From migrant to expat lifestyle on a shoestring budget


When people from western cultures leave their home countries to find work elsewhere, they're called "expats". But when those from the developing world take jobs abroad, they're labelled as "migrant workers". The Philippine government even has an official term for its diaspora: "Overseas Filipino Workers".

Surely, the status of "worker" is frowned upon over the "expat" who could socialize with locals, enjoy the sights and sounds that the destination country has to offer, and treat themselves to the good life. It shouldn't be the case that Filipinos typecast themselves as mere workers bonded to their employment contracts.

With a dash of imagination, getting around and learning about your host country could also be inexpensive. Here are some tips on how you can enjoy expat lifestyle abroad without spending more than the cost of a day's meal. Take a pick of a hat to wear:

Culinary Connoisseur

Block off a weekend without cooking adobo: hunt for traditional dishes instead. Forget fancy restaurants and go where the locals eat. For authentic local flavor, favor the street-side fares over the chain stores. If adventurous enough, try the notorious delicacies (such as stinky tofus or casu marzus) to seal your global gourmand status.


Back in Manila, you get to see non-Hollywood foreign movies only in occasional film festivals and in bootleg DVDs. You're now practically dealing with cinema obscura. Watch any movie in the vernacular. Just buy a ticket, and go in without any expectation. Even if you don't understand a single conversation, get carried away by the narrative and visuals.

Civilian adventurer

History is enshrined in memorial halls, monuments, and public parks. Bask in the country's past glory by knowing a bit about its heroes and statesmen, especially those whose names are now associated with places. You don't have to travel far to get to a landmark as every community has a pride of its own (perhaps an ancestral house that dates back to a century?). Whether it's a public art museum or a monument, take a guilt-free selfie as a stamp of your tourist trail.

Culture Vulture

A country's soul is reflected in its art. Who says you need to be a millionaire to be considered an arts patron? A few bucks spent on art would trickle down to the artist as royalty. So pick a book by a local author, visit an art exhibit, or catch a live theatrical or musical performance. A good art experience will make you reflect on life's big questions, such as when you will be ready to return to your roots.

Current Events Opinionator

You're connected to WiFi 24/7, but when did you last check the local buzz? Hopefully there's readily available English newspaper that you can read. It's a window to politics, sports, entertainment and more that are shaping your host country. Knowing the basics is a great conversation starter with locals. And who knows, you might even get your next lead for free concerts or lectures in the classified ads.

Which of these profiles fit you best? Share your recent experience as a Filipino expat!


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