A recent World Bank report named the Philippines as one of the fastest-growing economies in the East Asia and Pacific region. The international organization has kept its 6.4% growth projection for the archipelago, mainly driven by strong election spending, low inflation, and a robust business sector.
The country welcomes tens of thousands of foreign students pursuing degrees in English, nursing, and hospitality. There’s also a growing number of retirees, former Filipinos, and foreigners, who choose to settle in the countryside.
If you’re a foreigner planning to relocate to the land of coconut trees, here are 30 things, good and bad, that you should know.
1. Wet and Dry Seasons
Every guide to moving in the Philippines includes a section on climate. You sure know that the Philippines is a tropical country with two seasons: the wet and dry seasons. Rainy days used to start in June and end in November. Due to climate change, expect heavy downpour even on an April morning.
2. “When it rains, it pours.”
The archipelago is regarded as the gateway of typhoons to the rest of Asia. Expect an average of 20 typhoons in a year, where five to six may be super typhoons. It’s advisable to install leakage or flood sensors in your home unless you’d go for condo living where amenities are designed for harsh climates.
3. The valley of extreme weather
The Philippines is composed of more than 7,100 islands and the degree of dryness and wetness in these areas differ. Cagayan Valley, for instance, typically records eight to nine degrees Celsius in January but hits 40 degrees Celsius in May. The temperature in the mountainous Cordilleras is about 8 degrees lower than any place in the country except for the valley.
4. Water everywhere except in faucets
The Philippine islands are surrounded by water—seawater, that is. Water shortage, especially during the dry season, is widespread even in key cities. It’s typical for households to stock up water in drums and large containers.
5. Rotational power interruptions
Unless you’ll be moving to the National Capital Region (NCR), your electricity will be supplied by electric cooperatives. Expect scheduled power interruptions in the summer months. One advantage of condo living in the Philippines is guaranteed power via building generators.
6. You’d need a lot of patience with your broadband connection
If you’re doing most of your work at home, you’d need two things: a wired Internet connection and tons of patience. The Philippines has one of the slowest Internet connections in the region mainly due to poor infrastructure of telcos.
7. If all else fails, there are 24/7 Computer Shops
More than half of the country’s population connect to the Internet despite poor telecom infrastructure. There are computer shops in almost all corners of cities where you can surf the Net, check emails, post on Facebook and play games for Php 20 (about $0.5) per hour.
8. Hello, unlimited texts!
The number of mobile phones in the country exceeds human inhabitants. Hailed as the texting capital of the world, the Philippines offers numerous texting promos, from unlimited texts to free calls to all networks. You can buy a SIM card and reload anytime, anywhere.
9. Prepare coins in the morning
The colorful jeepney is an important Philippine symbol. It’s considered as the undisputed “King of the Road.” One thing you should keep in mind, though, pay your fare in coins in the morning (unless you’re paying for everyone in the jeepney). You wouldn’t want to earn the ire of the driver at 8 a.m.
10. Know where to sit in the tricycle
A tricycle is a motorized carriage that can fit five to six people including the driver. If you’re a huge male foreigner, you may want to sit at the back of the driver. The inside carriage is typically for women and children. That’s an unwritten law.
11. The overloading buses
Buses are usually overloaded during rush hour in the metro. By “overloaded,” that leaves only the roof unoccupied. It’s all about timing. Avoid this mode of transportation (at all costs!) during morning and afternoon rush hours. Better yet, opt for a condo lifestyle where offices, schools, and entertainment spots are just a walk away.
12. Separate train carriages
The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) connects cities in NCR. It’s a preferred mode of transportation for millions of city workers. It’s affordable and convenient. Be aware that there are separate carriages for women and young children. If you’re a man and you fail to notice the signs, expect irritated stares from female passengers.
13. Extended banking hours
Filipinos love being in malls. It doesn’t matter if they don’t buy anything. The mall is the ultimate reprieve from the stresses of daily living. The country’s largest mall operator recognized this, thus, it purchased a bank and opened branches in malls. You don’t need to rush to the bank during office hours. You can take your sweet time and pay your bills on weekends.
14. Beware of cashless ATM days
Filipinos celebrate a lot of holidays. On long weekends, families usually go to malls, drive out of town or host parties in their homes. This means a large demand for cash. You’ll find long queues for ATMs a couple of days before the breaks, leaving these machines drained during holidays.
15. Long weekends
Each year, Filipinos celebrate more than 20 local and national holidays. The Christmas season is the longest, followed by the Holy Week. Many families visit relatives in provinces, leading to mass migrations during long weekends.
16. Your (very) friendly neighborhood
They say that there’s no serial killer in the Philippines. It’s just impossible to plan and execute a murder when your neighbors know you all too well, including your first love and most embarrassing experiences. Communities, especially in the countryside, are close-knit. Get used to calling every older neighbor “uncle” or “aunt.”
17. Sharing your graces
Every town in the Philippines celebrates at least one fiesta. The tradition came from the Spanish conquistadors who used merriment as a way to introduce Christianity to the natives. In rural areas, households cook their specialties and invite people, including strangers, to share their blessings.
18. “Let’s eat!”
Accepting an invitation to the dining table is not always expected. You’re bound to accept it if it’s a fiesta, but not on any regular day. It’s customary for Filipinos to invite visitors during mealtime to share their food. It’s second nature. You, however, are not expected to join in. Politely decline and take your leave.
19. The afternoon siesta
Siesta is another word for catching a nap after lunch. Filipinos inherited this practice from the Spaniards who lounge for a couple of hours in the afternoon. In offices, workers are given a one-hour lunch break and two 15-minute coffee breaks.
20. Welcome to a coffee-loving nation!
Whether it’s raining cats and dogs or scorching hot outside, Filipinos never miss out on their cup of hot coffee anytime of the day. One favorite topic during these coffee-drinking sessions either at home or at work is politics. It’s almost automatic: the aromatic caffeine triggers the political button in a Filipino’s brain.
Filipinos, as most Asians, have an undying love affair with karaoke. You may need to buy your own karaoke set when your friends come over.
21. Beer, beer, everywhere
One of the largest corporations in the country is a beer manufacturer. Filipinos pride themselves of having the best tasting beers in the world (and dishes that go well with this beverage).
22. Karaoke, every time and everywhere
With beer and karaoke, you’d have everything you need for the weekend.
23. Yes, you can own (some) properties
As a general rule, foreigners cannot own real properties in the Philippines. The exemptions are through hereditary succession and when the property is a condo unit. A top-notch condo in Quezon City, Viera Residences, is a top choice among expats.
24. Be careful where you light up
Most public areas in the NCR allows smoking, although certain places such as hospitals, indoor restaurants, and schools prohibit it. Before lighting up in provincial areas, better ask people if there’s a local ordinance against public smoking. Foreigner or not, you can get fined for smoking in the wrong places.
25. Flag ceremony inside cinemas
The Philippine national anthem plays before the first and the last screening of movies in cinemas, every day. You don’t need to sing along, though no one’s stopping you. Just stand as the song plays on.
26. The growing tipping culture
There’s no law mandating tipping anywhere in the country. However, it’s encouraged especially in the hospitality sector. Ten percent of the total bill as a tip is recommended.
27. Valentine’s Day fever all year round
Don’t be surprised if you’ll hear Air Supply belting out in radios on Sundays. Filipinos are a romantic bunch. Love songs, romantic movies and anything sappy is a big hit in the country.
28. Passion for sports
Filipinos love basketball, boxing and recently, football or soccer. Their passion is feverish especially when the game involves fellow countrymen competing abroad.
29. Numerous languages, various religions
There are more than a hundred languages in the Philippines and even more religious groups. Lucky for you, English commonly used in the country. The Philippines is dominantly Catholic but there’s a huge Muslim population as well as massive churches of other religions. You’ll be amazed by the rich diversity of peoples and beliefs in the country.
30. Keep a journal of jokes
Filipinos are fun-loving people. Laughter is a language everyone understands. The people is one of the compelling reasons to move to the Philippines. You’ll gain friends even if you don’t want to, you’d sing even if you can’t carry a tune, and you’d share a joke or two in any occasion.
Every destination has its good and bad side. The Philippines is not an exemption. The weather is not always postcard material and the infrastructure can be frustrating, even aggravating at times. One thing remains constant, though, and it is the Filipinos’ sunny disposition amid poverty, political turmoil and natural disasters.