We’ve been living on an island in the Philippines for 6 years, and my kids have visited the US every year since we left (except 2020), but they still marvel at all the ways things are different in the US. They love to point them out so I wrote up a list. These are some things that are different about our island lives!

The Grove, Los Angeles, CA

Blackouts – One of the hardest aspects of island life is the regular blackouts. We never know when they will happen or how long they will last. We could have 5 in a day or none for weeks at a time. But blackouts are a constant in our lives. Most of the time they last about an hour. But they can last an entire day too, so we always have a freezer full of blue ice that we can put in our refrigerators and freezers. Honestly we’re used to blackouts and don’t mind them when they’re short. If they happen in the evenings, we light some candles and play family games. But the downside is that the constant power surges have destroyed many electronics and inflated our electricity bills. This is probably the #1 complaint of our fellow islanders.

Credit Cards – There are probably two businesses in our entire town that accept credit cards, so we use cash for everything. I was at Daiso last week and made a $2 purchase, but they didn’t have change for a large bill. I didn’t know what to do until the cashier suggested I use a credit card. The thought didn’t even cross my mind because it’s been so long since I used a credit or debit card!

Efficiency of everything – When you live in a developing country, many things are inefficient and you have to do a lot of things yourself that would typically fall under the purview of the government. Mr. Bee hadn’t left the Philippines since we moved there six years ago, so he asked his friends what would be the biggest shock when he returned to the US. Our expat friends said it was the efficiency of everything. For instance getting the kids signed up for covid vaccines was such a simple and seamless process with CVS online. It was amazing to us! We actually purchased our own Moderna vaccines with a group of businesses, but there were so many delays getting them to our island. We were able to get AstraZeneca, but only through connections, since we were not in any priority groups for covid vaccines through the government at the time. So many things just function well in the US.

The sheer overwhelming variety and abundance of everything – This is a pro and a con. Of course it sucks at times not to have access to so many things in the Philippines, especially foods we miss, medicines, and educational items. But having access to literally anything and everything we could want or need in the US is overwhelming for all of us. There are over 100 kinds of cereal and ice cream and bread and it takes me forever to make decisions while grocery shopping. We are here for Christmas so deciding on Christmas presents for my entire family is mind boggling. We have access to anything we want to eat, but Charlie and Olive actually eat better when we have less options, and certain foods that are hard to get like strawberries are special and appreciated treats. I think I’d like a life somewhere in between almost no options and all the options.


Homelessness – Even though there aren’t any social welfare programs where we live, we don’t see any homelessness perhaps because the extended family unit is typically very strong, with multiple generations, cousins, etc. all living together in one household. It’s always shocking and sad to see so much homelessness every time we visit the US.

You can return anything – A couple days ago I bought a wrist brace at Walgreens that we ended up not using, so I returned it. The cashier didn’t even open the box to check if the contents were damaged in any way and promptly gave me a refund. We can’t return anything once purchased in our town. For instance you have to check that light bulbs work in the store before you buy them. Once you buy it, you own it, even if it’s broken!

.  .  .  .  .

These are some more things my kids have commented on since we arrived in the US:

  • hot water from the tap
  • automatic doors, flush toilets, paper towel dispensers, and soap dispensers
  • being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet
  • trashcans everywhere
  • water fountains and potable tap water
  • dishwashers
  • garbage disposals
  • mailboxes, mailmen, and mail
  • newspapers
  • garbage trucks that pick up garbage
  • super fast wifi
  • free food samples
  • bathtubs and super strong water pressure
  • public parks, playgrounds, and free doggie poop bags everywhere
  • walking dogs on a leash
  • super fast delivery of everything
  • Goodwill and its huge variety of cheap and new goods
  • food trucks
  • daylight savings time
  • libraries, bookstores, zoos, museums, etc.
  • cars with computers and cameras
  • digital everything
  • self service gas stations


free trolley rides

tasting artisanal pickles at the Farmer’s Market

free hot chocolate!

Our heaven – Barnes and Noble 

Apple store

The Apple store had live trees inside!

If you ask Charlie and Olive where they would rather live, they don’t have a preference for the Philippines or the US, even though our trips to the US are usually jam packed with fun. Because they’re used to a simple life, I think they enjoy the doses of modern society, but are happy with the slower pace of their day to day lives. I can definitely say that I feel much more stressed out being in the US right now than I did back in the Philippines (a car would have crashed us yesterday if I didn’t swerve). I’m sure being isolated throughout the pandemic has had an impact, but after six years of island life, I’ve undoubtedly changed.

Do you think you could give up modern life to live on a remote island?