One of the things to keep in mind when considering retiring, working or studying in the Philippines is the inevitable trade off between lower cost of living and lower quality of life. Yes, it does cost less to live in the Philippines, but unless you are spending an ungodly amount of money, you are probably not going to be able to achieve the same quality of life that you will experience in the West – and even if you are spending thousands of dollars every month, you are still going to encounter many of the factors noted below that decrease one’s overall quality of life. This “quality of life” aspect is an important thing to keep in mind when you see expats blogs (like ours) talking about our low monthly expense totals.
As examples, let’s look at some factors which affect quality of life in the Philippines.
Marauding Mozzies: Dengue, malaria and zika can all be delivered by mosquitoes in the Philippines. (Mozzies are, in fact, the number one killer here!) All these maladies have long-term ramifications on one’s health and two of them can kill you.
Emergency Care: Although the Philippines has its own version of 911, don’t expect emergency responders to zoom in with ambulances or rescue vehicles when you’re having heart palpitations by the side of the road.
Shopping Opportunities: You could theoretically shop on Amazon and have them ship to the Philippines but you will suffer the 40-50 percent customs fee when it finally arrives – if it does arrive, that is. Things can be out of stock, the quality of the Chinese 2nd and 3rd tier goods is pretty crummy and higher end items are more expensive than those in the West.
Libraries: I love libraries. Unfortunately, the Philippines doesn’t seem to be so similarly enthralled, so finding one outside of the NCR can be a bit challenging. Thankfully, there are e-readers. Otherwise I would have lost my mind here years ago.
Poverty: If you’ve never experienced real poverty (that off the Third World), it can be quite a shock. And even though it’s easier to deal with First World guilt than actually having to live in poverty, it definitely has an effect on foreigners living here.
Traffic: Many cities in the Philippines have not given much thought to civil planning and you will find most urban byways filled with bikes, trikes, jeepneys, buses and the odd caraboa or pedal-trike. Driving is also difficult here (Manila was recently reported to the worst place to drive in the world) and we have known many fellow expats who have died or seriously injured themselves in motor accidents.
Trash: The Philippines doesn’t aggressively enforce litter laws, so you will see many areas peppered with trash – veritable piles of it in some places.
Air Quality: Emission regulations are not heavily enforced in the Philippines, so most urban areas are filled with noxious clouds of diesel smoke. Add in burning trash/leaves to control mosquitoes (especially in late afternoon), and the air quality in more built-up areas is not exactly conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
Internet: The Philippines has the third worst internet in Southeast Asia. It is also some of the most expensive: 8 MB DL/.5 MB UL runs around 2,600 pesos per month with the most reliable provider PLDT. You can pay less with Sky or Globe, but your signal typically won’t be as stable.
Socializing: Although there are thousands of foreigners living in the Philippines, you typically won’t have the social options that are available in the West. The “pool” of eligible new friends based on common interests can be rather limited. Either that, or I am just too picky….
Political Instability: Some foreigners refer to the Philippines as the “Wild Wild West.” Some like that aspect of living here. At this period of time (September 2016), that description is never more apt given President Duterte’s war on drugs. As of September 30, the body count of slain drug dealers and users stands at 3,100 and he just stated that he will kill drug users and dealers like Hitler killed Jews. So, to say there is some instability in the Philippines right now is a bit of an understatement. Duterte is also seeking to wipe out generations of government corruption, which is something that has plagued the nation for decades, threatening to declare martial law if his efforts are opposed.
Noise: Like litter laws and emission control enforcement, noise ordinances are not generally enforced in the Philippines. From the annoying screams of DBS muffler exhausts to always-bass-heavy-and-distorted karaoke parties, some areas of the Philippines can be VERY noisy.
OK, so those are just a few of the many factors that contribute to a lower quality of life in the Philippines. Feel free to add any others you can think of in the comment section below.
Now, I am sure that some folks are going to take exception to my “lower quality of life” stance. That’s all good, but realize that one has to be realistic about such things. If you are totally OK with living in a provincial (country) area with no internet, intermittent electricity, no healthcare, stores, restaurants or the like, than your definition of “quality of life” might be a bit different.
What are your thoughts and experiences with dealing with quality of life issues living in the Philippines? Feel free to leave them down in the comment section and become a part of the discussion!