Monday, January 5, 2009

Reflections on My Life as an Expatriate

Today I was looking through some beautiful photographs that Lydia had taken in 2004 of our apartment in Alta Loma, Calfornia. I had never seen these pictures before and they were so vivid and evocative, it's as though I were back there again. We have some fond memories of that place and as I sorted through the photos, I felt a twinge of nostalgia.

Yet every day I am thankful that we were able to retire and relocate to the Philippines. For despite the low-key but comfortable life style that we enjoyed in California, it was just not worth the freight of putting up with a job that I hated and yet at the same time feared losing. After three and a half years of living here, it still feels wonderful to wake up every morning and know that my life is my own.

What's more, when we left the U.S. in 2005, I knew that between the real estate bubble that would eventually burst, the insane policies of the Bush Administration including the Iraq War and even his incompetent response to the damage from Hurricane Katrina, it was just a matter of time before the American economy would pay the price. So our departure from the U.S. was well timed.

Our life in Metro-Manila is so different in so many ways from that in Alta Loma that it's difficult to compare them. Each is a separate reality because of the respective cultures and societies. so the terms "better" and "worse" don't apply.

If we had the means to live the life-style that we had in California without having to work, would we repatriate? Perhaps. On the the other hand, if we had that kind of money, we might be better off staying here, as we would then be affluent by local standards. But until the day comes that we have the luxury of making such a choice (and I doubt that it ever will), the Philippines is our home, warts and all, and we intend to continue enjoying it as comfortably as our limited means will allow.


dannybuntu said...

"warts and all" Hahaha. I perfectly agree.

I always thought the same. Living here is OK - if you know where to live.

My mom has been pestering me to abroad ever since my dad died 3 years ago. I said to her, "If ever I am going abroad I would go abroad as a tourist who can view the scenery"

Becky said...

"But until the day comes that we have the luxury of making such a choice (and I doubt that it ever will), the Philippines is our home, warts and all, and we intend to continue enjoying it as comfortably as our limited means will allow."

I also like how you said "warts and all". :) I don't think anyone ever moves overseas for the perfect life and if they do, they'll probably be disappointed. Of course, there have have to be things that attract them, whether that's family who already live there, a better standard of living, better job prospects or things like that. But unless they get very lucky, there will always be a few warts too.

I can't say I've got any experience of being an expatriate myself but a close friend emigrated and while her parents were worried about visas, passports, driving licences, expatriate medical insurance and all the top-level stuff, my friend was worrying about more basic things. Will I fit in? Will I be able to be myself? Will I make friends? Will my accent attract funny looks? And one particular wart that was quite small in the grand scheme of things but a massive issue for her at the time was the chocolate. She couldn't stand the chocolate over there.

And I was able to help with that by sending over the chocolate she did like but as time went on, she got used to the local variety. Either she really did grow to like it or she simply accepted it, in the way she accepted that there were things about England that she didn't like. That's when I knew that she was making her home in another place.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your kind words. BTW it really gives me a lift when someone takes the trouble of going into the archives to read one of my posts.

I take it your friend was in the adolescent / young adult age range. It can be particularly tough on people in that demographic when being forced to up, move, and adjust--especially at first. However, the advantage of youth is the ability to eventually adapt to the new environment, especially with friends like you to lend moral support..

As you may know, that ability to cope with new surroundings wanes as one gets older, especially for us seniors. However, I was motivated to make the switch by dissatisfaction with my life the way it was in the States. Also, my wife's familiarity with the culture here was a big plus.

BTW we visited England early this year. It was our first time in that part of the world, and we loved the place.