Here’s the Hard Truth About Migrating to Another Country

Post-election, the search query “migrate” jumped from ~10 searches a day to about 100 searches from the close of polls on the 13th of May to the following day. Twitter was also on fire in the Philippines with tweets about migrating.

WhenInManila Migrate

I fully understand the frustration the ordinary Filipino goes through on a daily basis. Before migrating to another country four years ago, I was an ordinary citizen.

I worked. I commuted. I paid taxes. I had a monthly amortization on my house. I was born in the Philippines and I have given birth to a daughter in the same country. I also tried running a business and have gone through all of the difficulties that went with it. I have gone through all of the problems a normal citizen goes through. So, in all aspects, I am probably much like you and where you are today. Yes, you. The ordinary Filipino.

I left for New Zealand with my family in 2015. I was recently back in the Mother Land for a week and was once again reminded of the many reasons I left in the first place. In New Zealand, healthcare and education for my 7-year-old daughter are free. Basic services such as electricity, water, and communications can be connected with a click of a mouse with minimal wait time and at affordable prices. Transportation is well-organized and you can get to your destination without a hitch (with usually no more than 30 minutes spent in traffic).

On my recent trip back to the Philippines, I attempted to get Internet connected for my property. Lo and behold, it took three attempts and several cancellations from the ISP; and to date, it still hasn’t been connected. Yet, like me, many Filipinos do not have a choice in the matter. The oligopoly of only having three major providers leaves you to accept whatever unreasonable services they provide. For even the most basic of needs, Filipinos have to fight tooth and nail to get the services they deserve.

Basically, there are many reasons why some Filipinos choose to migrate to other countries. I don’t blame them. I love the Philippines with all my heart, but sometimes you just want something better.

What not everyone understands, though, is how complicated migration actually is, and what it really entails. Here are my top 5 tips of what you need to achieve in the Philippines before you migrate:

5. Move out of your parents’ house.

Buy your own house -- advice before migrating

Nothing will prepare you for independent life in another country like the responsibility of running your own house. Whether you purchase your own house and pay a monthly amortization, or you rent a property; the weight of making monthly payments to a bank or a landlord are pretty much the same. Missing out on payments can mean being evicted.

4. Learn how to cook.

WhenInManila Learn to Cook

In the Philippines, you are spoilt for choice. At every corner, you will find a restaurant or a fast food chain that will satisfy your hunger without burning a hole through your wallet. This is not always the case when you live in another country, though. Sometimes, the choices are limited and if you eat out often, you could burn through your budget pretty quickly. Cooking your own food is an essential skill you will need to survive in another country.

3. Budget your money well.

WhenInManila Learn to Budget

If you are an employee, chances are you already have a bank account. Are you maintaining it like you should, though? If you tend to zero out your bank balance before your next payday, you’re definitely overspending somewhere. This is not a good thing. Credit is highly regarded in other countries. This includes how well you use your credit cards and how well you balance your bank accounts (in other words: don’t go into overdraft too often!). Great budgeting skills is also necessary, so you have enough money for rent and food.

2. Do things yourself.

Househelp or a yaya for the kids are things you will dreadfully miss should you decide to pack your bags and leave the comfort of the Philippines. You will not be able to afford the kind of help you have now and you must learn to do everything yourself – from preparing your own breakfast to taking care of your kid/s.

1. Be willing to take on any job.

Let’s face it: that degree that you earned or the 15 years of work experience you have could end up meaning absolutely squat in other countries. If you want to start earning money right away, you need to be humble enough to start from the bottom and work your way up. Many Filipinos – even those that are already doctors, lawyers and engineers – end up doing work that is far from what they were doing in our own country. They take on caregiving jobs, become dishwashers in restaurants, or drive an Uber to make ends meet. This isn’t always the case, but it is for hundreds of immigrants.

On top of all of this, keeping your sanity in check is always a concern. It is lonely being in another country. Even with your family, you will feel the sadness. You won’t be able to go out with your friends. You won’t be able to enjoy Christmas songs that start as soon as the -ber months kick in. And the food in the Philippines simply cannot be compared to those in other countries. Prepare yourself mentally for this, as well.

Before you consider migrating to another country, let’s be realistic. Are you physically and mentally capable of taking on all the challenges that come with it? Migration entails a lot of sacrifices and you need to understand all these before you fully commit to it.