The norm for most ex-pats is to gravitate to other ex-pats. If you are in a provincial area there are usually less ex-pats, but you’ll probably get to know very quickly the few that are there. In the larger communities, the ex-pats often have clubs, traditional weekly or even bi-weekly lunches, and sometimes break down their socialization according to nationality. In the several communities that I have lived in, there has been everything from French clubs to ex-pat women’s clubs, to military Veterans clubs, and others. Because of the American military’s presence until the mid 1990’s, there are still VFW posts and American Legion posts in every major city. In Manila, there is even an Elk’s Club!
Many ex-pats decide they want to get involved in projects to help the community and that is normally the common bond with other ex-pats. Also, there is everything from bridge clubs to golfing clubs and just about anything one might have an interest in considering there is a large ex-pat community in this country. It would be fair to say that most of the ex-pats would be around 50 years of age and above while the younger ex-pat population are mostly people that have employment or businesses here so the largest portion are seniors.
Befriending Filipinos is not hard in most major cities, but it is more difficult in the provinces where few foreigners are living. The reason it might be more difficult to make friends in the provinces is that economically you might be considered “wealthy” in certain areas so therefore, the friendships you make might tend to take advantage of your financial capability as much as your good nature . Take it slow when making friends if living in small provincial areas, and expect that you might, from time to time, be hit up for cash if friends with people from lower income brackets. Don’t take it personally if you find that your friends have manoeuvred you into the position of being the local lending institution. Just remember that in such situations, you can always smile politely when asked for a “loan” and very politely say that you have left your wallet at home..or you don’t have enough cash on hand…or you have not yet been paid…anything that politely rebuts the request for a loan without your friend loosing face. Eventually, people will get the message and stop asking to “borrow” money! In bigger cities, finding local friends is much easier as you would likely be on a more equal financial footing (no requests for “loans”!) and in many cases, friendships might be more rewarding from a cultural perspective as well.
Many ex-pats have been known to come to the Philippines to find companionship. We will put this aspect of life in the islands into a different category than ordinary friendship, and will address this issue in a different article at a later time.
Romance and companionship aside, if you come to the Philippines and are looking to make friends among ex-pats as well as Filipinos, to put down roots and get involved in communities, you are not going to have any problems accomplishing that goal!