Filipino Expat Living in USA - Interview with Didi

Published: 7 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,USA
Didi Paterno-Magpali is a communications professional, writer, blogger and OFW - overseas Filipino's wife. She found herself hopping the expat trail because of love. After 3 years of being in a long distance relationship and getting married to her boyfriend of 9 years, she packed her bags and followed him to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She enjoyed her time in Dubai eating around different ethnic restaurants that are abundant in the desert city of expatriates. But after two years, work opportunities sent her husband packing up and flying off to the United States and so she followed again. She now lives in Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas enjoying her time at home, continuing to write about their Filipino expat adventures and misadventures on D for Delicious ( Didi's expat blog is called D for Delicious - Bites off the expat life (see listing here)

My first NBA game
My first NBA game

Here's the interview with Didi...

Where are you originally from?
I was born, grew up, studied and worked in Metro Manila, Philippines

In which country and city are you living now?
My husband and I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas in the USA :) We're adopted cowboys now

How long have you lived in USA and how long are you planning to stay?
We've been here for 9 months and hope to stay here for good. Crossing our fingers that this happens!

Why did you move to USA and what do you do?
My husband found work opportunities here in the US. While he works hard, I work hard to make sure everything is order in our wee home. I cook, I clean, I do the laundry...I'm a housewife :) I also do write for a magazine and Dubai and do write for my blog, D for Delicious, where I share stories about life as a food loving Filipino expat

Enjoying the sun and sand in Sir Bani Yas island
Enjoying the sun and sand in Sir Bani Yas island
Did you bring family with you?
My family, my husband, brought me here. I'm a trailing spouse.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I don't like sugar coating, so I will admit it was very difficult because I had to rebuild everything from scratch. I was newly married. I had to find a job. I had to find my way in my new city. I had no friends. But that was the beauty beneath the pain, I had a chance to start anew.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Dubai was a city of expats, where 80% of the population is from all over the world, but then making friends was not easy. Imagine yourself in kindergarten, except that you have a lot of those friendship hang ups and preferences. I didn't have the patience and the energy to make friends with people whom I knew I couldn't get along with. But I was still lucky because I stumbled upon like minded people, whom I am still very much in touch with despite being apart.

Veiled at the Iranian Club in Dubai
Veiled at the Iranian Club in Dubai
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I love to eat! So I will recommend some things to munch on.

In Dubai, you must go beyond the glitz and visit the older neighborhoods like Deira, Karama and Satwa for cheap and authentic ethnic eats. In Texas, you must get some Texas barbeque!

What do you enjoy most about living in USA?
America is indeed America the beautiful! We've driven from coast to coast (well, almost) and have seen the landscapes change from state to state. I actually did not imagine the US to be this beautiful.

I also appreciate that the different states each have their own culture. Its something that I enjoy looking into to help me understand and navigate my way through the country.

I consider myself lucky because we live in an area where I have easy access to Asian ingredients and restaurants :)

And, unlike Dubai, I do appreciate that I am free to express myself without getting into trouble.

How does the cost of living in USA compare to home?
Compared to the Philippines, cost of living is indeed more expensive. Though cost of some food items are comparable like the McDonald's cheeseburger which is a little under a dollar in both countries. Other costs like rent, insurance (Oh God, INSURANCE - health, dental, vision, renter's, car, etc), communication, electricity, transportation are more expensive. Though surprisingly, gas costs are almost the same as the Philippines.

Shopping is definitely cheaper...there are so many ways to save and not buy things full price!

Of course, here in the US, even if you are an expat, you still pay taxes. We do miss the absence of tax in Dubai.

Enjoying the beer tour at Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta, GA
Enjoying the beer tour at Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta, GA
What negatives, if any, are there to living in USA?
Of course, because we are not green card holders or US citizens, opportunities are not as aplenty for us. But that's about it. We are still very much blessed to be here!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to USA, what would it be?
Don't get yourself into DEBT! It is easy to fall into the trap because temptation to buy, buy, buy is all over.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I'm a creature of habit and routine. The constant moving is exciting, but, at some point, I would love to settle in one place soon :) Hoping it would be here in the US.

I do miss home, but I don't miss it as much for me to actually pack my bags and move back to the Philippines. I am just blessed to be with my husband. I guess I don't miss home as much because my new family is with me :)

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I don't think that we'd return home for good. But I think the biggest gripe of repatriation is getting used to the ultra-horrible traffic! UGH. One other thing we would need to get used to is being around with family. We're just used to being so independent, but I guess that won't be a problem.

Lovin' Texas BBQ!
Lovin' Texas BBQ!
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don't forget your main objective of living abroad, especially when the going gets tough.
  2. I know it is so much more comfortable to stick to your comfort zone - expats from the same country, eating the same food, doing the same things. But get out of that comfort zone and explore! Not everyone is given the opportunity to live abroad, so make sure to do all the local things if you can - eat the local food, hang out in local joints and make friends with others who are not of your nationality
  3. Please make sure to compute your job offer against the actual cost of living in your host country. Don't just convert the salary into your local currency and be lured in by the amount. You need to consider if that job offer would be able to afford you to live a life in your host country.
  4. Go LOCAL! Eat, drink, travel, etc like a local. And, if possible, be friends with a local!
  5. One can never be 100% prepared for the expat life, BUT it would be great to prepare a little by getting to know the good, the bad and the ugly to help cushion any possible falls in your new host country.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I love food and so I do share my stories about the food I cook, the restaurants we eat at and other food stuff like unusual finds in supermarkets. I also share travel finds like Churches, quaint neighborhoods and more food :) Finally, I write about my experiences as an expat and share information and insights which fellow expats or wannabe expats could find useful.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can drop me a line on the blog or Twitter should you have any questions about the Philippines, Dubai and Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas :-)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingDidi is a Filipino expat living in USA. Blog description: Bites off the expat life - the journey from the Philippines to Dubai to the USA
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