Its a very good question and one I think about a lot. When you first arrive in the Philippines your thrown back by the greenery and blue waters as the plane dropped below clouds. You rush to meet your partner and quickly find chaos as you enter the Philippines bustle and turmoil of the streets. It gives you a funny feeling of adventure and newness of things you have never seen before. Shanty towns and street vendors, the multi-cabs and Jeepneys, the “hey joe`s” and the smiling faces. On top of that hit on by beautiful women nearly every day are you in paradise? You have experienced the Philippines from the tourist perspective what happens when the shine comes off…
I was recently having a discussion with a friend of mine over school fees as a school in Talisay tried to double charge him on fees purely because he was a foreigner. It resulted in a dispute where he withdrew his kids and is teaching them at home. If your forced to do such things with the most important things in life to give your kids a head start I can see why I would up and leave. At the same time illness had taken hold and had taken several doctors for him to get the correct diagnosis. Two major factors in life here in the Philippines when they go wrong.
Then there is the racism aspect with overcharging which is “expected” and when you refuse its laughed off as if its fine by the people trying to do it. Could be something as simple as bananas from a market or trying to get you to pay double on buying a car because you are a “foreigner you can afford it”.
Truth of the matter is you have to adapt but some people I have spoken to recently are starting to look at other countries that are willing to give them a better break on medical care and visas as well as home ownership.
There are tips on getting the most out of the Philippines and a lot of it may seem a bit extreme but its the only way to keep your costs down. Firstly is when doing business you need someone local as switched on as you as this makes a big difference in getting things done and cheaply. You sit in the background and let things get done around you just keeping financial controls in place that can keep you in the know and the ability to adapt to changing markets. Construction work can be difficult for many but the best way to do it is do it yourself. Hiring staff isn’t a problem and the structures are pretty simple infact you could get a design thrown together for your house construction by a local architect for not a lot of money. But personally I think its important to monitor your own projects same as the UK as simply there are too many rogues in the building trade worldwide also means you get it done the way you want.
Buying and selling is another problem. Buying a house in the Philippines with your partner you just don’t need the realtors as they hike up the price and not by a small amount they generally work on percentages so doubling the cost of a house gives them double the interest doesn’t matter you paid P2m for a P1m house right? your the foreigner you can afford it! Its that last line I use a lot in my head as it tells you to tell them to get lost. Filipinos don’t like being called stupid and I don’t like people assuming I’m a dumb foreigner who its fine to steal from.
So how do you find your property? Personally the easiest way I found is wander around or ask an expat like myself to look for you. I have found apartments for people before as rentals because generally I would advise nobody to buy for at least 6 months due to location issues and the fact you may not like it in the Philippines. Its easy to buy a house but hard to sell unless you want to take a loss. I have friends who have had houses on the market for a couple of years. The reason its better asking me to find an apartment btw is purely because if I ever did charge commission I would tell you up front but so far I have done it to help out friends I have here needing tenants for free. But as my pocket gets a little thinner it maybe time to start looking at it as an alternative venture. Difference is though you will no doubt save on the monthly rental as I will try to get it at “local” prices rather than the fees being charged to foreigners.
Buying your daily produce gets easier over time what you need to do is find the local prices which takes time but once you have it you will find market vendors will give you a local rate because your there regular on top of that if they do try to overcharge just say “Mahal” (expensive) with a disgruntled face and walk away or try bartering as often bartering is expected. The supermarkets are labelled etc. so no worries there just avoid places like Gaisano for electrical products as they breakdown very quickly and your just burning money. Better to head into Makro or the main malls for appliances. You will pay more but the difference is years not weeks on product life.
So why move to the Philippines? for me its personal reasons my wife and daughter are here as well as Aprils parents. I’m very interested in developing business and although Asia is full of fast growing economies I find the Philippines isn’t jumping in to get a slice of the pie. Is there money to be made? definitely but can you imagine a furniture maker turning you down because “they don’t want anymore business?” that is exactly happened with a business I approached in Cebu for Export. So if you are looking for running an export business you are better to approach companies in Taiwan and China as they are prepared to do most of the leg work for you.
I may sound a bit harsh on the Philippines but it is a country that isn’t so welcoming to the Foreigner and I cant see it changing. Ideally the Philippines should build in a property ownership and visa combination where if you own a property you don’t need a visa. The “employment” visa for foreigners that was brought in last year was a stepping stone but still doesn’t reach the same rights that Filipinos have or that foreigners seek. But its not just the Philippines generally Asia has a lot of laws that are anti-foreign for which we can only blame our home countries as they could just as easily enforce changes in the UK etc. that would force change. I wonder what India and China would do finding out its operations in the UK would be treated the same way as they treat UK Citizens and ventures in India and China? Will it ever happen I doubt it as the UK government has no spine and too much personal gain for those in power.