Making Friends in the Philippines

Now that I’ve live in Dumaguete for about 6 months, I can’t help but look at my life and realize I don’t know too many people here. Some of it is logistics; we spent the first few months getting settled, finding a rental house, filling the house with stuff, buying a car, etc.

But the truth be told, I am just not that social a person. When married in the past, somehow most of my single friends faded and I developed married friends, aka friends of the wife 🙂 Divorce happens, and the friends stayed with her 🙂

When I was divorced I was too busy raising kids and futilely trying to date. So the last thing I worried about was guys to hang out with.

When I married Janet, I was more concerned that she meet people she could befriend and we ended up as part of a large community of Fil-Am couples. While I thought I was doing it just for Janet, one day I woke up to discover that I actually had a bunch of new friends, several of whom I actually liked!

Here in the Philippines, while making friends hasn’t been a top priority, it has been on my mind. Drinking buddies aren’t hard to find here and I actually have a nice group of guys I meet with once a month to share  a beer or two (OK, more for some) and swap stories and problems. There are several popular hangouts for expats in Dumaguete, and you can go to those places at nearly any time of the day or night and find guys drinking and talking in a variety of languages. But I never was a bar guy and don’t intend to become one in my dotage. Now I am sure many of these guys are good people, but if you’re slamming San Miguels at 10:00 AM you might not be my type and at 10:00 PM I’m probably in bed, so I’m not your type.

Also I’m married, so creating couples friends is as important or more important that making individual friends. Janet and I have gone out with other couples on occasion; sometimes there’s a connection -sometimes not. The juries still out.

Then there was my stated intention before I moved here that I wanted to have Filipino friends; maybe even more Filipino than expat friends, I thought. It still hasn’t happened but then I am barely social with people who speak my own language. Oh, people in my neighborhood are friendly and say hello when I am out and about walking, but I haven’t yet converted that into anything more. Perhaps I should start hanging out at the local Sari Sari and share a beer. I say this seriously; I know several guys who do this. Ultimately it’s clear that this sort of effort is on me. Despite their friendly nature, Filipinos are shy around foreigners and so if I really want friends I will have to make the effort.

And then there’s the family. Janet has a large one and we see them often. I do consider them friends but there’s a language barrier, a cultural barrier – and yes, an economic barrier.

Now, none of this is coming from a place of loneliness or sadness. I have tons to do and never get bored. And let’s not forget I have a very cute wife 🙂 Next week we’re meeting some U.S. friends and that should be fun and we have a ton of other American friends who know there is a guest room if and when they come to the Philippines. But still it would be nice to expand the friendship base to a few more people here.

BTW, I don’t have my normal photo that’s relevant to this blog piece displayed at the top, because when I searched Google for “Philippines expats” it mostly showed images of people I know 🙂


13 thoughts on “Making Friends in the Philippines”

  1. Hi dave, i like following your blog. I like your sense of humour on your articles. I am from Cebu City, Philippines and the reason I follow your blogs is I am interested on your comments on our culture especially in the Visayas region of the philippines. I hope you can find good friends whom you can hang out with in your spare times. God bless. Mike Campos

  2. Good to know you are at least enjoying Dumaguete, one of the top ten retirement places in the world. I’ve been there sevetal times and thoroughly basked in the culture, cuisine & the cosmopolitan residents (its a college town). Rizal Avenue is where most expats hang out and the sorrounding town and islands are awesome. You & your wife are welcome to my home in Manila (Alabang) whenever you are in town
    BOBBIE GARCIA (0977 856 2777)

    1. Thanks Bobbie! Yes we are enjoying the Philippines and our life in Dumaguete.

      Thanks for your kind offer. We were in Manila a couple months ago in the Intramuros District. Look forward to returning!

  3. Thank you Dave for sharing your experience about making friends in the Philippines and about the implications of friendships when married to a Filipina.

    Your article addresses one of the questions I have had when considering living in the Philippines. Friends and social life is part of the bigger question of adjusting to life there in a different culture whether married or not.

    The same issues of adjusting to retired living in the U.S. also apply to the context of the Philippines, i.e. how to allocate your social time, have a sense of purpose each day with enjoyable activities and blending a shared life with a partner. It’s not as easy as it looks on a long term basis once you get past the initial euphoria of the new surroundings, weather and people, then settle into some type of life pattern.

    I enjoy reading your blog and your frank sense of humor about life!

    1. Thanks Mark. I agree that wherever you retire what you do for fun, purpose, a social life, etc. is a very important consideration. Personally, I rarely if ever get bored. It just doesn’t take too much to keep me stimulated. But the social thing is another matter and as I indicated, one we are still working on.

  4. Right on Dave. I know few here in Consolacion,Cebu…. and it is hard to find a cool guy like myself. Lol Is ok..I am here for my wife and baby. We gave some business interests and pleanty of fmily. All else is secondary.

    1. Hi Jim – Hope this finds you doing well. The house itself has an inverter type AC which is very effective. The only bedroom with an aircon is our master bedroom and we never use it. The overhead fans in all the rooms are enough at night.

  5. You are experiencing the same thing many of us expats experience in the first few years after settling here. Good friends are becoming harder to find, and not only just here in the Philippines. When you mentioned “… language barrier, a cultural barrier… and… economic barrier,” throw in the alcohol habits of many and it becomes a huge barrier to connect with someone special that you can call a true friend. To be happy here, one must be truly content with a solitary type home life, and one that includes your significant other of course.

    1. Hi Randy – Good points. Fortunately my expectations are modest. I’m not looking for a lifetime friendship just a buddy or two and maybe a couple of couples for Janet and I to get together with on occasion. Certainly agree about the alcohol habits, although as a lightweight drinker, I’m used to being the guy who drinks less than the others.

  6. We have never been the “Outgoing Social Types” with a large circle of friends. We have a few close friends in Samar and am happy with that. We stay home most days except for the required shopping outings and are mostly content with our house, garden and pets. Some family close by also tends to help us out when needed. It’s all the other things that can bring misery on some expats like the noise, burning of toxics, barking dogs, roosters, motorbikes without mufflers, intrusive family. One thing I always am quick to point out to others is the lack of any privacy. For some, that is ‘thee’ deal breaker!

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