My Experience as an Expat in the Philippines

Ever since I was a kid I had always dreamed of finding a job that would allow me to travel the world and see new places regularly. By the time I was fresh out of a British university with a degree in International Business, I thought I had set myself up very well for this and started working for a multinational company that I believed had the potential to send me off somewhere in the near future. I wasn’t fussed where it was going to be, all I knew was that I wanted to see new places and experience new cultures. The first two years of employment were frustrating – I hadn’t even left the country for work, until a unique opportunity arose which would allow me to not only travel abroad for work, but actually transfer there on a three year contract. I jumped at the opportunity and that is how I ended up in the Philippines. Here are some of my experiences from the perspective of a British male, moving to the Philippines as an expat.

We are paid better, much better than the locals

I was by no means anywhere top of the food chain, yet since my salary was being paid in Pounds, and I had local colleagues doing the same job as me, I found out very quickly about the huge gulf in compensation. Without going into too much detail, I was paid around triple what my just-as-talented colleague was earning, for pretty much the same job.

The work culture is different, even though it is the same company

Thanks to my cross-cultural awareness class in university, I was expecting differences in culture, but it was strikingly obvious within the first day. Sure, the management were mainly foreigners, but as the majority of the employees were local, the culture inevitably was based around theirs. There is a much more formal respect when communicating with your superiors or those older than you, and certainly more obedience. However, this meant some of the work went a bit slower as the employees didn’t feel the need, or wanted to take the initiative, to make decisions without their superior’s approval. For me, slow decision making could just as bad as making the wrong decision, but not here.

Technology is just about keeping up

I have been used to using room booking systems in the office for the best part of the decade, and to come into a supposedly modern office and find that meetings were still booked manually seemed incredibly inefficient. While there are many things within the office comparable to working in the UK, this stood out for me like a sore thumb. I guess they still like the human interaction here, or from what I’ve seen of the country so far, they need to create employment, and the cost of labour is cheap enough to still be an incentive not to change.

You are treated better – at least to your face

You wouldn’t believe the type of welcome and respect I have received from security guards, store assistants and locals in general, compared to some of my local colleagues. Granted, these customer facing positions always seem to show respect to whoever they deal with, but it all felt very new to me – being treated with respect rather than suspicion – a great thing about the culture here compared to the UK.

My time as an expat in the Philippines is not yet over, but I would just like to share my personal experiences so far. It has been great, and I would recommend jumping at any opportunity that would allow you to gain a new perspective of the world.