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Living in the Philippines: 5 Common Questions Answered

The Philippines is an increasingly popular place for people seeking work abroad. Whether managing the booming business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector, seeking employment in an international school or volunteering for a non-government organisation, there’s a growing number of families and individuals settling down to live and work in the country.

Relocating to another country can be a daunting task since you have to adapt to a different environment and culture. Knowing what to expect helps adjust quicker.

If you’re planning to live in the Philippines, here are the answers to five common questions asked by expats.

Where do I live?

According to the 2015 population census, almost 12.8 million people reside in Metro Manila, the country’s capital which is composed of a combination of cities in the National Capital Region. The cities are composed of urban centres where rent is higher than in most provinces.

The central business districts in Metro Manila offer a variety of residential areas that cater to different family sizes and lifestyles. Accommodation options range from apartments to houses and lofts.

In some cases, your employer in the Philippines will take care of your accommodation. If you’re on your own, seek suggestions from friends and colleagues who have experience in the country. Make transactions only with reliable agents.

How do I get around?

Living near to your workplace is recommended, as the roads are congested and the transport system is underdeveloped. The cheapest and most used form of transportation is the jeepney, which is ubiquitous in many parts of the Philippines. Other options are the buses and the light rail system in Metro Manila (namely, LRT-1, LRT-2 and MRT-3), although overcrowding is common during rush hour. Pricier alternatives to getting around the area are cabs, as well as cars and motorbikes hailed through the ride-sharing app Grab.

How much is the cost of living?

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The cost of living in the Philippines is more affordable than in Asian countries like Hong Kong and Singapore. How much you need depends on your lifestyle and location. If you’re planning to work in Metro Manila, expect the cost of living to be more expensive than elsewhere in the country.

Do I need to learn the language?

The Philippines’ official language is Filipino, although each region has a dialect of its own. The majority in Metro Manila speak Tagalog. Dialects from other parts of the Philippines include Cebuano, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan and Waray. However, many Filipinos are proficient in English, so you won’t have problems when asking for directions. Picking up basic Filipino, however, goes a long way in understanding what’s going on around you and in gaining acceptance from the locals.

What’s the medical care like?

Many public hospitals are available throughout the country, although state-of-the-art facilities and the best doctors work in private hospitals in urban centres. Filipinos enjoy a healthcare plan called PhilHealth which reduces their medical bills. For foreign workers, it’s better to check health insurance arrangements with their employer before coming out, or shop around online for the best options if no health coverage is offered.

The Philippines is an attractive place for expats because of the low cost of living, friendly people, business opportunities and pristine island getaways. If you’re planning to move to the country, it helps to understand some cultural norms and basic phrases so that you can adjust quickly. That way, you can focus on enjoying your stay and making most of the opportunities available.