Consider This Before Moving to Manila

It’s easy to answer questions like ‘How to get an apartment?’ or ‘How to get your visa documents in order?’. But the most burning question many readers have is ‘what is it like living in Manila?’. Obviously the experience will vary depending upon many factors including your own personality.

I prefer Makati and Ortigas. I love how you can go around each area in a day and hit a wide variety of different places. You can start the day in a weekend market, grab some Japanese for lunch, then go shopping for 100 peso shirts or go to the shooting range at Makati square. Grab some dinner at Greenbelt, get a massage, and go partying in Poblacion. Can’t do anything like that in BGC.

Manila Foreigners Club Member

The Ultimate Consideration

Immigrants traditionally left their country for purely economic reasons. People felt they could get a better life for themselves and/or their progeny elsewhere so they packed up and moved.

Leaving one’s family, friends, and land behind isn’t something to be taken lightly. Most of us knew coming in that the development level would be significantly lower than we’re used to back home. We knew about the traffic, the crime, and the intrinsic corruption.

We’ve all read the stories of foreigners getting whacked for the capital crime of causing a local to lose face. Yet we choose to take the risk and leave our families and friends behind anyway.

Moving to Manila to Escape Your Problems

When you move you take your personality with you. A lot of people come here to escape from their problems–legal or otherwise. In my experience people who come here to run from their problems back home end up creating similar problems here. If you have difficulty getting along with most people back home then chances are you may have those same problems here. The difference is most locals won’t tell you to your face that they don’t like you. This can be incredibly dangerous.

What’s worse is if you have a tendency to break the law and have difficulty respecting authority then you’ll really have a difficult time here. I had a cousin that liked to mess with cops, film it, and then upload it to youtube. He asked to visit me so he could meet, in his words ‘cheap chicks’. He got into a confrontation with a girly bar owner and was lucky to get out with his life.

Related: Why Foreigners Get Killed in The Philippines

What’s it like living in Manila?

There’s simply so much to do here. If you’re into city life there’s no way you can get bored here.

These are some of my thoughts from living here. Some of these are not necessarily specific to Manila but the Philippines in general.

Filipinos are some of the friendliest people in the world.

One of my favorite aspects of living in Manila is practically everyone speaks English–though to varying degrees. I had to make an effort to learn Tagalog and it is still a useful thing for foreigners to do. That being said knowledge of Tagalog is not required to live in Manila.

Transportation

The traffic is terrible. Home to school was only 12 km [7 miles] but it took 30-45 minutes by car. If there was heavy rain? Forget about it. It would sometimes take hours if there was flooding.

Quora Answer

There are various methods of transportation available. Taxis are quite common in the business districts. Buses are everywhere. There are also Jeepneys, which operate fixed routes like buses and usually have very cheap fares. There is a light rail system but it’s not comprehensive. It only goes down a few of the main roads. You can rent a car and generally rental cars come with drivers. If you buy a car, be aware that to reduce traffic, based on your license plate number, you cannot drive on certain days of the week during rush hour. If you’re renting a car, the rental car company will send you a car that has the correct license plate for that day.

Malls are everywhere. Every few years it would seem that a gigantic new mall was built that would rival the last gigantic mall built a few years ago.

These days electricity is very reliable. In the past, brownouts were very common but these days brownouts are very rare.

Poverty

Compared to the US, the wealth disparity is very extreme. However, there is a much more robust middle class than what I saw in Pakistan.

Poverty, however, is very visible and heartbreaking. If you drive around you will generally see street children running around naked, begging or selling items on the road.

If you have access to housing, generally you will either live in a “subdivision” or a condominium. A “subdivision” is perhaps most analogous to a “gated community” in the US. However, depending on which village you live in, there may be extremely heavy security. In order to get in to any of the villages, you need to have a sticker on your car that shows that you live in that village. If you don’t, you have to stop at the gate and you have to tell the guard where you’re going and leave your license at the gate. The exception is that if you live in one of the Makati villages that are part of the Makati Village Association, your sticker is interoperable with any other Makati Village.

Armed security guards are everywhere. You’ll find them at villages, offices, malls, and yes, at corner 7-11s. Most of this security is just a deterrent. You don’t typically hear about security guards actually discharging their weapons. In fact, I’m pretty sure that many of the weapons aren’t even loaded.

Labor in the Philippines is relatively cheap so you’ll see a lot of jobs done by people that would be mechanized elsewhere.

If you live in a house in a subdivision, generally you’re going to have domestic helpers. In the first house we lived in, we had 3 maids, a driver, and a gardener. Our neighbors had 10 (10!) maids.

Shopping & Eating

You can find almost any sort of cuisine here. It’s a totally different world from the province.

When you go to a big department store like SM, the sales staff are friendly but not particularly useful. I’m not sure if there are perpetual supply chain issues or if this is just a cultural tendency but 90% of the responses I’ve gotten from sales staff are “Out of stock, sir.”

Expect to be called “Sir” if you’re a man or “Ma’am” if you’re a woman.

Pretty much everything that is available in the US is available in the Philippines.

Miscellaneous

I loved the weather, about mid-80 degrees all year round. Not everyone finds this comfortable.

Basketball is huge here.

Government services more or less work. If you need to get a driver’s license or have some other interaction with the government it’s possible to do so without having to pay any bribes. This is unlike a lot of other developing countries where it’s necessary to pay bribes.

Some Warnings

BEWARE OF THE VOLTAGE! The Philippines electrical outlet system is very deceptive. Every outlet will have two types of plug inputs. It will have one flat inputs (that is 220 V) and it will have one round plug (that is 110 V). Beware of this because US appliances are 110 V and have the flat plug, so if you stick that into an outlet that fits in the Philippines, that appliance is going to go bust.

Foreigners cannot buy property in the Philippines. However, you can buy a condominium unit so long as Filipinos own at least 50% of the condominium units in the building.

Mosquitos are very common. All windows usually have screens on them so that you can open the window without letting bugs in.

If you look like you’re of Chinese origin, you have to be careful about kidnap-for-ransom. Just be sensible. Australian Chinese Rescued by Police

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