Advice for Foreigners Who Move to the Philippines
The Philippines is known for its picturesque landscapes, hospitable locals, vibrant culture, and rich history. For many foreigners, the allure of its tropical climate and the charm of its cities make it an ideal place to call home. Yet, moving to another country always comes with challenges. If you're considering or have already decided to move to the Philippines, the following advice will help you adapt and enjoy your new surroundings.
1. Understand the Culture and Respect Local Norms
Philippine culture is a fascinating blend of indigenous, Malay, Spanish, and American influences. While Filipinos are known for their warmth and hospitality, understanding local customs and traditions will go a long way in fostering positive relationships. For instance, elders are deeply respected, and it's customary to mano (a gesture where one takes an elder's hand and places it on their forehead) as a sign of respect.
Religion, primarily Roman Catholicism, plays an integral role in Filipino lives. Many local festivals, holidays, and customs revolve around religious practices. While everyone is entitled to their beliefs, respecting local religious practices, especially during major holidays, is crucial.
2. Get Used to 'Filipino Time'
Punctuality is perceived differently in the Philippines. The concept of "Filipino time" implies that events and meetings might start a little later than scheduled. While not all Filipinos adhere to this, it's common enough that it's worth adjusting your expectations.
However, it's essential to differentiate between social events and professional settings. In business meetings or official appointments, punctuality is appreciated and expected. So, always strive to be on time.
3. Explore Local Cuisine
Filipino cuisine is diverse, with each region having its specialties. Popular dishes like adobo, sinigang, and lechon are must-tries. Street food, including kwek-kwek (deep-fried quail eggs) and balut (duck embryo), offer unique tastes for the adventurous.
While eating out, remember that rice is a staple, and most meals will include it. If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, it's a good idea to communicate them clearly. Many restaurants are accommodating and will adjust dishes to suit your needs.
4. Learn Basic Filipino (Tagalog)
While English is widely spoken in the Philippines, learning some basic Filipino or Tagalog phrases can enhance your experience. Simple greetings or expressions of gratitude will be appreciated by locals and can help you immerse yourself in the culture.
Additionally, while many signs and official documents are in English, understanding basic Filipino can be useful when traveling to less touristy areas or when dealing with local vendors and services.
5. Stay Safe and Be Aware of Local Laws
The Philippines is generally safe, but like any other place, it has its share of safety concerns. It's essential to be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas where pickpocketing can be a concern.
Local laws and regulations can differ from what you're used to, so it's crucial to familiarize yourself with them. For example, some areas in the country have strict anti-smoking regulations, and there are national laws about the use and possession of drugs.
6. Embrace the Local Way of Life
Living in a new country offers a chance to experience a different way of life. Embrace local traditions, participate in festivals, and engage with your community. This not only enriches your experience but also helps in creating a sense of belonging.
Living like a local also includes understanding the cost of living, which in the Philippines is generally lower than in many western countries. However, prices for some imported goods can be higher. Adjusting your lifestyle and preferences can help you live comfortably.
7. Prepare for the Climate
The Philippines has a tropical climate with two main seasons: wet (June to November) and dry (December to May). Prepare yourself for high humidity levels and sudden downpours during the rainy season. Investing in a good umbrella and water-resistant gear is a smart move.
Additionally, the country is prone to natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Staying informed, understanding local evacuation procedures, and having an emergency kit can make all the difference.
8. Build Connections and Networks
Building a support network can make your transition smoother. Engaging with locals, joining expat groups, and participating in community activities can help you make friends and establish connections.
Remember, Filipinos are known for their bayanihan spirit – a communal unity where people work together for a common purpose. Embracing this spirit can help you feel more at home and integrated into the community.
9. Manage Your Finances Wisely
While the cost of living can be lower, it's essential to manage your finances. Opening a local bank account, understanding the tax system, and being aware of local prices can help you budget and save.
Currency in the Philippines is the Philippine Peso (PHP). ATMs are widespread, but always check for international transaction fees if you're using a foreign card.
10. Stay Open-Minded and Be Adaptable
Lastly, moving to a new country requires adaptability. Challenges are inevitable, but keeping an open mind and being flexible can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and learning.
In summary, moving to the Philippines is an exciting adventure filled with new experiences and opportunities. Embracing the local culture, being respectful, and staying informed will ensure that your time in this beautiful archipelago is fulfilling and memorable. Welcome to the Philippines!