Advice for Expats

8 Traits of Successful Expats in The Philippines

I’ve been an expat pretty much since I graduated from college. I got my first real job got an apartment and realized that the working 9-5 then going home, paying my bills and doing it all over again for 40 years sucked. Freedom is what I wanted! The desire to meet new people, learn new languages, eat new foods, and experience new cultures was strong!

That’s the story I like to tell and it’s mostly true.  But there’s another side. Another reason I don’t publicize often is because my social skills just weren’t that great. It just felt like I didn’t fit into American society that well. I am fairly conservative and just don’t agree with the direction that American society is taking.

Maybe if you are reading this there is a chance that you feel that way too which is why you are considering moving abroad. This is a tough decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. While living abroad was the right choice for me it does not mean its the right choice for you.

How do I know if I should live abroad?

If you want to know whether its right for you to live abroad consider taking extended vacations. Sorry Sam but two weeks a year isn’t going to cut it. In order to experience what its like to live abroad I recommend a minimum of 1 month abroad and not in a hotel either.

Successful expats understand that living abroad means humbling your lifestyle.

Rent a condo in a place you could see yourself living. Go grocery shopping, use local transportation, try to meet locals, and most importantly set a budget and see how well you can stick to it. Join our facebook group to ask other expats what their experience has been.

If you really want to know if living abroad is right for you ask yourself these questions:

How open minded are you? 

Are you willing to accept things that you may not agree with? Some people may not like the idea of men dressing and acting like women. If you’re one of them then pretty much stay out of all of south-east Asia. Unless your plan is to become a missionary you’ve got to be open-minded if you want to be successful abroad.

How adaptable are you?

Living in the developing world is a lot different than many people think. Things we consider basic such as hot water, decent cell phone service, indoor plumbing, and functioning internet are often a luxury in the developing world. This is why extended trial trips are so essential. It is nearly impossible to accurately describe how vastly different a two week vacation with tour guides and smiling hotel staff is from actually living in a place .

Successful expats know how to bounce back

Despite all the smiling faces and warm welcomes, you’re going to get cheated at least once. It’s natural for some people to take advantage of ignorance and no matter how many books you read when you move abroad you’re still going to be ignorant. Expect to be cheated at least once. Count on being cheated multiple times whether it be a landlord, a small business owner, a taxi driver, or a lover.  Understand nine times out of ten your only recourse is to learn your lesson.

How disciplined are you?! 

The absolute number one reason I’ve seen expats fail and have to return back home is because they didn’t have discipline!

Discipline with money

A lot of westerners get fooled by the cheap housing and cheap foods. They think they are millionaires and can just spend willy nilly.  It just doesn’t work that way. Cheap housing is a trap. Doing things that you’re used to in the US are often more expensive abroad not less. In the developing world due to lack of competition in many countries certain products and services are more expensive than in the US.

 An example, a pair of large size 12-13 sandals costs about $15-$20 for a good pair in the US. Well, in the Philippines finding sandals that size is next to impossible. I thought I had some good sandals but they broke. It took forever to find some that fit me. In fact, I had to travel to Manila to the Mall of Asia . In the end, I ended up spending $70 on a pair of mediocre sandals! Maybe if I had shopped around more I could’ve gotten a better deal but still that’s outrageous. The thing is I didn’t realize that 3068 pesos is about 70 bucks.

That’s another reason expats spend too much money. Our brains are trained to think in our native currencies so when we see prices in another currency sometimes we get confused and end up spending way more than we intended to

Successful expats set a budget and stick to it!

Sorry, you’re not a millionaire so if you want to be successful living abroad you’ve got to learn to say no to your desires sometimes. In addition, you can avoid bad exchange rates and high transfer fees by using TransferWise to send money to your local bank account.

Successful expats don’t make investments right away

If you come to the Philippines or any country in South East Asia chances are good you’ll be asked to invest your money in a business. Don’t do it! Many countries have restrictive laws on foreign investment especially when it comes to owning land and businesses in your own name. If you’re not up-to-date and savvy on the local laws if your business ‘partner’ screws you over there won’t be a damn thing you can do about it. I belong to several expat forums and one story I saw broke my heart.

A man came on and told a story of how his ‘friend’ approached him to put an ice cream machine in her pharmacy. It seemed like a win-win situation. He’d have a nice business and she’d get more sales. Well–and I think you know where I’m going with this–the ice cream machine started outperforming her pharmacy. The ‘friend’ told him she would take the machine as ‘payment’ for the increased electricity costs. She told him if he tried to stop her that she would cry rape. He was there alone so not only was his ego bruised but he lost a few thousand dollars.

Successful expats are disciplined with dating

One thing a lot of expats, especially male expats, don’t seem to be prepared for is dating abroad. If you’re in a developing country chances are good you’ll go from a nobody to a superstar with the touch down of an airplane. Girls that wouldn’t give you the time of day back home will be throwing themselves at you. You’ll have more sex in a month than you did in the last 10 years back home.

Related: Till Green Card Do Us Part

Sorry to break your heart but unless you’re a supermodel with 90% of those people it’s not you that they’re after it’s your wallet.  Even if you know that and just try to ‘play the game’ you’ll still end up broke.

There are some good guys or gals out there who genuinely want a relationship based on love and nothing more but chances are good those won’t be the first to approach you and they won’t be the people you meet in expat facebook groups either.  That doesn’t mean become a dick to everyone that talks to you. It does mean to be cautious and truly accept in your heart that you cannot buy love. It’s priceless.  When it comes to dating TAKE YOUR TIME and LOOK IN THE RIGHT PLACES

Related: How to Find a Filipina Wife With Good Values

Successful expats listen to other expats

When it comes to living in The Philippines your most valuable resource will be other expats. I personally love going to expat groups on facebook and reading the experiences of others. Making friends with expats and friendly locals is invaluable to your experience. They can tell you what landlords to go to in order to get a fair price, what signs to look for that your girl is just using you, and it’s nice to chat with people that speak fluent English. Join Manila Expats Facebook Group.

Should you live in The Philippines or not?

Living abroad is really nice but with some tough challenges that many are not able to supersede. So long as you have discipline as mentioned in the article living abroad should be a wonderful choice and you won’t regret it! After all, you can always go home if it doesn’t work out!

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2 thoughts on “8 Traits of Successful Expats in The Philippines

  1. Very good insight. Thank you very much for this. That’s a honest, eye opening review. Almost in opposition to what I read in the the ads for the “International Living Magazine”, which say you can have it all, you can do double and spend half, etc… I know that those things were too good to be true. Thanks again for what you do for others. I’ve been living in Canada for more than 20 years after growing up and being schooled in Eastern Europe, and Canada is not the country I came to anymore. I still have some few good years till retirement, but I started to do my homework because the poor political and economic perspective here.
    I presume you are fairly young, and young people do not have problems with making new friends. After a certain age, this human treat supply get lower to almost none when you are very old (I would assume, considering the trend I see around me). That’s another thing to consider.
    Just wondering, how does an expat transfer more than $10k (which is the maximum permissible in US/Canada – part of the money laundering prevention measures) to buy property abroad?
    Hey, I just want to let you know that you have style. Please continue to write! You may be underestimating yourself. – you ARE good, and helpfull!

    1. From a Canadian living in Philippines 6 years. I use Transfwerwise from BMO to my phils account BPI. Do a series of $9000 transfers until you have money you need (spaced a few days apart). Foeigners can’t own land in Phils.

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