An Expat’s Guide to Settling in Metro Manila


Have you just been assigned to the Philippines? Whether you’re a diplomat, an executive at a multinational, or an entrepreneur with business interests in Asia’s new rising dragon, this article can help you adjust to life in Metro Manila.

Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is a bustling cosmopolitan district, filled with skyscrapers, a dynamic night life, and more shopping centers per square inch than most people are used to! If you’re used to city life, you’ll feel immediately feel right at home.


Filipinos are one of the nicest, most sincere people in the world.

 What is the culture like?

In one word: “friendly.” Filipinos are one of the nicest, most sincere people in the world. Even office environments have that family atmosphere, and it’s not uncommon for people to start a conversation in the corridors, or flash a smile in an elevator. Everyone is polite, although this can mean that they will be hesitant to give negative feedback. Eventually you will pick up the subtle cues and the roundabout way of delivering a “no”. This can be confusing if you’re used to being straightforward, but just remember it’s a cultural quirk. Filipinos are just very cautious about hurting people’s feelings!

How can I learn the language?

Luckily, most Filipinos speak English very fluently, so you won’t have any trouble with the language barrier. The Filipino language is similar to Spanish and Malay, and conversational Filipino has many English words and phrases. Filipinos also tend to be very expressive so the facial cues and gestures can often give enough context cues as to what they are saying. Friendly people will also be more than happy to translate and teach you phrases — they are quite flattered when you say you want to learn!

Can I buy property? 

Under Philippine law, foreigners can’t own land in the Philippines. However, they can buy condo units, and these are actually ideal for the expat lifestyle. Within Metro Manila, the most dynamic real estate area to invest in is Bonifacio Global City. The area is being touted as the next business capital, and has one of the most ideal locations–minutes away from Ortigas, Makati, and the NAIA airport. Real estate giant Megaworld has also infused billions of pesos into The Fort to create world-class townships that include residential units, premium office spaces, and shopping and recreational establishments. Expats who have already bought units in the first phase of Megaworld at The Fort’s condominiums add that the area is perfect for foreigners.

Bonifacio Global City has considerably less traffic and pollution than the rest of Metro Manila. It is also quieter, and has a private suburban atmosphere even if it is in the middle of such a busy city.

Megaworld townships are designed in such a way that the residential buildings are within walking distance of restaurants and malls.

What kind of schools and hospitals are in Metro Manila? 

Expats can expect to find world-class health care and private international schools, many of which are within a short drive from the properties of Megaworld Corporation. “I was honestly surprised at all the options I had for schools. Aside from the international schools, I found there were a good number of smaller progressive schools that followed the latest, and more creative curriculums, as well as Catholic and Christian schools that incorporated values and faith into everyday lessons. Parents can really decide according to their priorities, especially when these schools are all conveniently within the Fort area.”

St. Luke’s Medical Center is one of the most advanced medical facilities in the country. There are specialists from every field, many of whom have trained abroad. Aside from hospitals, there are also specialty clinics that focus on vision and hearing, physical therapy, and other medical issues.

How much is the cost of living?

For less than two thousand dollars a month, an expat can already live like a king. Food is quite cheap by international standards, and many foreigners are surprised at how they can already dine at a good restaurant for less than ten dollars a head. Megaworld townships are designed in such a way that the residential buildings are within walking distance of restaurants and malls, so expats have a full “buffet” of dining options: different cuisines, a wide price range, and even fast food chains that deliver meals to your doorstep.

Electricity is the most expensive commodity, but other household expenses — such as hiring household help or a driver — are affordable enough for expats to be able to afford. Staff can then handle the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other chores. Condos are even easier to maintain: the security, grounds maintenance and world-class recreational facilities are covered by the dues, reducing the need to hire private household staff.

How do I prepare to settle in Metro Manila?

Finding a condo is as simple as checking the real estate developer’s website, such as, where some of the most attractive developments in Metro Manila are listed.

Andrew Lauchengco

Author: Andrew Lauchengco


Andrew is the current Marketing Communications Associate of Megaworld at the Fort focusing on brand development, content management, project execution, and digital marketing. He is a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Development, and earned his post-graduate diploma in Industrial Relations at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Andrew is also an active musician in the local independent scene and is a martial arts enthusiast.

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