Paul: Meander Man
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 Paul DeCarlo. I spent most of my life in California, then moved to Seattle in 2007, where I eventually met my lovely wife. We got married in August 2013 and moved to the Philippines two months later. Now I masquerade as a full-time tourist while my wife fulfills a yearlong assignment in Manila for an American corporation.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I knew that I wanted to start a travel blog immediately upon landing in Manila. It was the first time I’d ever been to Asia or lived anywhere other than the western United States. With so many trips planned in the region, the Meander Man blog seemed like a great way to document all the interesting stories that were bound to unfold.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite entries so far are the two that detail our trip to the Secret Paradise Resort on Palawan Island, Philippines:
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?
Everything about my new life in the Philippines is different from my life back home. In Seattle, we were a hard-working, middle-class couple with a modest apartment. In Manila, we live in a high-rise luxury condo with all sorts of posh trimmings. We enjoy first class health spas and swimming pools. A swanky shopping mall sits across the street. A driver is on call to take us wherever we want to go. But it’s only a bubble in the grand scheme of things. The real Manila is just around the corner, hard-luck neighborhoods with grinding traffic jams and shoeless children begging for money in between rows of cars at stoplights. In Seattle, I loved to commute by bicycle around the city. Riding a road bike in Manila is tantamount to a death sentence. It took me two months just to figure out which direction was up. Things are easier now. I joined an expat golf group and sometimes I play basketball with the locals. And I have ample time to work on my blog and other writing projects.
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?
We were really lucky to have the expat package that was provided by my wife’s company. It made the transition as easy as it could have been. I really don’t think any additional amount of preparation would have helped us. When you’re living in a place that is so completely foreign to what you’re used to, it just takes time. All things get a bit easier over time.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We’d been living in Manila about three weeks when my birthday came around. The culture shock was all consuming for me at that point—I felt really overwhelmed and lost. We have a maid that comes around to clean up once a week and cleaning day happened to be on my birthday. I got out of bed and groggily stumbled down the hallway in my underwear, totally unaware that it was cleaning day. As soon as I made it into the living room, our maid, Rose, called out from the kitchen in her sing-song Filipino cadence, “Happy Birthday, Sir Paul!”. My wife and I laughed hysterically for the next few minutes.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Philippines?
- Be patient. Take whatever you formerly understood to be patience and multiply it by a factor of five.
- Explore the Philippines as much as possible. The country is a gorgeous archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. Amazing destinations are waiting for you. Go find them.
- Get a sense of the history. Lots of really eventful, crazy things happened here over the last century. Understanding a bit of the history will give you a better understanding of the people.
How is the expat community in the Philippines? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Manila has a very vibrant expat community. I had very little difficulty finding folks in similar situations. The only tough part for me was reaching out in the first place. The golf group I joined is made up entirely of trailing spouse husbands. We play golf at least once a week and often meet for lunch.
How would you summarize your expat life in the Philippines in a single, catchy sentence?
The national tourism slogan is hard to beat: “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”