include a regular flight from Gatwick to Moscow. Travellers from Gatwick will also be able to reach Kalamata (Greece) and Santiago (Spain) from 2013. These new routes mean that Easyjet will now be flying to more than 100 destinations from its Gatwick base.

Easyjet have also announced new flights from other London airports, hot on the heels of October’s news of six new routes from Edinburgh.

EasyJet launches ten new routes (

Portugal’s Hard Times Continue

Expats in Portugal have little to be cheerful to about, with news this week that the dreaded 2013 budget, with its shocking tax rises, has been passed by parliament.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has stated that the progress on Portugal’s post-bailout recovery has “entered a challenging phase.” Protests outside parliament in Lisbon are becoming more heated and frequent. Local newspapers have stated that the police are nervous of violence around the forthcoming general strike, and ... (keep reading)