Living in the Philippines, I freely admit that Americans here typically complain way too much; and being fairly typical, I am no exception. If two of us are talking you can bet that our conversation will eventually get around to our latest complaint. I've lived in many countries and never have I been anyplace where so many whining citizens from another country continue to live in the country about which they complain. Our grumbling covers almost every imaginable thing from unbelievably dreadful local drivers, to bad roads, to the predictable flooding during rainy season, to the constantly failing power. The conundrum is that even though so many of us find reasons to continuously carp, thousands of us continue to live here. That fact begs the question: If it’s so bad, why don’t we leave? It must be that there are things here that we DO like. I won't presume to speak for my fellow expatriate Yanks, but I will make an effort to list what I personally find likeable.
First, I like the year round balmy weather. I spent my high school years in Michigan, a frigid place where I learned to hate the cold. Now I have even more reason to avoid chilly weather because of my aching osteoarthritic joints. Even in the supposedly warm climes of some southern states like Southern California or Florida--even those places have their frosty wintry days. No thank you! My tender joints and painful tendons prefer the heating-pad-like weather right here in the Philippines.
I like the fetching smiles and friendliness of the people here, and being me, I’m especially fond of the wonderful smiles of the ladies! Seriously, Filipinos are naturally gracious and welcoming. By contrast, Americans are friendly as well, but we tend to be a bit more reserved, particularly if we happen to come from certain parts of the U.S., namely from the big cities of the northeast, but I generalize. Having lived all over the globe I can say for certain that as a people Filipinos are the quickest to give a stranger a pleasant smile and welcoming words.
I like the cost of living here. The prices of many things in the Philippines are well below the costs of the same items and services in the states. Many of the foreigners living in this country survive on pensions; finding a job here that pays anything substantial is pretty much out of the question for an outsider (and for a local for that matter). Therefore, it’s important to us that essential living expenses such as rent, food, and transportation be affordable. Although you can find deluxe accommodations here, it’s more important to have available reasonably priced housing, victuals, and conveyance; and all those things can easily be had no matter how limited the budget.
In my case I also include the cost of secondary schooling in the list of affordable services. As a military veteran I get paid to go to school, and the more economical it is the more educational benefit monies I get to put in the bank. The cost of college in the U.S. is so high that it has become prohibitive. For instance, a stateside textbook can cost as much as 5,000 Pesos (around a hundred bucks) and more, so you can imagine how high the cost of a single class there. It’s easily the price of a complete semester at my school, Systems Plus Computer Foundation, taking a full load of credit hours.
It’s ironic that one of the things I like most about Filipinos is their composed attitude while driving. It’s ironic because although I like this one aspect about them as drivers, I abhor their generally poor driving. What I appreciate about their attitude is their absolutely non-American style of patience with other drivers and their lack of the road rage so prevalent in United States society. It seems that nothing really upsets a Filipino behind the wheel. Situations and the actions of other drivers that would drive an American back home into paroxysms of middle-finger-waving fury cause the Filipino to merely tap his horn, or more often than not, to have absolutely no reaction at all. I strive mightily on a daily basis to attempt to copy this admirable characteristic. So far I’ve had very little luck in accomplishing this change in my driver’s persona.
And finally, my mom used to tell me that if I couldn’t say something nice about someone that I shouldn't say anything at all. Well, I’ll doubtless keep on complaining about irritating aspects of this place, but I’ll also try to keep reminding myself about the good things, because there are many! Did I mention how cheap it is to buy a San Miguel beer? Hey, there's another one!