Mooching or sharing?


Mooching or sharing?



Ok, on first impression this may look like I am insulting the Filipinos.  And, in truth, in my first impression I was.  But after looking a little more I see it is just a difference between cultures – nothing to be offended by, just different.  What am I talking about?  Could be mooching, or sharing.  Let’s see what we can come up with.


One of the things many kano’s (foreigners) complain about is the mooching friends and family.  We are seen as “rich foreigners”, and to some we are seen as an ATM machine.  Luckily my girlfriend does not seem to be just looking for money (good for her because I don’t have much money ha ha).  I am not rich by any stretch of the American imagination.  I had a regular 9-5 job for a local school district.  It paid ok, but I could never afford a new car until I was in my 40’s. Forget about teachers complaining about pay, the skilled support staff receives way less!  BUT in 2011 I went to Cebu, Philippines for Christmas vacation.  So the average Filipino thinks I am rich – and compared to them I guess I am.  It is all a matter of perspective.  There is no way most of them could fly 8,000 miles for a 2 week vacation. So I may not see myself as rich but in relation to the average Filipino I am pretty well off financially.


I first arrived for my retirement on 14FEB13.  My girlfriends’ family picked me up at the airport and drove me 150 kilometers to the house. They would not let me pay for gas or buy lunch on the drive.  From what I heard from other expats I was surprised (expatriates).  Ok, in truth, a couple days later they did ask for p3,000 for gas money ($75).   But I had offered to pay, so no worries.


Two days later we go to a waterfall for the day.  There are 11 of us, I think, and it is just assumed I am paying the entrance fee, the gas for the motorcycles, and the tour guide.  Now, this is where a lot of the complaints come from. But I was ok with this.  Turns out this waterfall is less than an hour from their house yet ,most of them had never had a chance to go before.  So for about $30 US dollars I paid for a pretty nice day for everyone.  Also they have opened their home to me.  They gave me a bedroom and an electric fan.  No talk of money – just made me part of the family immediately.  I quickly saw a lot of give and take in the culture.


Friends and family drop by all the time for meals and liquor.  But the lady that shows up and eats breakfast goes on to scrub out the sink and washes some dishes. Some nights I buy the liquor, other nights someone else does.  I buy groceries, and so do they, and we all share what is here.  Parasitic?  Communal?  Seems pretty friendly overall.


Maybe this family is doing it wrong?  I really have not had the problems that so many kano’s complain about, yet…


Some of the kanos I have talked to say they have in laws that expect monthly allotments, non-working relatives that just call and demand money, weekly emergencies, etc.  Hopefully I lucked into a better family?


Ok I did have one problem with one of the kids.  He went into my room (first problem), and took some candy without asking (second problem).  But most kids would do that no matter the country.  The real problem was that this is some wonderful Mexican caramel made from goat’s milk and I can’t get anywhere here in the Philippines… ok, the real real problem was he took one small bite, made a terrible face, spit it out, and threw the rest away!  My last piece of civilized candy – gone! 


But the same kid, when given a candy bar, breaks it into a dozen pieces and gives everyone some. 


It seems to me they share differently than we Americans do.  If you have something, you share it, you just do.  Most people will have times they are up and times they are down. But everyone helps out. When you don’t have much but you still share with everyone I can see why they think some foreigners are a bunch of Cheap Charlie’s.  Of course most foreigners are seen to have unlimited funds.  And so are relied upon to pay quite often.  To them that is normal, to us it seems like mooching. 


There already has been a few times I was asked to let someone “borrow” some money. But so far it has been 500 pesos, 200 pesos, and at 40 pesos to the dollar the 500 peso is like a $12.50 US bill.  No real amounts – and no unrealistic expectations on my part of the “borrowed” money ever being paid back. One guy did ask my girlfriend to ask me for a cell phone.  When I asked her why I would buy him a phone she said to let him know we are thinking of him. I quickly informed her I was not thinking of him that much.  We did not buy him a phone and she never said another word about.  I don’t know, or care, what he said about it.  There are a couple people I will have to keep an eye on.  But so far, so good.


Another quick example. The other day we are going to a beach resort.  Again I pay for gas, and entrance fees.  There were about 10 of us but for some reason I paid 16 entrances.  It was p50 per, so again under $20.  Turns out a few more family and neighbors showed up and I had already paid their way in.  No big deal really but I have heard some complaints from a lot of guys about this very thing.  But I also keep in mind the uncle who lives 10k away and brings us his trike (motorcycle with sidecar) to use for whole days at a time.  Either he drives us or my girlfriends brother drives us.  They spend their entire days running us around on errands. So I pay for the occasional trip.  Seems more than fair to me.  Also we stopped at the market for some lunch items on the way to the resort.  I went one way with some family, another group went the other way.  I paid for our purchases, I don’t know who paid for the others.  Then it all went into one big lunch for everyone. Works for me.


But overall, in my very limited experience (6 weeks only), I have not had as bad a time as I was prepared for.  I realize my journey is just beginning and will stay vigilant.  If there is any downright mooching or begging I will not give any money and will try to convince them it is a waste of time asking.  In an emergency I will help as I see fit.  And if there are a lot of emergencies it will be seen as begging and treated as such.


Most of it comes down to attitude.  When we go out as a group and the wealthiest pays for it – yes, that will usually be you, the foreigner.  It is not everyday, or even every event.  But if I pay every now and again and I am accepted into the family and neighborhood, just think of the experiences I will have.  Or I could be a cheap charley and stay home alone.  It is a different culture here.  Remember why you came here, and enjoy the differences!



22 thoughts on “Mooching or sharing?

  1. Your not their walking A.T.M.
    Tell them I Love you with all my heart. But If It’s about Cash don’t ask.

  2. I just say no. From the very first “request”. NO. Always politely but NO. I don’t care if I come off as the bad guy. I didn’t work for years to support them.

  3. DON’T GIVE THEM MONEY. YOU’RE STUPID IF YOU DO. Filipinos don’t have this you work hard to earn money attitude. Second, you’re not a Filipino NOT your responsibility.

    They will see you as a piggy bank. You give them money they will always expect you to give them money. If you want to become poor by your girlfriend’s family be my guest. Filipinos are backwards, they are the kind of people that will pray to God for money all day and night and they expect God to give them EVERYTHING. Why do they believe this, because someone told them this. They don’t question.

    This girl is your girlfriend her family issues are none of your bussiness. Just because Filipinos act friendly towards you doesn’t mean they like you. They can hate you while smiling about it. Remember you’re a guest in their country, they will treat you as such.

    Whatever you do don’t get married in the Philippines. By Filipino law married couples can’t get divorce, because it’s against the law.

    Their money issue is only for your girlfriend to handle. Filipinos will rob you of your money.

    I have to put firm foot down when my family ask for money. I am part Filipino by the way.

    Their financial problems are not mine, and I will never give them money. Because I cannot trust they will spend it on what they need.

    2. When they ask for money, they never tell you why. They just want money.

    3. They somehow think just because I live in America I am rich and should support them.

    But I never give money to my family in the Philippines, because they will expect me to keep on giving them money.

    Now, if you are living over there and say they need food. Don’t give them money. Go to the store and buy them food, because you don’t know if they are going to spend your money on something else. Filipinos are very wasteful with money.

  4. Lol out pf 20me family members i think 2top work. So whats that tell you hehe.

  5. Lol, its straight up mooching. More you give the more they want. Hands are always out.they will even stop working if they getting a free ride.i would have to agree with Tim poor befor we got here poor after we’re gone.

  6. I’m currently living in CDO now and I met a lady,we live together now for quite sometimes. And I helped her to support her family since she was the breadwinner.i give her family 7k allowance every month and in return they helped us in taking care the house and even washing the girlfriend does take care of me very well.she cooked foods and do the massage therapy twice a day as I am disable and got an injury in my back which would be costly if I hired someone to do the massage or go to physical therapist every time.but lately I just realized that I cannot help her family no more when it comes to financial aid because I’m trying to save money for my operation,which was caused problems to me and my girl.we argued on it..please give me some advice..thank you

    1. That is a tough call. I think the first mistake was giving the family an allowance at all. Now they expect it and if you stop… you are the bad guy. You say they help around the house so I would have to ask are they living in your house, or you in their house? Either way P7,000 is a lot of money to me.

      Some say I am callous – I say practical. But the family was poor when I got here and will be poor when I am gone. Not my problem. My health is more important so if I needed an operation I would pay for it and they can deal with it. That would work for me, it may not work for you. I would not lose any sleep over it. And to me, if my girlfriend had a problem with that, then she is not wife material.

      1. absolutely .When your Paying your a HERO, When you stop Paying your ZERO to them. Don’t fall for the GUILT TRIP or your the BAD GUY.

  7. My husband is American, and we currently live in the Philippines with one daughter. Love this country, but when it comes to relative and people’s perception that we have money overflowing and that they can take part of it (because my husband is a foreigner), it sucks. So I have to tell them each time they invite us to go to a resort, “Don’t expect we will pay for you there or anybody else. We have enough for ourselves. Will pay for our parents, and they are the only ones covered. The rest is too much to pay from our pocket.”

    1. Yeah, my wife’s family had been pretty good. Just had to let them know that she did not win the lottery by marrying a foreigner. 🙂

  8. As an American Filipina who hears my mother talk, Skype & Face Book to her sisters, aunts, cousins, brothers, God mothers, uncles and every one else; about money for fiestas, donations, hospital bills, school, transportation, food, birthdays & every celebration or event on the Filipino Calendar. It is frustrating. I often feel the need to just skip the visits to relatives when I go to the PI. I need to make sure I enjoy my money before anyone else does.

  9. Helping with schooling is fine… If you can pay the tuition directly to the school. I’ve learned my lesson… Do not GIVE money when they ask to “borrow”, cause it’s never borrowing.

    1. Very true! And I just found out you can pay for medicine at Mercury and they can pick it up elsewhere… so you can pay for meds directly. I did not know that.

  10. When a cousin came to our house asking to be supported for her college schooling (Oh what very thick face she has). I asked her what she has to show so that the support she would get will not go to waste just like her eldest sister who we also supported but screwed her schooling. BTW, she failed the entrance exam on a nearby state college just before she ask for support. I’m from that college too, so I know it’s easy. Her screwing of entrance exam tells a lot about how the support she is asking will go to waste. I therefore said NO.

    1. For college I might actually consider helping out. But it would really depend on the person! They would, somehow, have to convince me they would stick with it and do well.

  11. I appreciate your thoughts on this. It really does seem like that the “sharing” you experienced has been mostly benign. However, you are right to feel that you need to watch some of them, like that guy who wanted a cellphone.

    I’m a Filipino living as a permanent resident here in the US. I was born and raised in the Philippines and enjoyed a successful career there until my early 30s. I moved to the US for graduate studies and am now working in a challenging field that I also enjoy. Since I began working here, I have noticed that some of my relatives back home began to regard me as–yes–an ATM machine. Some of these relatives I have never really been close to. There is a cousin who I barely interacted with when I was growing up in the Philippines who has suddenly been kissing my ass and has been talking about a business venture she wants to start. But the more painful change is when an aunt whom I trusted began hinting that perhaps I should pay for this or pay for that.

    I am not rich either. Not a lot to spare. But I am sad that the phone calls and interactions have deteriorated to money hints. I have since set my boundaries, been more firm about saying no, and treasure the real relationships I still have with other family and friends.

    And Maybelle Doughty is right. There is really no such thing as “lending” when it comes to borrowing requests from relatives in the Philippines.

      1. If you’re not sure that they got over it, I’m afraid you’re going to have to re-enforce the message a few more times. By the way, I hope you and your gal (+family) weren’t badly affected by the typhoon. Be safe!

  12. I was visting my gf just a couple weeks ago. She lives and works in Leyte and we arranged to meet in Cebu City. To my surprise her 78 year old boss (who is like a surrogate mother to her) wanted to come to Cebu and meet me, a 7 hour ferry ride away. This woman lives half her year in Toronto and the other half in Leyte. I was flattered that she wanted to meet me and we arranged to have lunch. We met at Ayala Mall and she brought her sister and best friend. I asked my gf what the protocol was and I was told that I should pay, which I did. Afterwards, I was invited to the boss’s friend’s home, a gated wealthy house overlooking Cebu City. Clearly the woman (or her husband) is very well off. They treated me and my gf as honored guests for the afternoon. So I agree that it is a cultural difference. I don’t feel that I was being taken advantage of or used as an ATM. I was the visitor and the male so it was assumed I would pay. OTOH all 3 women took out their senior citizen cards so we could get the 20% discount on their meals 🙂

  13. i have one advice to you — foreigners marrying into filipino families —- DO NOT LEND MONEY. i am a filipino-american and have filipino relatives. you just have to put your foot down and say, NO. they can think what they want to think, but there is a saying — money don’t grow on trees. i would treat them to outings, dinner, buy them things they need (even as far as furniture) but at least I VOLUNTEERED TO GIVE and they did not ask me for it. sad to say that because of the money difference (peso vs dollar), we foreigners (me included) are thought to have “more” source and therefore we can afford it. but if you want to live here and not exhaust your finances (which we retirees have a limited cache anyway), please be frugal. save some money for your hospital bills when you grow older (if you are not old now). CALL ME IF YOU NEED HELP TRANSLATING THE CULTURE. i can explain it to you. learn to say NO. give or donate according to what you feel comfortable with.

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