Metro Manila · 10 Mistakes Foreigners Make When Moving To The Philippines

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Moving to a tropical paradise like the Philippines is a dream come true for many, but on the other end of the spectrum - especially for the ill-informed, this big move could become a nightmare. But don’t let the dream go just yet because as soon as you learn about the common mistakes that foreigners make when moving to the country, you will be just fine.

Moving to a tropical paradise like the Philippines is a dream come true for many, but on the other end of the spectrum - especially for the ill-informed, this big move could become a nightmare. But don’t let the dream go just yet because as soon as you learn about the common mistakes that foreigners make when moving to the country, you will be just fine.

1. Underestimating the cost of living


While living in the Philippines is relatively cheap and it is possible to make do with USD 500 (roughly 21, 000 pesos) a month, this is easier said than done. Rent can be considered cheap in some areas but if you are looking for a nice, comfortable, and spacious place with all the appliances included, USD 500 would go to the rent alone especially if you would like to live in the expensive parts of the Megacity. In fact, in some areas in Metro Manila, rent might even cost you more than the said amount.

However, you can get better prices if you look hard enough. According to Numbeo, a 3-bedroom apartment outside of the city center would cost an average of 11, 130.54 pesos while those in the city center would cost you 17, 197.86 pesos a month. One must note that these apartments often do not include appliances or furniture.

Interested in living in the expensive areas of the country specifically in Metro Manila? Expatistan says the average monthly rent for a 900 square feet (85 square meters) furnished accommodation would cost about 71, 169 pesos a month. Electricity per month will cost an average of 4, 592 while internet access is 1, 200 to 2, 767 pesos per month.  

If you are moving to the country on your own, you can get a small apartment for 9, 892.73 pesos per month based on a November 2015 Numbeo update.

While living in the provinces can be cheap, you would have to think of other expenses i.e. for food, utilities, and the like.

The average meal prices in inexpensive restaurants will cost around 100 to 150 pesos while a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant is 600 pesos on average. You can always go to the fast food chains of course where you can get 100-peso-meals. But please be warned that the portions are a bit smaller. 

If you love beer, domestic brands are at 40 pesos each and can go much higher if you drink it in a restaurant or bar. Imported beer can cost you up to 80 pesos if you buy it at the supermarket and can cost more elsewhere. 

A regular cappuccino, according to Numbeo, would cost you 94.62 pesos, while a soda would cost you 20.80 pesos per bottle. Bottled mineral water in a 0.33 liter bottle is 15.50 pesos. 

A liter of milk’s average cost is 75.46 pesos while a loaf of fresh white bread is 49.15 pesos.

For more information about the average cost of certain products including transportation costs, take a look at this article.

If you are moving to the Philippines because of the promise of travel and leisure, going from one island to the next by plane can cost you an average of 2, 500 pesos one way. Add this to hotel costs, food, and other expenses.  

If you would like to learn more about the cost of living in the Philippines, contact your friends who already live in country. Local knowledge would be very helpful.


2. Be on a job hunt


You love the country’s beaches and just enjoy the warmth of the Philippine sun. Now you would like to stay longer and maybe even plan on living here. While there is an endless supply of tourist attractions in this country that would make anyone want to live here, funds would likely run low at one point or another. But you’ve got a solution – you will find a job in the Philippines so you could stay here longer.

Jobs in this country won’t pay much though. In fact, the average salary is one-fifth lower than western standards. However, if you have a certain skill set that foreign companies located in the Philippines need, you just might land a high paying job.

According to Transitions Abroad, it is a good idea to look for a job at your national embassy.

It is also a good idea to look into freelance work to enable you to be wherever you want to be and still keep yourself afloat financially.


3. Trusting strangers


It is easy to lower your guard when in a country with relatively friendly people. Filipinos are friendly and accommodating but like most places; there will be individuals who will try to take advantage of you. Some expats, according to TopTen, have sold their belongings to invest in get-rich-quick schemes and ended up broke. This is something that foreigners coming to the country or going to any other country for that matter should never get involved in. 

Do your research before you fly and make sure to contact friends who live in the Philippines to give you an insight on what to expect.


4. Not learning about the culture


The cultural differences are subtle if you stay in the Philippines for a short period but once you stay here longer, these differences will become more apparent.

For one, most Filipinos hold a high regard for religion. This is a predominantly Catholic country so be sure to save yourself the trouble of going into discussions about religion especially after a few drinks.

Filipino etiquette is different under normal circumstances though i.e. when everybody is sober. There is this concept called hiya (sense of shame). This is often employed in a number of social situations which makes it difficult for many Filipinos to ask pertinent questions for fear of looking foolish. Hiya is also at work when Filipinos choose not to disagree with someone openly. This is mainly because they do not want to offend anyone. This goes hand in hand with another Filipino social characteristic – amor proprio – roughly translated as love for self. In general, hiya is practiced because of amor propio.

If in doubt, apply pakikisama (to get along) and just get along with everyone. A sense of delicadeza (propriety) would also go a long way.

5. Over-thinking the visa


Don’t spend too much time fussing about this because getting a visa is relatively easy in the Philippines. Immigration laws are also more lax as compared to other countries. In fact, tourists and foreigners who would like to make the Philippines their new home are very much welcome. Seniors who plan to retire here also get certain discounts. 


6. Not have realistic expectations


The Philippines has the most basic of things and this is something foreigners have to keep in mind. The country is a developing nation with a big number of the population living below the poverty line. Manage your expectations and you will be just fine. Certain services, such as Internet access, may not be available in other parts of the country.


7. Not learning at least one of the local languages


While Filipinos speak English, learning a local language will pave the way for better understanding not only in terms of communication but in understanding the culture as well.

Make an effort to learn the language in the area where you choose to live and you will be rewarded for it – not to mention, make things a lot easier when talking to locals.


8. Thinking that you’d be able to buy property here


Foreigners cannot own property in the Philippines without going through a very long process of putting up a company allowed to have land holdings. Foreigners who put up businesses for this purpose are only allowed 40% of the company while 60% should be owned by a local. 

The good news is, you can buy a condominium unit here and you won’t have to go through a lot of paperwork to do so.


9. Moving to the Philippines without visiting it first


If you have never been to the Philippines, it is advisable to come here first before you decide to move to the country. 

An exploratory trip will do you good because it will give you an idea whether the Philippines is the type of place where you’d want to live and you would have a first hand experience on what it is like to live here.


10. Listening to the wrong information


Not all information that one can find on the web is accurate so be sure to do your research and get a consensus opinion.

While some will say that a certain part of the country is a nice place to live in, others will say otherwise. Get opinion from multiple sources and then balance that out.

We hope that this list gave you an insight about living in the Philippines. We would like to leave you with something Marie Curie said: “Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Interested? Read More:

A New Job In The Philippines: 7 Tips For A Good Start

A Week In Manila

Buying Property In The Philippines: A Guide For Foreigners

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