Who are you?
My name is Kate and my boyfriend’s name is John. Together we are Kate & John Travel Abroad.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We currently live in Angeles City, in the Philippines. We moved here a month ago from Florida. We wanted to take advantage of the attractive exchange rate in the Philippines and planned to live here permanently. We have now decided we would like to see more of the world and plan to stay here for one more month before we head to our next destination.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Oh, there were plenty of challenges. Where do I even start with that question? We traveled here with our nine-month-old puppy, Piper. That was a huge challenge: Gathering together tons of paperwork, getting vaccines for him and having to change our flight a number of times because we didn’t have the proper documentation. None of the requirements or rules are posted online to give you a blueprint of what to prepare. You just take it one step at a time and figure it out on your own.
Another big challenge that could have potentially been a deal breaker was our medication. We are both take daily medication and receiving medication abroad is difficult. Fortunately, the pharmacies here in the Philippines allow you to buy your medicine over the counter.
Did you need to obtain a visa, residency permit or work permit? What was the process like?
The Philippines actually allows Americans into their country without a visa, so we did not have to go through that process. If you plan to stay here permanently then you should be prepared to apply for a visa. You can arrive in the Philippines without it and then apply for it locally, which I hear is a lot easier than doing it while still in your home country.
How does the cost of living compare with your previous country?
The cost of living is extremely different. We were able to rent a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment for about $300.00USD per month. In the United States, you would normally have to pay over $1000.00USD per month for a two-bedroom apartment, that’s NOT furnished! My boyfriend and I can go out to eat fast food and pay about $12-$15USD for both of us. In the US we spend about $25-$30USD anytime we eat out.
Is it easy to open and use an account with a local bank?
As far as a bank account here in the Philippines, we found the process extremely difficult. So difficult that we decided to just use our US bank accounts. The banks here want you to have a relative that is from the Philippines or for you to become a permanent resident. You have to show a lot of documents, such as a visa, a utility bill in your name, and proof of where you are currently keeping your money. Since we are currently staying in an Airbnb, we do not have any utility bills, and since we’re only here temporarily, we have not obtained a visa, so we skipped the banking process.
Before we arrived in the Philippines, we researched different hotels and airbnbs for temporary housing until we could get settled in a more permanent place. We decided on a hotel for the first two weeks. We booked through Hotels.com because we felt comfortable using this familiar website. We heard about a lot of scams in the Philippines, so we felt good knowing Hotels.com would protect our money if we had to get a refund for any reason.
After two weeks, we moved into a condo. It’s a one-bedroom condo through Airbnb. The process was very similar to booking at home in the US. You pay for the Airbnb through the app, you show up on check in day and take ownership of the property. If you would like to rent a house for a cheaper price through the locals, that’s also very easy. You just have to make friends and talk to people.
Are there many other expats in your area?
In the Philippines, there are an estimated 100,000 expats that have moved here permanently. Compared to the population of the Philippines that’s not a huge amount, but I’ve noticed pretty much anywhere we go, we see fellow Americans walking around.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I love to go out to local restaurants and talk to the locals about what they do for work, what foods they like to eat, where they live and just their overall lifestyle. I feel that the only real way to fit in here is to get to know some locals and allow them to help you. You don’t have to make friends with everyone you meet, but you shouldn’t hide out in your house either. If you have questions about something or you get lost, find a local Filipino and they will be more than happy to help!
What do you like about life where you are?
I like how cheap everything is. I like the freedom I experience here by being able to work from home and focus on my craft, which is video creating and editing. I love how many water activities there are to do. We’ve seen dolphins and sea turtles while snorkelling here! I enjoy the different foods and drinks that are served here. Everything is a new experience.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
If I am 100% honest, there are quite a few things I don’t care for here. Number one is the traffic. The traffic is horrible. The main mode of transportation here are mopeds and electric scooters. There are so many of these on the road that there is hardly any room for vehicles. Driving two miles away from your house can take 30 minutes or more. It’s terrible.
I also don’t find it easy to use the internet here in the Philippines. The Wi-Fi servers are overloaded, and no matter what kind of Wi-Fi you have, it seems to run extremely slowly. I can get a good connection between certain times of the day when most people are at work and sometimes in the night when most people are asleep. Being a content creator, this has been the biggest challenge for me.
The last thing I’ll mention is the poverty level. I heard a lot of other expats on YouTube and blogs talking about the poverty level and how you should prepare yourself to lower your standards of living. I didn’t take this very seriously, because I’ve travelled throughout the US and felt that I’d seen it all. That’s not the case. There are small children and sometimes babies sleeping on the streets by themselves. Children walking around with no shoes and no shirts begging for money. It really pains my heart. 99% of the houses in the Philippines do not have air conditioning or hot water. I thought I was prepared to experience this type of poverty, but I wasn’t, and I experienced culture shock for the first two weeks. I still experience it now when I see certain things.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Like I just touched on in the last question, the lack of hot water and AC is shocking. I am from Florida where it gets very hot, and I could not imagine going without AC. Unfortunately, that is not the reality here in the Philippines. The temperatures are comparable to Florida, but you have to pay extra and really look for a rental home that has AC. The homes that do have AC are usually a window unit or just a room style air conditioner. They do not have central heating and air here at all.
Another cultural difference that I would say has been a big change for me is the showers. There are no bathtubs, and most people here shower with cold water using a spicket and a bucket. This is not the case when you pay for a hotel or Airbnb. but that is what’s common here in the homes of Filipinos. This is a normal thing here, and it’s normal in their day-to-day life, but back in the US that’s very uncommon.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
If I had to give advice to anyone traveling anywhere abroad, I would tell them to make sure they do plenty of research. I would also tell them to research their research. Everything you read on the internet and see on YouTube is not always true, so you have to double and triple check things. I realised that I had been misinformed about a lot of the things that I had thought I was prepared for following my research on the Philippines. I would definitely tell people to be prepared for major changes if they’ve never been outside of their home country. It’s very easy to experience culture shock and want to run back home, but try to stick with it. Try to remember why you started your journey in the first place. And lastly, don’t let fear influence your decisions. You can do anything in life that you want to do, you just have to work hard and stick to your plan. Never give up and always follow through until the end.
What are your plans for the future?
Thank you for the interview and for allowing me to share my story. Hopefully this interview will help people looking to travel or move abroad! If anyone wants to subscribe to my YouTube, you can find me at Kate & John Travel Abroad.
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