Gary: Retiring to the Philippines
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to the Philippines, etc.
My name is Gary McMurrain and I am an American. My legal residence in the USA is in Florida. My career background is in Mental Health Counseling, Law Enforcement and Education. I moved to the Philippines with my wife and our son in June, 2009. We have lived here full time since that time. I am now a writer and a Gentleman Farmer. I enjoy writing about the Philippines very much and I also enjoy getting away from the city to hang out at our farm.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I began blogging about my experiences in the Philippines in February, 2012. I could not find much detailed information about my particular area on the internet, so I decided to share my own personal experiences with others in my own blog. I included where to shop for certain items, the best stores a foreigner will enjoy shopping, the best restaurants and the many local scenic areas to visit and enjoy. Many know about the famous tourist spots, so I focused on the beautiful and interesting spots off the beaten path and those not well known.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in the Philippines differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Most of my friends and acquaintances in the Philippines are Filipinos and not foreigners, which is my personal choice. Of course, there are many differences between the Philippines and Florida. One major difference is the way people drive in the Philippines. I have a Philippine Driver’s License and I enjoy driving here. However, I spent about 4 months in observation of the rules of the road and the Filipino driving psychology. By then, I was ready to hit the road. I fully embraced my new life in the Philippines as a great adventure during my lifetime, so I transitioned very easily. My wife is a Filipina, therefore, I am very knowledgeable about the Filipino Culture. Never culture shock for me.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in the Philippines? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I first started planning in 1987 about retiring to the Philippines. At that time, I had spent one year in Manila taking college courses and I loved the islands. For the next 22 years, I made many trips to Manila and to other areas of the country. I was fully prepared in 2009 to make the permanent move. If I were able to change a decision, it would be making the move one year earlier than we actually did.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One day, I was in a taxi going to Ali Mall in Quezon City. The driver was friendly and right away he started a conversation. He asked me if I had a girlfriend and I told him that I didn’t. “I have a very beautiful 23 year old cousin, would you like to meet him?” “No thank you, not today“ was my reply. The taxi driver switched topics. He asked me how long I had been in Manila and I told him about my good friend, Romero. “Really, where does she live?” Of course, I had caught on that he was mixing up his genders in English. I just threw out that Romero lived in Quezon City. For the next 20 minutes, the taxi driver began talking about his wife, his family, his children and his boss. I just had to guess who he was really talking about. Based on his English, I gathered by ear that his boss was a woman, his wife was a man and all their children were he/shes, who changed their genders daily, same as their underwear! I was dazed and confused.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in the Philippines?
- Many foreign products are available in mid-size cities and in large cities. There are also many items not available in the Philippines. If there is something that you just can’t live without, it is best making arrangements with someone back home to ship the item to you in the Philippines as needed. If you are taking regular medications, you must make sure they are available in the Philippines. No matter which area of the Philippine an expat decides to live, they will not find their home country.
- It is best to leave behind Western thinking concerning management and the way things are done. Always respect the Filipino Culture and never scold or “go off” on a Filipino in public.
- It is always best spending quality time in the location you plan to live in the Philippines, as you cannot learn very much about it in only 10-14 days of vacation.
How is the expat community in the Philippines? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I’ve discovered that the larger expat communities are located in the mid-size cities and large cities. In the rural areas, you may well be the only foreigner living in the immediate area. I did not experience difficulty in finding other expats, who I enjoy spending time with. One tip is to organize an expat lunch on a regular basis and word will spread in the expat community. Once per month is great but every week tends to be too much for some to remain interested in an expat lunch.
How would you summarize your expat life in the Philippines in a single, catchy sentence?
Everyday unfolds a new adventure for me in the Philippines and it Phils fabulous.