Manila, Philippines Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Manila, Philippines

Manila, Philippines 05/19/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First true expat experience but have lived in France and Japan for shorter stints.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Southern California, USA. There is a direct flight to LAX from Manila that is 14 hours, and you can connect to most major US international airports through Tokyo.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing varies. We are in a comfortable 3-bedroom high-rise apartment, but we know several expat families who are in houses. Commute times vary widely but for the U.S. Embassy are awful from where we are. I found a driving route to my son's school 1 mile away that takes only 20 minutes in normal traffic. If you go the wrong way it can take 45 minutes. Plan on traffic taking twice as long as you think it should at first.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cost is higher. If you shop at the warehouse shopping here (S&R) the prices are slightly better. Almost everything is available; you just may pay more for goods. I do much shopping on Amazon for anything I don't need right away.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

It varies; today I need wrapping paper. If you have small kids it seems like you will go to 20 birthday parties per year. More U.S. meds would have been helpful; they are available here, but you purchase by the pill so you don't really have a medicine cabinet. Dishwasher detergent seems to be scarce and expensive.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is any food here that you could want except Mexican. Food Panda is a delivery service that delivers several of the restaurants here. Lots of options for eating out both fast food and local.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Even though we live in a high rise ants seem to find their way in. The building recommends chemical treatment that we will do when we are not in the unit.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I get most of my mail through the US Embassy and haven't gotten local mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expats typically employ one household helper and a driver. Salaries for either is generally less than 400 USD/month. Experienced drivers seem harder to come by but there are lots of helpers/nannies available. Most housing options have helper's quarters but live-out is readily available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

We have a workout room in our apartment complex (as most do) but there are several private clubs around. Price varies. I work with a personal trainer who charges about 15 USD/session.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It is really much easier to use cash here. Credit cards are accepted for most things though it takes longer to process international credit cards. ATMs are common and at most banks. I have not had a problem with it.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

The Philippines is 90%+ Christian/mostly Catholic. There are services everywhere. Most malls have a place for Mass. Protestant services are not as easy to find. Most services are in English/Tagalog. I don't have experience with other religions and have not seen temples.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is an official language, so if you speak English only you are fine, though you can run into a few situations where it is difficult. There are options to learn Tagalog and I have picked up a few words, but it really isn't necessary.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, but they would not be insurmountable. Just by pushing a stroller around there are lots of places that I could see someone getting into a jam.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis and Grab are safe and affordable. Uber pulled out of the Philippines earlier this year. I paid for an hour-long ride to another suburb and it was maybe 6 USD. There are abundant jeepneys, some buses and some trains. Public transportation is crowded but affordable, but expats are discouraged from using them. Renting a car for your own use is expensive but doable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

There are all kinds of cars here, but Asian makes have the most service options/parts available. Bring something that you don't mind it getting scratched up. European cars are harder to service. Fuel economy is going to be bad here. Filling a standard tank costs about US$60-70 but you don't do it often. Hybrids would be helpful but there are no charging stations for electric vehicles. There are no tow services here; we broke down and had to push the car to the side of the road. There is an auto club equivalent but we haven't gotten it. Driving here is challenging; signs and lines on the road are guidelines rather than rules. I would recommend getting a driver at first to understand the rhythm of the traffic.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, and is generally good. It took about one month to install internet and it cost 300 USD.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are two providers, Globe and Smart, who have plans or prepay as you go. For 20 USD/month I have unlimited data. Calls are inexpensive but it's a pain when you run out of load. My unlocked iPhone works fine.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, I have heard that there are good vets but we haven't needed one yet. I don't know about kennel services. Animals need a series of vaccinations and a certificate of good health but do not need to be quarantined if they have all the requirements. This seems like it is a harder place for dogs - if you aren't in a house the pavement gets very hot when walking and there aren't too many dog-friendly places.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Spouses here have a variety of jobs, some with embassies, some in education, some telecommuting. For the most part, working on the local economy is not lucrative.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons of volunteer opportunities. There are several international associations that provide for fundraising opportunities and also hands-on community activities. There are also volunteer opportunities through churches and schools. It took me about one month to find ways to volunteer here.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work varies from business casual to suits. Public places is also a range. Formal dressing is not required for anything except formal events. For women in the workplace stockings are not required but closed-toe shoes seem to be preferred at work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

As with all posts you need to be aware of surroundings but I have not personally been concerned for my physical safety in the neighborhood where I live. I am also not out at night a lot. There are areas that you should avoid. I have had friends who have been pickpocketed and had things stolen, but not often. Children appear to work in teams to pickpocket.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I think that TB and dengue have a higher incidence here but I have not had personal experience with either. There is excellent and inexpensive care here. Medevac is not required for normal childbirth. Specialist doctors have walk-in clinic hours and are not are expensive. You can buy glasses/contacts without a current prescription if you know what it is.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is moderate to bad. Air quality could lead to congestion or a cough that tends to linger. The pollen seems to be year-round for those who suffer. It is very dry here; I drink a lot more water here than I have before.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's rarely cool. Temps are always high. This year the dry season has started in March but we still get showers, and that's when it tends to get hotter. Rainy season begins in July and lasts until October or so, and there can be flooding of the side streets and the houses.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

International School Manila is available, but enrollment does fill up for certain grades. My only experience has been elementary, which is great. There are several extracurricular activities and the students generally thrive. Other options include British School Manila, Brent, the Korean school, and local schools as well.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschools and day care are available. I can't speak to the price or to before or after school care, but most people use their household helpers for small children. There are programs such as Gymboree, Little Gym and Kindermusik that are pricey for the area.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, there is soccer and T-ball/baseball available, swimming, gymnastics, dance, rugby, horseback riding, and golf. I'm sure there are others.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

From what I understand this is a really large expat community. Morale is good, the frustration at local quirks (mostly traffic) seems to go in waves and everyone understands but it doesn't hit everyone at the same time.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of clubs through Facebook, through schools, through Ma'am Manila, AWCP, BWA, ANZA and Damas Latinas. Apartment buildings have their own social activities. It's not hard to find a social outlet here.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's definitely good for families. Having kids is a good inroad to other families for socializing. I have heard it is not as good a city for expat singles but that is based on a small sample size. I think couples would find plenty to do.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Ethnic and religious prejudices are there but I haven't felt them. Gender equality is not so much noticeable among expats but among locals yes. I know several local professional women, but when it gets to domestic help, helpers are almost always women and drivers are almost always men. I get some looks for driving my car myself.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The highlights are the people (very friendly) and the time to get out. We have taken weekend trips to Boracay, Bohol, and Tagaytay - you can find very cool experiences outside of the city. Air travel is easy and relatively cheap. While living here, we have gone to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malyasia, and Indonesia very easily.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you have kids there are tons of fun things: Mind Museum, Bounce parks, Kidzania, Kidzooona, DreamPlay, and Ocean Park. The Farm at San Benito is a nice getaway, a vegan spa, two hours out of town.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really a shopping post - prices are high and you will be charged an expat price. AWCP has a monthly bazaar that features local vendors. Modern shops are here but are higher priced.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

People are friendly, inexpensive and experienced household help, modern conveniences, English readily understood and spoken, the schools are great, it's easy to travel other places.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Biking is hard in the city but doable. Winter clothes are not really necessary unless you take a trip to China or Japan during the winter months or drive up to Baguio, but even then layers are fine.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, as it will take you longer to do things and get places than it does other places. Summer clothes and sunscreen are a must.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I'd read the blogs - amommaabroad has a wealth of solid information.

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Manila, Philippines 02/25/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First overseas work experience, but previous study abroad in both Europe and Latin America.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Boston, which is literally on the other side of the globe from Manila. If you’re flying on USG orders, the official routes are usually via Tokyo or Hong Kong. If you are flying on your own dime, though, you can also take (slightly) faster routes via LA/SFO on Philippine Airlines, or via one of the hubs in the Middle East. No matter what route you take, any trip to the eastern half of the U.S. will take 24-26 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy personnel are housed in one of four areas. Embassy/Seafront compound: primarily families with very young kids; it’s a tight-knit community with a short commute, but there’s very little to do in the immediate area other than what’s going on at the compound itself.



Makati: good mix of singles, childless couples, and family with kids; it’s a longer commute, but there are tons of restaurants and shopping in the area; however, it’s also much more spread out than the other neighborhoods, so it’s hard to have a strong sense of your community.



BGC/Fort Bonifacio: primarily families with school-age kids, given the proximity to ISM and BSM; most of whom are clustered in a few large high-rise buildings, making for great satellite communities; however, this is the farthest neighborhood from the Embassy, so the commute ranges from long to brutal, depending on traffic.



Makati Villages: usually older and larger families; single-family homes, surrounded by roads where you can walk your dog, and each with reasonable green space; but the houses are spread out from one another and make it very hard to build ties with other families in the area. Housing is fairly nice across the board, but things can be tough for families who end up assigned to a neighborhood that doesn’t fit their family size/structure.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Nearly everything is available here, as long as you’re willing to look for it, although cost can vary considerably. Local fruit and rice are dirt cheap and good quality. Local vegetables and eggs/meat/fish are also cheap, but quality varies wildly depending on when and where you shop. Dairy can be expensive, as Filipino food doesn’t use a lot of milk, and Filipinos (like other Asians) are often lactose intolerant. Food that’s imported from the US or Europe – berries, cheese, beef, turkey, salmon - can be prohibitively expensive, although S&R (the local big-box grocery) or one of the boutique shops will occasionally have a deal. Embassy personnel also have access to the DPO, so in the outside chance you can’t find something, you can order it from Amazon or Walmart.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Diapers, if you’re in that phase of life, because they can be difficult to find in bulk. Most toiletries are available, although if you really want a specific brand or type (especially feminine products), you’ll want to ship those in advance.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Most American fast-food chains are represented here, and most deliver, and the larger local chains (Jollibee, Max’s, Pancake House) are on par or better, quality-wise, with their American competitors. The fine dining scene is definitely a notch below the other big Asian capitals, but Makati and the Fort compensate for that with a wide range of good-quality options. We’ve also had a lot of fun eating out as a family, since all but the very nicest restaurants are casual attire, kid-friendly, and cheaper than their equivalent in the US. Filipino food is definitely an acquired taste, and if you never come around, there are plenty of other things to choose from.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing more than what we expected for a tropical city.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Local postal facilities are not reliable, although the local private couriers (e.g., Air21) seem to do a decent job. Embassy personnel also have access to the DPO, which is reasonably fast (8-10 business days from the US on average, although that can depend on the vendor). Some of the international couriers (e.g., DHL) operate here too, but they often have trouble delivering to places outside the larger cities.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is widely available. The cost ranges a bit, depending on hours, experience, and English fluency, but $300-400/month is the usual ballpark for salary and benefits.



Drivers are very common here, because they reduce the stress of driving in local traffic, and are also indispensable for simple errands that (if you did them on your own) could take hours in that traffic– getting gas, oil changes, pickups and drop-offs, etc.



Many families also have a housekeeper/nanny of some type, ranging from full-time yayas (exclusively nannies), to part-time cooks/maids, to “all around” helpers that cook, clean and babysit as needed. Employers seem to be evenly divided among those with live-in and live-out help; it’s simply a matter of your (and the employee’s) preference.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a small gym on the main Embassy compound, and another on the Seafront compound, both free for employees. Many of the high-rise residential buildings also have small/medium gyms for residents. If you need something more, Makati and the Fort both also have private gyms available for varying membership fees.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are usually fine at large hotels, restaurants and high-end shopping malls, particularly in the larger expat neighborhoods. ATMs at the high-end malls and large bank branches are also generally safe. Once you get outside Manila and the major beach-resort areas, however, the Philippines is a cash economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

85-90% of the country is Catholic, and because English is widely spoken, you can attend mass in thousands of churches/chapels around the city (even in the bigger malls have chapels). Most of the major Protestant denominations are represented as well, if you look hard enough, and there are several good-sized mosques.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. Many locals speak English fluently, and most understand enough for day-to-day interactions.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Aside from the Embassy compound, and the nicer parts of Makati/BGC, this would be a hard place for someone with physical disabilities. Sidewalks, ramps, and elevators are rare, and the roads aren’t very kind to pedestrians.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All are affordable, but safety can be a question mark. Taking a taxi from a stand at the airport or a large mall/hotel is general safe (assuming good situational awareness); whereas flagging down a taxi can lead to scams or worse; in all cases, be sure to insist that the driver use the meter.



Uber and Lyft are widely available in Manila, and usually reliable, all they are barred from picking up customers at the airport.



Local bus service, to the extent it exists, is provided by the legendary jeepneys – which are known for their chaotic driving, and are periodically targeted by pickpockets and armed robbers. The light-rail system, which is limited to Makati and the university districts, can be dangerously overcrowded, and is also a frequent target for pickpockets. Embassy personnel are prohibited from taking the light-rail and jeepneys in Manila.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Almost any car would work in Manila, although a car with low clearance would be hard to drive on certain side roads and/or during heavy rains. Expect a few dings and dents during your time here, given the traffic. It can be easier to find parts for Asian-made models, but you can get most major brands serviced here without much hassle.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet access varies wildly depending on your specific residence. The Filipino telecommunications infrastructure lags behind some of the other countries in the region, so speed and cost can vary wildly. Some buildings offer fiber-optic connections, with comparable speed to the US, for $100-125/month. Other buildings are DSL only, however, with much lower speed (although at lower cost). Installation times vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on what your residence already has in place.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

As with internet access, cell phone coverage varies wildly across Manila (and the country as a whole). Globe and Smart dominate the market, and locals usually settle for whichever offers less poor coverage in their home neighborhood – or just buy a phone with two SIM slots, and get a number for each carrier. That said, prepaid service is very popular in the Philippines, and, once you learn how the pricing plans work, it’s possible to pay 75-80% less for service here than in the US. As a rule, texting is significantly cheaper than voice or data, so texting is the dominant form of communication across all levels of society.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No direct experience, although we’re not aware of any quarantine restrictions. This isn’t the greatest place for a dog, because of the heat/humidity/lack of green space, but we know many families (both local and expat) who have happy dogs. Many apartment buildings also have strict rules about dogs (e.g., must wear muzzles on the elevators), and many household employees are terrified of dogs, so keep that in mind when looking for housing and/or staff.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Traditionally, there have been dozens of EFM jobs at the Embassy, although the January 2017 hiring freeze will undoubtedly have an impact on this. In theory, given the prevalence of English, and the bilateral work agreement, spouses can work on the local economy – but it can take a long time to get your foot in the door. That said, the State Department’s Global Employment Advisor is currently based in Manila, so there’s been a recent uptick in opportunities for Embassy spouses on the local economy. Telecommuting is also a possibility, assuming you have good internet in your home, and can overcome the significant time difference with the US.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Endless opportunities, although scam artists have taken an interest in the volunteer community. If you do choose to volunteer with an organization, particularly a lesser known one, make sure you’ve done appropriate due diligence (and, for Embassy personnel, consulted with CLO and/or RSO about any concerns).

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Embassy dress code ranges from business casual to suits, depending on your agency and section. The local business community is somewhat less formal than the US, largely due to the hot weather, although it’s not uncommon to see businessmen in a suit and tie. Filipino men also frequently wear a "barong tagalog" for business dress, and it’s perfectly acceptable for expats to do the same (even for Embassy employees).

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Makati and the Fort are very safe, relative to the rest of Manila, such that the major concerns are pickpocketing and other urban crimes of opportunity. Other neighborhoods can be more dangerous, in some cases exacerbated by the recent escalation in anti-drug enforcement, and it’s inadvisable to wander too far from the major expat neighborhoods after dark and/or by yourself.



Both the US and UK governments have also issued security advisories relating to terrorist activity in the Philippines, although terror incidents have historically been concentrated in Mindanao and a few other regions well away from Manila. As with most big cities, situational awareness goes a long way – and we feel no less safe here than we do in Washington or Boston.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Watch what you eat, particularly off the expat/tourist track, as hygiene and food storage practices can vary wildly from place to place. Manila (and much of the Philippines) is at low-risk for malaria, so we don’t need prophylactics. Dengue is a problem in much of the country. We got rabies shots on top of the usual tropical vaccines, as there are lots of stray dogs running around.



Dental care is high-quality and much less expensive than in the US. Private medical facilities – particularly in Makati and the Fort – are of reasonably good quality, and many women choose to give birth here; however, Embassy personnel are usually medivaced to Singapore for more complicated medical issues.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The biggest source of air pollution here is car exhaust, and on a day-to-day basis, the air quality doesn’t feel much different than a big, humid city in US (think Houston or Atlanta in July). However, unlike in the US, the wind and rain never seem to clear the crud out of the air – it just lingers and lingers without a break. It will take a toll on you the longer you’re here, and it’s good to escape Manila every few months.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

See above. You can survive here with moderate asthma or seasonal allergies, but two years of cruddy air will take its toll on you. Food allergies are a mixed bag. Restaurants do a poor job of listing ingredients, so don’t assume anything from the menu alone. However, if you speak up before ordering, most restaurants/hotels are happy to accommodate well-known food allergies (e.g., nuts and shellfish) – as long as you’re crystal clear about exactly what you can and can’t eat. One extra cautionary note: many hospitals do not have EpiPens readily available, so be sure to bring a few with you.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

None, aside from what you’d expect from living in the overcrowded capital of a developing country.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are three seasons here. The hot-dry season (or “summer” to the locals) runs from mid-March to mid-June, and can be brutal. The rainy season follows, from mid-June to early November, and features heavy afternoon thunderstorms rather than constant rain.



The cool-dry season, from mid-November to mid-March, is quite pleasant, particularly when compared to the other two seasons – with temperatures even dropping to the upper 70s (low 20s Celsius) at night, to the point that it’s nice enough to eat dinner at an outdoor table. Typhoons can arrive at any time, although they are most common during the rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Schools are a strength here. The International School of Manila (ISM) is the most popular choice for Embassy families, but there are plenty of other international schools to choose from: Brent School, British School Manila, Kings School, etc. We have had a great experience with ISM, but most of the families we know are happy with their school of choice. That said, nearly all kids face a long ride to school because of traffic, so your housing choice may influence your school choice (or vice versa).

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

No direct experience. ISM can accommodate some types of special needs, and they continue to invest in their capabilities. Colleagues dealing with more significant learning disabilities have also had good experiences with One World School (which focuses exclusively on special needs students).

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

ISM (and, as far as we know, the other schools) all have great after-school activity programs – see question below. For those with younger kids, there are many options for preschool. The Embassy has a well-organized preschool for the three- and four-year old Diplokid contingent, and there are a number of other preschools scattered around the expat neighborhoods. ISM and some of the other international schools also offer preschool programs, although these are very expensive. Tuition costs range wildly, depending on which program you choose. Day care programs don’t really exist, at least in the same way as the US, because yayas are so common.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

ISM offers a ton of after-school activities - ranging from soccer, to table tennis, to wall climbing, to tap dance, to Mandarin – and also has active Boy and Girl Scout programs. Private swimming and music lessons are readily available in many buildings/neighborhoods, although you might need to ask around. Our kids have had plenty to do here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The overall expat community is massive. The US embassy is large, by itself, and several other countries have a good-sized presence here. The Asian Development Bank is also headquartered here, and there are many multinational offices in Makati/BGC. Morale is generally good among expats, although frustrations over traffic/infrastructure can wear on anyone over time.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you look hard enough, virtually all types of social groups are here, and dozens of ways to get together. The Embassy community is huge, so there are always new people to meet, and there are thousands of other expats (both US and non-US) if you want to break out of the Embassy circle.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles (particularly men) would be fine here, as there are thousands of expats, a well-established club scene, and plenty of available dance partners. This is also a great city for families with younger kids, as so many things are kid-friendly, and there’s a fair amount for the 6-12 set to do. This can be a good city for couples and families with older kids, too, but location is important: if you live in a more isolated area, it can be hard for the non-working spouse and/or older kids to socialize.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No direct experience, but it seems like it would be. Aside from the ban on gay marriage, which seems to be a nod to their Catholic heritage, the majority of Filipinos support (or at least happily tolerate) LGBT rights. Openly gay relationships are common, and reports of significant LGBT discrimination are rare.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Outside of Mindanao and the far southern parts of the country, there don’t seem to be many problems with religious/ethnic tensions, or gender discrimination. The Philippines has seen two female presidents in the past 30 years, the current VP (and several other prominent politicians) are female, and women are generally well represented along the economic ladder.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We’ve had a great tour here. Bohol and Palawan were as beautiful as advertised. And, although Manila isn’t always the easiest place to live, we’ve enjoyed watching our kids learn to ride on a trapeze, go ice skating in July, experience the wacky festivals on BGC High Street (Shih Tzu Parade, anyone?), sample Korean barbecue and Japanese ramen, etc. It’s fairly easy to have fun here, despite the traffic, dirt and other frustrations.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beaches are amazing, and offer something for everyone. Boracay has the best party scene; Bohol is paradise for families; Palawan is wild and rustic; and there are dozens of others. Corregidor is an easy day trip, and a must do for Americans and WWII buffs. Mount Pinatubo is a challenging trek, but also a fun (albeit long) day trip if you’re physically fit. Baguio and Tagaytay are nice mountain getaways a few hours away from the smog and heat of Manila. And there are plenty of other unique attractions like Sagada (hanging coffins), Banue (rice terraces), and Donsol (whale sharks).

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

It depends on your definition of “shopping.” The large malls are fantastic, and if you’re into mall walking or window shopping, you’ll really love it here. Handicrafts are a bit harder to find, although you can get great deals on pearls at Greenhills and some of the other budget malls, and some of our friends have found decent wood products in the provinces. (Be forewarned: this is a tropical country, so make sure any wood products are kiln-dried before you buy them.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Makati and BGC, in particular, have a lot of afternoon-length activities for families, if you know where to look in the malls. Ice skating, trapeze, trampoline park, bowling, several top-flight movie theaters (including 4DX and 3D iMax), go karts, quirky museums, KidZania, romper-room gyms – you name it, and often at half the cost of in the U.S.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The importance of geography. Traffic ranges from “a drag” to “soul-crushing,” and it makes it really difficult to get anywhere. We’ve made a lot of good friends here, but most of them live within walking distance of our apartment. BGC and Makati are only a mile or two apart, yet traveling from one to the other can take 1-2 hours in bad traffic. For the same reason, there aren’t a lot of easy day trips around Manila (other than Corregidor), because a 10-15 mile trip up the road could turn into an hours-long odyssey.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. This has been a great two-year tour, and Manila has largely been a great fit for our family. We've been really happy with ISM and our housing, and our kids are very happy here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, unless you’re planning a trip well outside of SE Asia. Leather clothing/bags, because they can go moldy fast in the humidity.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines, book by Stanley Karnow


Jose Rizal, a 1998 Filipino biopic about one of the founding fathers of the modern Philippines

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you’re traveling with a large family, this can get expensive if you do it too often (since you need to fly everywhere), but Manila is a great hub for touring the rest of SE Asia. Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are all just a few hours away, and are generally great locations for short family vacations. Japan, Korea and eastern China are also easily accessible from here, and there are even discounted flights to Australia and New Zealand.

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Manila, Philippines 07/30/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. We have lived in several cities, mainly in eastern Europe and Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From Washington DC, the standard State Department route takes about 30 hours. There are a few direct flights from Manila to the U.S. (Guam, CA, NYC) but most flights pass through Japan or Singapore.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service Employee assigned to the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are three housing options: high rise apartments in the uptown neighborhoods of Makati and Fort Bonafacio, and government owned apartments and townhouses on the Embassy "Seafront" Compound located downtown. A few high ranking officers or those with very large families live in houses within uptown gated communities. We lived at Seafront in an apartment.



The houses and high rises are posh. Generally three or more bedrooms and spacious living and dining rooms which are great for entertaining. Kitchens are large, and some buildings have separate entrances and elevators for domestic staff. Fort Bonafacio is a little ritzier than Makati, but both have a wealth of dining and shopping options. Most high rises feature the same sort of facilities you'd expect in DC corporate housing (basic gym, pool, lounge, etc.) Both are also about the same distance from the Embassy. Without traffic the commute could be as little as 15 minutes, however rush-hour commutes generally average about an hour, much more if its raining.



Seafront is a walled compound about half the size of the Foreign Service Institute located two miles south of the embassy. Embassy housing takes up about 1/3 of the compound. GSO offices and warehouses take up the rest. There is a large pool (and kiddie pool), playground, well equipped gym, tennis, squash, racquetball, and basketball courts. There is also a dog run and small grassy field. The compound is guarded by local hire security. Entering the compound requires going through the same security procedures as entering the embassy.



The embassy-run daycare is located on Seafront, and that combined with the other kid friendly amenities makes it popular with folks who have young children. Singles and socialites tend not to like living on the compound. Housing is some of the smallest and oldest we've come across in the Foreign Service but is well maintained.



The biggest selling point for Seafront is its proximity to the embassy. Our two-mile commute is generally around 15 minutes and only once or twice has been more than 30. There is a small computer lab with Open Net computers which is open 24/7.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Prices are generally comparable to what you would pay in the States. There are a number of high-end grocery stores in Makati and Fort Bonofacio but unless you live in the Fort most grocery options will require a short drive. Seafront is close to a Sam's Club and Super Wal-mart type groceries. Substantial savings on fruits, vegetables, and local seafood are possible if you (or a domestic) shop at local markets. Good beef and dairy are tough to find and cost accordingly. The same goes for non-local seafood. Good bread is almost impossible to find outside of the Fort.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Good flour and other grains. Electronics are very expensive on the local market.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Makati and the Fort have an abundance of nice restaurants. Almost anything can be delivered by third-party delivery services and the same sort of fast food take-out that is popular in the U.S. is popular here. Seafront is located in a much poorer part of town and walkable options are few, however a major mall, some all you can eat buffets, and a few high end hotel restaurants are all within a 10 minute taxi ride.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

You will have bugs. They aren't that bad.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has a DPO and the diplomatic pouch. Postal facilities are the best we've come across in the Foreign Service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very inexpensive. Nearly everyone with kids employs a "yaya" (nanny), who often double as housekeepers while the kids are at school or camp. Most people employ drivers.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are expensive. A lot of people use the gyms at the Embassy and at Seafront (open to non-Seafront residents as long as they are a member of the American Recreation Club, which almost everyone is).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are accepted throughout Manila. In principle they are also accepted in most hotels outside Manila but our experience was that the card readers often did not work. We'd recommend you always have large cash reserves while traveling.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

A large variety of Catholic, Protestant, and LDS services. Manila has several Mosques and at least one Synagogue.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with just English, but if you want to have a meaningful conversation with anyone outside the top 15% you need Tagalog. That being said, the top 15% all live in Makati or the Fort. Most Filipinos speak some English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Someone with disabilities would have a tough time here. Accomodation is limited, and rare outside Manila. Post has done a lot of research on this topic. Consider reaching out if you have questions.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Embassy employees are not allowed to take mass transit within Manila and are discouraged from taking it outside Manila. In reality bus or "jeepney" is the only way of getting around in the more remote areas. Our experience is that they were fine. Taxis are inexpensive and plentiful in Manila, as are motorcycle tricycles for short distances.



Do be careful with ferries. Unless you limit yourself to the most popular tourist destinations you're going to have to take them at some point. There are a number of well-regarded carriers and some dodgy ones. Wherever there is a ferry service there is generally also a fisherman with a small "banka" or pumpboat offering to take you for half the rate or twice the speed. We'd advise against it. Ferry disasters are not infrequent. Consult with RSO before you take a trip involving a ferry, but take what they say with a grain of salt.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car is fine. Traffic in Manila is horrendous, but the roads are pretty good. The nature of the countryside means most people don't do much driving outside of Manila except for the occasional trip north to Baguio or Ilocos. All residences have garages.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is available, but a headache. There is only one service provider, its a little bit on the steep side, and customer service is negligible. Fortunately the embassy Customer Care Center does a good job of helping employees navigate the process.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We used a local, pre-paid plan. Most people seem to do the same.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, and they come to your home. A house call costs about $20. No quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

EFM employment is tough everywhere. The situation in Manila is probably better than most places outside of EUR or WHA. The embassy is huge (approx. 1300 employees) and has one of the biggest consular sections in the world. As a result a lot of EFMs get jobs on post as rovers, fingerprinters, consular adjudicators, and the like. Several spouses (including in our family) have managed to find full or part-time employment in the private or education sector. There is a State Department Global Employment Advisor resident to post.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a lot of volunteer opportunities. Interestingly, due to the shared history of our two countries there are several well established charitable organizations that draw largely from the American expat community (the largest in the world after Canada and Mexico) and work closely with the embassy.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Most Consular, PAS, and USAID officers wear business casual. The local dress shirt, or "barong," is popular with male employees. Most other sections tend to wear business attire. The good news is that a normal barong is viewed locally as the same as business attire, while a nice pineapple cloth barong (about $100) is equivalent to black-tie. Formal attire events are frequent. When held inside most Filipinos and about 1/3 of the expats will wear a dress barong. When held outside a barong is the rule.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Only official travel to Mindanao is authorized. Most officers can wheedle their way into traveling to Mindanao at least once during a tour but for EFMs that means about 1/3 of the country is off-limits. Al Queda and ISIS type outfits exist in the far south of the country and kidnap foreigners. There is a superannuated communist insurgency that theoretically has a presence in all provinces outside Metro Manila. There is the potential for things to go south quickly, but all in all we've felt very safe here. We've traveled frequently (including to Mindanao) and have not experienced any problems. We have not found crime to be a problem, but have not frequented the dodgier parts of town.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Mosquito born diseased like dengue or chicken ganya get an officer or two every year. Medical care is excellent, but unless you live in the Fort, traffic means a heart attack is likely to kill you long before you get to a hospital. There is a well-equipped medical unit on Seafront that is able to take care of most regular needs. Our family had one hospitalization at the recommended hospital. The care was excellent and inexpensive.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is bad. Not as bad as China or India, but worse than most other places. Expect a lot of sniffles and allergies.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not that we know of. It may seem counterintuitive but isolation can be a problem. Traffic is bad enough that you will generally only socialize with those in your neighborhood. Singles and socialites should lobby hard for Makati or the Fort.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot and humid in the summer, generally pleasant during the winters. Monsoon rains in the summer are like snow storms in NYC. They happen regularly, occasionally close work and school for a day, but everything gets back to normal the day after.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several excellent international schools in Manila. Most are in the Fort.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

We can't speak to this personally, but we have a number of colleagues with special needs children and they seem to like the post.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, especially in the Fort of Makati. At Seafront the American Recreation Club does an OK job of providing some activities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge, particularly Americans. Morale is high.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are as many options are you are likely to find anywhere outside of Western Europe. Fraternal organizations are still popular here, as are charitable and other groups. A number of clubs have club houses with nice facilities available to members.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This city is great for everyone. As mentioned before singles and socialites probably want to avoid Seafront.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably as good as you're going to get in SE Asia. The country is devoutly Catholic but has a large LGBT population. There are a lot of gay couples at post and they seem to like it.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really. White people are a treat outside of Manila, black people especially so. Expect to have rustics yell "Hey Joe" when they see a non-Asian walking around. It's well intentioned and harkens back to the WWII era. Filipinos are possibly the friendliest people on earth, and during our time here we have observed very little overt prejudice. There is some tension between Catholics and Muslims but it is not overt.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Snorkeling/Scuba at Apo Island. The rice terraces in Ifugao. Being marooned on sleep Bantayan Island. The Philippines is a great post. Manila can be a grind, but the provinces are fantastic. Regional travel is cheap and easy.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Great snorkeling and scuba is only 3 hours from Manila via car and ferry in Puerta Galera. Take the CLO whale shark tour. If you're not scuba certified become certified, or at least try it once to see if you like it.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not really. There is some interesting fabric.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

For a Asian megalopolis you can do much worse.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The traffic is truly appalling, and gets worse by the month.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock and bugs spray.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"In Our Image" by Stanley Karnow.

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Manila, Philippines 01/28/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, though I have traveled abroad many times, including to developing countries.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC, I'm not sure what the official route is, as I visited family on my way over. I think it's typically through Detroit or Chicago and takes about 25-30 hours. I flew Emirates for a trip to the States and it took 22 hours which was nice.

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3. How long have you lived here?

9 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of government employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly high rise apartments or houses in villages, then there are the unlucky few who get housed at the embassy housing compound in townhouses and apartments.

Commute time can vary from 20 minutes to two hours depending on where you live. Traffic is horrible, even worse than I could have ever imagined. It can take over an hour and a half to travel 2 miles. People typically hire a driver because the driving is chaotic, dangerous, and mentally draining/stressful.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Hire a helper to go to the market for fruits and veggies, you'll age a lot. If you're picky and need American brand, you'll spend a lot of money. Otherwise I'd say it's on par with the States or maybe more expensive for day to day items. I order a lot of snacks on Amazon.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bug spray with DEET

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There's lots of fast food, I don't eat fast food though so I have no idea the cost.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lots of mosquitos, Dengue can be a problem.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very affordable. I haven't had any issues with finding a reliable helper, but apparently it can be a problem.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes they are available, though they aren't that much cheaper than the States. The embassy gym isn't bad.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cash economy. Internet is down a lot so credit card machines don't work. I try to only take money out at the embassy or nice neighborhoods at well known banks. I have had my credit card info stolen once since being here, but I noticed immediately so it wasn't an issue.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I assume Catholic, but not sure.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It helps, I was told none, but I wish I had taken the FAST course, would make day to day life a bit easier.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, would not recommend. Sidewalks are almost nonexistent, and if there are in place they are not handicap accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I don't think we are supposed to take trains or buses. Taxis are ok, but make sure they turn the meter on. I usually stick to uber, it's cheap and there is a GPS so there is less confusion with getting to the destination.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

High clearance vehicle, SUV. Toyota is good since there are lots of Toyota dealerships here to get the parts needed. If you don't have high clearance the rainy season will be tough.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Only in a couple buildings, otherwise it is a daily struggle to load something and it often shuts down for days at a time.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Pay as you go sim is easy to find and affordable. 20USD for 30 days internet.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Nope, great medical care for pets, inexpensive, and they come to your house.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

You can find jobs and I know lots of EFMs who have found work in their career field, but not making a US salary.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty, lots of opportunity and need.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual. It's hot so people wear the local dress clothes which are a bit cooler.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Depends where you live. In the more upscale neighborhoods and villages, not so much. If you're on the embassy housing compound, you don't want to walk around that neighborhood at night, especially as a woman.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality. I, personally, wouldn't want to get any serious medical work done here. I know two people who have had common procedures with horrible outcomes. I would probably fly to Singapore for that.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Pretty bad. The jeepneys, trikes, and buses blow out black smoke at all times. I've considered getting a scooter, but the idea of breathing all that in make me reconsider.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Food illness is common.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, hot, hot and humid all year long. Dry season from November-April and wet season from May-October. Nicest time of year is December-February. When it rains, it pours and the city is not set up to handle all the wonder. There is constant and severe flooding on the roads during rainy Season making the already horrible traffic even worse.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Apparently the schools are great, but I wouldn't know. I've heard they're a draw to Manila for lots of families.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There's a preschool on the US embassy compound, no idea how easy it is to get into, as I have no experience. Yaya's (helpers/nanny's) are affordable and common.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, I think the morale for families is high. They usually live in the nice villages and have good schools. Bit lower for singles and spouses on the compound as it can be very secluded.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars and restaurants in the nicer communities, dinner, drinks, go to the mall. There are concerts and little things you can find if you try.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it's best for families, maybe ok for couples if they don't live on the US embassy housing compound, and horrible for singles. The traffic makes it difficult to get motivation to go out, it can take so long to get to the final destination that it's not worth it. It would normally be faster to walk, but there aren't sidewalks in many places so, it's not really an option. It's even harder from the embassy compound since it's so far from the nice neighborhoods, but it's very dull and boring there, so it'd be best to have a family or someone you don't mind spending LOTS of time with.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yah, while it is religious, people seem to be pretty open minded about this.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

This is a very religious country, but I haven't experienced these problems.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Getting out of Manila to enjoy the beach. Can hop on a quick flight over to Palawan, Bohol, or Boracay and be in paradise. Also starting to find some fun hikes and trips out of the city.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

get out of Manila. Drive to batangas to chill on the beach, Taal for a nice view and good food, Baguio for cooler weather, a couple hikes somewhat nearby. That being said, nearby or in the area is a loose term, it can take a long time to get anywhere, but it's doable. You can find some good food if you ask around or hire a cook

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Hand crafted wood and pearls.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Driving to beaches to go diving, hiking, travel to other countries in the region. Warm weather all year long.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, especially if you don't take trips. But you should definitely take trips, they're worth it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How much of an effect the traffic has on your accessibility to social things. On a map things appear close, but travel time is horrendous. The people are nice, but there can still be a feeling of being an outsider even if you work on the local economy. the beaches really are AMAZING

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably not.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter jacket.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen

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Manila, Philippines 01/05/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is the 10th country I've lived in.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. The official route to the U. S. is via Narita and either Minneapolis or Detroit (approximately 24 hours in total).

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Commutes are simply horrendous. I've never experienced anything like it. Housing varies from single-family homes in "villages" to high-rise apartments. Maintenance of the residences is a significant problem in the Philippines and, at any given time, facilities such as elevators and air conditioners are out of service with no timeline for repair. The power and water go out fairly regularly.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Restaurants tend to be less expensive than in the U. S., while supermarkets are on a par with U. S. prices. However, imported items often cost significantly more than in the U. S. (cheese and other dairy products, for example). Unhealthy additives are also widespread. For example, MSG in grocery items, and sugar added to most brands of milk. I find grocery shopping disheartening in Manila.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Healthy snacks.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Filipino food tends to be laden with grease and sugar, and many Westerners find it unappealing, particularly in comparison with other Southeast Asian cuisines. Many Western chain restaurants are available, particularly fast food outlets. It's difficult to find healthy and appetizing Filipino food. In fact, Filipinos have the highest rate of diabetes of any country in the world.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There will be cockroaches and ants in your home, no matter how clean your place is. Dengue fever (transmitted through mosquitoes) is a significant problem in Manila.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO through the U. S. Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is very affordable. Many people go through several helpers before finding a reliable person, but the affordability of household help is a major draw to this post.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are some in town, but the machines are often poorly maintained. I'm not sure of the cost there. (The U. S. Embassy has quite a nice gym).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit card and ATM frauds are a problem. Upscale locales do accept cards, but their machines are often down, even at large hotels. In general, it's a cash-based economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are facilities for most major Christian denominations. The most widely practiced ones locally are Roman Catholics and Church of Christ.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is widely spoken, although it is often pretty basic. Misunderstandings frequently occur when expats think that someone replying "yes" to a question actually agrees with them, when they are really just expressing that understand the question.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Absolutely. Sidewalks are broken or nonexistent in many parts of the city, and elevators, where they exist, are often out of service.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains and buses are often very time-consuming ways of getting around. But they are affordable at approximately USD$0.50 per ride. Most foreigners choose to take Uber or Grab Taxi.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I primarily use Uber, which is affordable and fairly reliable. Grab Taxi is also available. Metered taxis circulate throughout the city and are supposed to use meters. But drivers often try to overcharge foreigners, and seat belts are usually not available. I've had the best luck with Uber.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but the network service is very frequently down. This is a huge frustration for many expats. Internet costs approximately $55 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

SIM cards are readily available and affordable. Phone and internet servicare is absolutely dismal.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I have heard of variable experiences. Most expats report more difficulty finding employment than expected.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, in a variety of sectors.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual, with a focus on light layers due to the constant heat and humidity.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty theft and low-grade harassment are more frequent concerns than violence in Manila, although there are many neighborhoods that you should avoid walking in, especially after dark. Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death, and walking in Manila (with the exception of a couple of upscale neighborhoods and the villages) poses a real danger due to speeding vehicles and severe traffic congestion.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Generally decent medical care. Health concerns include poor air quality, frequent vehicle accidents, and mosquito-borne illnesses.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very poor. At street level in particular, the jeepney fumes and car exhaust are very unhealthy.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Labeling of ingredients is often erroneous, and restaurant staff usually do not know what a dish contains. Even commercial products often have incorrect labels. Seasonal allergies are exacerbated by the poor air quality.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy for half of the year (usually a couple of dozen typhoons pass through per year, causing various amounts of flooding in the city) and dry for the other half of the year. It's hot and humid at all times, with the coolest season in Dec-Feb and the hottest March-May.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Families report positive experiences with the schools (I have no personal experience with them). . .the schools are a big draw for a Manila posting.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but I have no personal experience with them.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, though the various schools.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large but segregated. Morale is decent, although the traffic and daily frustrations put a damper on morale.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Restaurants and weekend trips. Unfortunately, the traffic really cuts down on social life. This impacts singles in particular.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good for families and single men, decent for couples, and terrible for single women.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

This is a VERY religious country. Foreigners in general are treated well, though men more so than women.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Beach trips to scenic locales. Unfortunately, though, approximately 90% of domestic flights are delayed, often significantly, putting a major damper on weekend travel in this country of 7,107 islands.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Weekend trips to the beach or to dive, and restaurants. The extreme traffic puts a major damper on socializing and getting out to explore. Many people seem to spend inordinate amounts of time at home since the traffic is so cumbersome.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Manila is overrun with malls, most of which don't have anything interesting or unusual. Weekend travel can be appealing when traffic jams and flight delays aren't too extreme.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Affordable household help.

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10. Can you save money?

It depends. Groceries and weekend travel get expensive, but household help is very affordable. So, realistically, the cost of living depends on your lifestyle. Families tend to do best here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The traffic and disparate neighborhoods cause the quality of life in Manila to be quite poor.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely not.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes, sense of punctuality, and expectations of functionality.

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4. But don't forget your:

patience, patience, patience.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Life in Manila is more fatiguing and frustrating than I ever could have imagined.

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Manila, Philippines 01/04/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US State Department

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I buy groceries about once a week for a family of 4 (with lots of fruit) for about 100 bucks.
Weekend farmers' markets in Salcedo and in Legazpi villages are usually more expensive than the stores.
Tomatoes here are usually not very good, and if they are good they are very expensive.
Chicken and pork are cheapest kinds of meat. Overall, there are several different chains of grocery stores, including a Costo-type S&R and a super-nice deli (Santi's) with European meats and wine.

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2. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Boxes and boxes of cereal and real maple syrup. Grocery stores have different cereals, but they are considerably more expensive than in the States. The same goes for maple syrup.

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3. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are impossible, unbearable, and just pure evil. They are small and noiseless, so I cannot hear them attack me!
I do not go outside without a mosquito repellent, especially during the rainy season because so many people we know have had dengue fever.
Watch our for monstrous cockroaches and ticks.


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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The best way to hire a helper is through a direct recommendation from someone you know. Prices vary.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

One ATM stole my credit card; just sucked it in and never gave it back to me.
And somewhere my credit card was copied and then "used" elsewhere by someone else.
So cash is the way to go. Of course, all the malls, restaurants, and shops usually take cards, but taxis do not, and often (outside of Manila) only cash is accepted.

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3. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is everywhere in Manila. I get by without speaking a word of Tagalog.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are very cheap, but drivers do not always speak English, which might be a problem if there is a need to give specific directions.
Also, a taxi drivers is supposed to turn the meter on when he starts going, but several times I had to remind them to do so. Otherwise, they just charge whatever, whatever they think you can pay. Manila has Uber. Uber cars are very easy to deal with, it works great and rather cheap.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It's expensive and it is very slow. But it works most of the time.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine, and yes, there are plenty of vets and good kennels available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I had two jobs on the local economy. Be ready for a lot of paperwork and local salaries.

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Health & Safety:

1. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is not very good.

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2. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid summers and "cool" winters. In February it cools off to lower mid 70s (sometimes).
Mid-April - September are the hottest months.
Rainy season (June - November) can be difficult when Manila's streets flood. Driving is painful then - it takes really long time to get anywhere.
Typhoons of various intensity are regular during the rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several good schools with provided transportation. My kids got to ISM, and it is great.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

International School Manila (ISM) offers a lot of after-school sports activities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

We have two kids. On the hand, Manila can be great for kids because there are tons of places to take them, and every mall has some kind of entertainment/playground for kids. And there are several kid-friendly museums - Kidzania, Oceanarium, Museo Pambata (an interactive museum where my kids tried on national outfits, played inside a "filipino mansion" and did other fun stuff). Also: Dreamplay by Dreamworks, Mall of Asia with an Exploreum and an outdoor amusement park overlooking the bay, the Mind Museum (an interactive science museum), Art in Island, and Fun Farm at Santa Elena, villa Escudera, and StarCity in Tagaytay. I am sure there is something I forgot to mention.
On the other hand, in Manila it can be difficult for kids since to get from point A to point B because of Manila's atrocious traffic. There are not many green spaces in the city, so riding bikes for fun might be a problem, especially for those living in condos.
We live near several nice restaurants and bars, and we frequently go out. From what I understand, there is also a pretty active nightlife in the city.
Overall, I'd say it's good for families, but I don't know much about how singles and couples see it here.

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3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Palawan, Sagada, and Banaue rice terraces, seeing super cute tarsiers in Bohol, eating mangoes non-stop, discovering yellow watermelons, going to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand for vacation.

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4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Two things:
"Hidden Springs" in Laguna, about a 2-hour drive from Manila. It's an absolutely beautiful place with several swimming pools, a waterfall, and good food included in the entry ticket.
"Sonya's Garden" is my favorite massage place. It is in Tagaytay (about a 2-hour drive) and has a very nice, relaxing ambiance. Also. there are some nice restaurants and sightseeing on the way.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls, silver items, and wooden furniture.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

For our family the biggest advantage was ability to travel in the Philippines and Southeast Asia in general. There are some of the nicest beaches in the world here, plenty of scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing opportunities. We took several day and weekend-long trips outside of Manila. There are plenty of things to see and do here.
Traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia from Manila is relatively inexpensive, and very fun.
Eating out in Manila can be cheap, but there are also some very nice (and more expensive) restaurants.
Massages, mani-pedis are also rather inexpensive.
An overwhelming number of malls and all kinds of markets for any budget.
Cheap household help.

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7. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectation of always being in control :)

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3. But don't forget your:

sense of humor and patience. Bring a lot of patience :))
When Filipinos ask you to wait a little, they say: "for a while, ma'am/sir", and this "for a while" can be anywhere from 2 to 42 minutes. So bring lots of patience.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Metro Manila"

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Manila, Philippines 09/18/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, previously Djibouti, Peru, Pakistan, and Qatar.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Northern Virginia. I've taken Air China and Korean Air. I prefer Air China because of the 1 hour layover in Beijing opposed to the 6 hour layover in Korea.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since 2013

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Private sector / Engaged to a Filipina.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

SMDC High rise condos.
Nice homes in sub-divisions.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheap in comparison to the USA. No fresh milk here. Most Asians are lactose-intolerant.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Minor creature comforts. Pillows etc...

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All American restaurants. Japanese and Korean available.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not many just the usual coaches and roaches.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DHL or embassy/ most people use email or Facebook for letters.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very cheap. Like 4-5k pesos a month or to US$80-100/per month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Most are 60-80 pesos a day or $2 per day.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Works great here for most purchases.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Many

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A little will help to make purchases.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes and no. It depends, however Philippines is handicap friendly.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable yes. Usually US$1 or less. Safe no and yes. Since, traffic is usually slow 20mph its safe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

small car will do. Gas saver or Suv. 1 liter of gas is 65 cents.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

buy a local sim

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not sure

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. Teaching English is an option or consultant to tech companies.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty theft and burglary/robbery. Use common sense and you should be fine.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality in Manila is low

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is low. The Particulate Matter in Manila is very bad. I recommend wearing a mask if you ride public transportation.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

none

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot during the daytime. Many Pinoys carry umbrellas to block the sun and prevent themselves from getting darker.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Very good. Didn't use but most schools teach in English.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Available. Never used.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes. I never used them.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No. Basketball and volleyball are available. Filipinos are not generally athletic people/culture.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge expat community all over the place. Mostly former military.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Many

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great city for all of the above. Filipinos are family oriented and very open to taking foreigners.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. Many gays in Manila and a very open gay culture/club scene. Just watch their TV shows and you'll notice the most popular TV show host are transgender. Go figure.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. As with most of Asia the darker you are the worse people treat you. The Philippines is no exception. I imagine people of African descent and people with dark-skin such as Indians or Pakistanis are pre-judged by the locals who base all their opens from popular American movies. Go figure!

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Partying, clubs and Filipinas openness to date foreigners.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Many places to travel. Boracay and Cebu have great beaches.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Everything

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

This city and country is very cheap. You can get most western creature comforts.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes. US$1,000 per month and you will live like a king here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Clubs

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Wife or girlfriend. Just kidding :-)

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4. But don't forget your:

Protection sunscreen etc...

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Jose Rizal national hero

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Great post that many fight over.

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Manila, Philippines 08/03/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our third expat experience with previous posts in the Middle East and Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Our home base is Washington DC. There's a flight to Narita in Tokyo which takes four hours, followed by a fourteen hour direct flight to IAD.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We've been here for one year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

We're here with the U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There's Seafront, a small compound close to our Embassy, high rises and single family homes. The high rises are ideal- low maintenance and convenient to shopping and restaurants. The homes, while surrounded by coveted green space are often isolated. If you hope to be on foot, high rises are the way to go. Apartments span the Metro Manila area form Pasay where the Embassy is located to Makati and then Fort Bonifacio which is closest to the primary international school. Note that if you have a dog, high rises can make it difficult for you to come and go as you'll be required to use the service elevators of your building.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's pricey to live here. We spend the same amount on groceries here as we did in the states. Our helper will sometimes get us better deals at local markets.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Good cereal, natural peanut butter.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Same as the U.S.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There's dengue here and lots of little bugs crawling about.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Via the Embassy mail room.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Great and cheap. We pay ours about US$300 a month full-time.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Our building has a gym so I'm not sure what one would pay locally.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They can be used here almost anywhere, except in the cheaper local cash economy (markets, street vendors etc.)

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is widely spoken.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, there are few sidewalks outside of the Fort.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Nope.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any variety.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, we pay about $100 a month for internet, phone and cable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked one, or buy locally. You can pay as you go, or get a pre-paid plan.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Pets do not need to be quarantined and there is quality pet care here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Sort of. One can hope to find jobs at the Asian Development Bank, Intl. Schools, at an NGO or at the Embassy, if affiliated. I've had no trouble finding work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Every variety. Filipinos needs lots of support.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It's dressy, but men can wear barongs if they choose.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, this is a high-threat post, but I have never felt unsafe. Take precautions as you would in any big city and you'll be fine. Everyone, to include massive numbers of security guards are armed to the teeth.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The health care here is fine, but you will want to seek out care back home if it's something very serious. We've had check-ups, a friend had surgery, but another friend whose daughter had a cardiac issue had a more difficult time finding quality care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's lousy!

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I have seasonal allergies here and I never have before. Bring your meds. Filipinos don't cook with a ton of nuts, but you may have trouble discerning what's in a particular recipe while out to eat.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are three seasons, rainy May-October (hot and humid), winter (cool evenings and 80's during the day) November-February and summer (hot, but no hotter than a DC summer).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are plenty of schools here. Our kids (elementary and high school) attend the International School of Manila which is secular and pretty big so far as intl. schools go. We've loved the IB program. The administration is accessible and attentive, the teachers are awesome and the students tend towards friendly and driven. The majority of the kids are SE Asian and so the high school in particular is very focused on college admittance, but not in a way that's oppressive to the students. After school programs are great. ISM offers everything from tennis to circus skills; some cost a small fee but many are free. Brent is another school which is highly regarded, although there's a Christian curriculum. I've heard great things, but it's far away (about 30 minutes to an hour outside of Metro Manila). There are plenty of other schools around as well. With a little research, you'll find the right school for your kids.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Yes, Brent tends to accept more kids with special needs than ISM does, and there's a school called One World which accepts special needs kids.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes! The Embassy has a preschool and there are others around, from Montessori to pre-school with an academic push.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through school, and privately for more obscure sports, I'm betting at very little expense.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community is large and morale is high.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Going out to dinner is a big thing here. There are tons of malls, and supper clubs as well as movie theaters. Once can ice skate too, or check out a concert. There's a lot to do here. This is a big Asian metropolis. You'll only be limited by traffic.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, good for all.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Great, the Filipinos are very tolerant, although I can't vouch for an active and vibrant gay scene.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I'm aware of.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The main highlight for me has been the lovely Filipinos and the prevalence of English speakers. This would be a very easy first tour as a trailing spouse can easily get around and accomplish basic tasks without having to learn another language. Tagalog is helpful when traveling outside of Metro Manila but you'll always find someone who can speak English.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Day trips to Tagaytay, The Mind Museum, The AWCP bazaar held monthly, weekends in Baguio, "malling, " exploring cool neighborhoods...

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Rattan, wicker, Filipino mahogany, lovely handicrafts, PEARLS.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The Filipinos are lovely people and traveling in the Philippines is not very expensive. There are many beautiful places to see while here to include the chocolate hills of Bohol, beautiful beaches all over the country and lovely countryside on Luzon.

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10. Can you save money?

Maybe, if you don't travel around the country and region or eat out a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That traffic is sometimes a huge impediment to exploration.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, in a heartbeat. The Filipinos are wonderful and communicating is a cinch.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

WInter coat.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Get the Fodor's or Lonely Planet and read up on the history.

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Manila, Philippines 08/02/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. London, Nairobi, Seoul, Jakarta.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

U.S. It's around 24 hours, depending on layovers, connections, final destination, but it's a long haul and there are no U.S. carrier direct flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Nearly two years. Will be here one more.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing comes in all types - houses, apartments, USG-supplied townhouses and apartments - in several areas in the Manila area. Typical commute times from anywhere but the USG-owned complex (which also houses some of the US Embassy offices, like GSO) are long and exacerbated by rain.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Availability is sporadic. "Out of stock, ma'am" is a regular phrase, including of what Americans would think are everyday vegetables. Cost is very high. We just went to the grocery yesterday where local broccoli peaked at over US$6 a pound. While that price is certainly higher than normal, it is difficult to get produce for reasonable prices other than okra, bitter melon, and some local greens. Rainy season is the worst, so that you can count on not eating cauliflower or decent tomatoes, for instance, during that time. Lots of local things like spaghetti sauce have aspertame or MSG added - not something I'm used to eating. Pet food and cat litter are expensive and often low quality.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I shop online a lot to deal with the stuff I can't get. Hair dye other than dark brown or black. Many things due to expense.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food is ubiquitous. There are also some really good nicer restaurants. Price is fairly comparable to the U.S., including the more expensive restaurants being just as expensive.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes with dengue. Ants. Roaches. I've been relying on diatomaceous earth.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available. Okay price wise, I'd say. Our driver is particularly excellent and his base rate is around US$400/month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms everywhere there are expats. Prices are as high as the U.S. In the nicer neighborhoods, the gyms look really nice, but the commute would be impossible from our housing. There is a small gym in the Embassy and a larger one on the Seafront compound.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It's easy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Episcopalian, Catholic, for sure.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. It's nice if you can say thank you, but except for taxis I've never experienced a time when it's been difficult because of local language.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I would guess it would be very hard. The expensive malls have some accommodations but it's erratic. There are wheelchair ramps that appear to be very steep to me. There are steps where you wouldn't expect them.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I didn't find the taxis felt safe, though people have started to use Uber. Taxis are very cheap, which may be why they feel a bit unsafe and worn. Also, taxi drivers are less likely to speak English, so I've had to get out and try again on the side of the road which wasn't a great experience. I haven't tried local trains or buses, partly because they look so grungy, but also I stand out particularly in Asia due to hair and skin tone, so I think I'd be more of a pickpocket/bag snatching target.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We were recommended to bring an SUV because of flooding, and it's made sense. We bought from the local military/diplomatic cars dealer and so far it's been easy to service a new Ford. Many people drive sedans also.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Not very high speed. Ours promises 10Mbs, but it rarely gets that high. Cost is pretty high at around US$85/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

It's easy to get a local SIM put in with renewable charges. Prices aren't that bad. Bring a phone with you if you want a smart phone, though, as prices are high for the equipment. If all you want is a cheap SMS and phone call kind of mobile phone, those are available very cheapy.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. The vets are really pretty good and one good one will make housecalls. We haven't tried kenneling, since our housekeeper is willing to watch the cats.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a lot of volunteer opportunities, from Rotary Club to animal shelters.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Much more casual than I'm used to. Fairly casual barongs are worn at the Embassy and in the malls it is a flip flop and shorts culture.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's higher crime with more guns than other cities in this region. A few years ago, a diplomat's spouse was murdered at the entrance to the housing complex. Within our time here, a politician was killed in a drive-by at the Manila airport that hit others besides the target.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue. Upper respiratory infections can turn worse thanks to air pollution. Medical care is really pretty good and the U.S. Embassy has a clinic for everyday needs.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Air pollution aggravates the seasonal allergies. Shellfish can be a hidden ingredient. Upscale restaurants and hotels are good about telling you which things are contaminated when you are explicit about what you cannot eat, others don't really understand what it means. My housekeeper is very vigilant and understands, though, so it's definitely doable. There are gluten-free products for an astronomical price and not consistent availability, if that's a concern. Online ordering is probably the only way to effectively deal with coeliac.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is hot and humid, with a rainy season and a not so rainy season. There's a brief period once a year where it's nice out.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Inclusive, it would be huge, but the fact that there are literally thousands of American expats here means it's too large to be a single community. Some people really love it here, others don't. It's big enough that you're going to see all kinds of morale.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eating out, going to the movies, wandering around the high end malls.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Not if you like getting outdoors, hiking, clean air, stuff like that. But there are tasty restaurants, clean movie theatres, and malls to wander around in.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is regularly expressed anti-Muslim bias and women are expected to be married and have children, but not to the extent that you would need to worry as an expat, more just dealing with the beauty salon expressing surprise if you're not Catholic with three kids or your driver talking about how Muslims are violent.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Can't say I've had any highlights.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

It's easy to find out what there is to do, so I wouldn't say there are "secret or hidden gems." There are few getaways that aren't long-distance travel. Some day trips like Tagaytay or weekend trips like Baguio are things to do. There are scuba/snorkeling trips for weekends. Plane travel is a bit expensive and the airport can be frustrating, but the beaches are nice. Honestly, we've done some regional travel too, to Taipei, Hong Kong, Penang, because it's even a little easier than within the country.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

For this region, the fact that English is spoken makes life a bit easier. Household staff is not ridiculously expensive. The USG owned housing has its own water supply, which is nice. Vet care isn't bad and is very cheap and convenient. Medical care is pretty good. There are quite a few close-by other countries to visit like Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc., that are great.

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10. Can you save money?

It's not easy.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I don't know. I don't think there were any surprises.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, not if I had a choice. It doesn't mesh well with my personality and I'm sick of the extra costs.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes (except for traveling in colder climes).

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4. But don't forget your:

Smile, patience, umbrella, rubber boots.

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Manila, Philippines 09/17/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Central America and Eastern Europe.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

West coast USA/ 24 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years. 2012-2014.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most houses need constant up-keep meaning carpenters and such are at your house weekly. Roofs leak, drainage is poor and lots of houses flood. Commutes are horrendous!!

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Twice as much as the U.S.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Brown sugar but mostly things are available. You just have to buy them when you see them.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything is available and it is a little more pricey than the U.S. McDonald's, Wendys, KFC, Cold Stone, PF Changs, Outback to name a few.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lots of mosquitos and mosquito borne illnesses, ants, roaches.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Lots of help available about US$15/day for maid services or gardener. Drivers are also very common for about US$300/month.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Easy.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholic, Mormon, Jewish.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is fine.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and cheap. I've heard buses and trains are very crowded with long lines but they are cheap also.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes but it's not super fast.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Fairly easy - just ask someone about plans in your neighborhood.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Vets come to your house and make life simple. Care is cheap and I have found it to be very good. Kennels are fairly inexpensive and well kept; also and no quarantine is needed.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

So many. Lots of orphanages and local government places to donate time and supplies. Also animal shelters.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fairly casual. A barong can be substituted for a suit.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, in our time here 2 Americans have been murdered (one diplomat).

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Mosquito borne illnesses; medical care is good, not great.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy, hot, humid.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Lots of schools to choose from and most people can find what they are looking for and end up happy. The most popular school is ISM and the commute for most students is 30-45 minutes by bus.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I've heard Brent is the best.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, I think inexpensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes both in the community and at school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large expat community and morale seems high.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eating out, movies are cheap.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Not if you enjoy the outdoors.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Snorkeling/scuba diving.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Flip flops year round, travel to Asian countries, cheap household help.

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7. Can you save money?

It's difficult.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Mountains are very hard to get to. Hiking and parks are fairly non-existent.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, flip flops, car parts such as tires, favorite holiday treats.

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Manila, Philippines 01/04/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've lived in Ajijic, Mexico, and Frankfurt Germany.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

My home was in Maine, flying out of Boston, which takes up to 26 hours with two airline changes. There are possibly shorter routes - costing more money. The first time I flew to Manila, I flew out of Los Angeles non-stop. It only takes 12 hours from L.A.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I've been living in Antipolo City, which is very near Manila since August, 2013.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I'm a middle 50's early retiree.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Living in Manila is much more expensive than living in the out lying Provinces, especially if you're living on a tight budget. The cost of living is comparable to living in New York City or any major city.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The cost of groceries are higher in Manila than the rest of the Philippines with the exception of some other large cities that are also quite expensive. The outer Provinces are where you can find foods that are less expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the normal American style fast food places, along with Filipino fast food places such as Jolibees.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No real issues with any insects. Once in awhile I see and get rid of a cockroach.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Sending packages is pretty easy, and just requires a trip to a local mall and then finding the nearest shipping store that uses Fed-Ex, UPS, or some other companies. As for letters...do people still write those?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The cost of maids can and does vary depending on the area you live and the people you know. The maid we had costs us 4,000 pesos a month and worked about 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. After a couple of months, I let her go because there was not enough work in my home as we usually keep our place clean anyway.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I use my ATM card every week with no issues

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are many religious services availabe in English.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

For the most part you can get by with just English, but the people that you have contact with do appreciate it if you try to speak some of the language.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I am an above-knee amputee who wears a prosthetic leg, and I get around well, but i do have to be careful of sidewalks that are usually in poor condition. For anyone who is wheelchair-bound, they would only be able to have limited movement from a vehicle directly to a home or business - it would be a big challenge.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The local taxi driver often ask for fares that are much higher than it would be if you used the meters. In other words, get out of any and all taxis that try to take your hard earned money in an unscrupulous manner. The light rail can be crowded at times, but it is safe, cheap, and clean. Traveling by bus is also very affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

No idea, as I travel by taxi, but it's always congested.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

The internet is available but it is not uncommon to lose internet service, and for it to be slower than expected.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There is normally no quarantine here but if the incoming paperwork is not correct, then the animal can be put in a quarantine area until any issues are resolved.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are orphanages that would appreciate any help.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Expats appear to generally dress less formal than the Filipino people. It is normal to see expats dressed in shorts and t-shirts, whereas male Filipinos seldom wear shorts, and then most often wear a short or long-sleeve buttoned shirts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The State Department recommends no travel to Mindano Island. There have been some violent exchanges of gun fire in the lower part of the island and a very small island just off the coast of Mindano. Now, having said that, I have also read blogs from expats living In Davao, the largest city in Mindano, and they feel very safe in this area. So, as always, do a lot of research, and personally talk with fellow expats who write these blogs and reside in the area, by either cell phone, messenger, or, even Skype.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The quality of medical care seems very adequate for minor checkups and I've read that there is some medical tourism here in the Philippines. I've visited a couple of doctors and have no complaints. The big difference is that the doctors here actually listen to you and try to solve any medical issues.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

In Manila and many of the other cities, large towns, and villages have serious problems with air quality. The Jeepney is a popular form of transportation, however, there are no air quality controls enforced, and smog control devices on these jeepneys are just as unheard of as well. Because of weak or unenforced laws governing air quality, everyone suffers, and the long-term effects will show new health problems and increased death rates from air quality related health concerns. As long as the local, Provincial, and Federal governments sit on their hands, take bribes, and show no concern for the people and the country, the population of the Philippines will suffer. Unfortunately, this is no stretch of the imagination. Water quality is okay; water is still delivered on a regular bases to most households.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather in the Philippines is, as expected, very hot and humid. There are a few areas in the mountains that are several degrees cooler. Each year there are typhoons that always hit the country, and more often than not, there is wide-spread destruction of homes, accompanied by high death tolls.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are bars, nightclubs, and various other forms of good entertainment in the Manila area.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Manila area is good for all segments of the population.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is no evident outward discrimination against people who are gay or lesbian, nor have I ever read anything about people becoming targets nor trying to hurt this segment of the population.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I have seen,or read about.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I've visited Tagaytay, which is about 1.5 hours from Manila. Tagaytay is in a mountainous area, offering a respite from the tropical heat, but also has, what is called a "super" volcano, named Taal. There are other interesting areas to explore in the area or you can take a boat ride over to the island and get close to Taal. I've also visited Puerto Galera as well, which is a boat ride out of Batangas. The area of Puerto Galera gives you a feel for a much more relaxed way of life. Nearby Puerto Galera is a mountain that is well worth the ride. It is best to hire a trike to go up to the very top of the housing area called the "Ponderosa". There are 360 degree views of the ocean, shore lines, and forests all with a cool breeze blowing constantly. I also spent a weekend in Baguio City, a very popular city up in the mountains, in the area of Benguet Province. It is the summer capital of the Philippines as it is several degrees cooler than Manila. There are also quality universities and strong tourism.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is a lot of history in Manila, and interesting churches to explore. The old section of Manila has been kept up, partly for tourism, but also for the people of the area.There are also museums, some free, and others requiring a small entrance fee. This is also true for other areas throughout the Philippines.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing special stands out.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

I like the idea of using the Manila area as a jumping off point for all of Asia plus the Philippines have a lot to offer for tourism on a budget. The food is very good, and if you leave the city behind, you save a lot of money because everything costs less.

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10. Can you save money?

You can save money, but then, you would miss out on so many exploration opportunities.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How terrible the air quality is throughout any city or large town.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, without hesitation.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

The hopes of getting things done in a quick manner.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bring your curiosity with you so that you can explore and enjoy what the Philippines have to offer.

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Manila, Philippines 12/13/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, first experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC 25+ hours via Delta Airlines with stops in Narita and Atlanta/Detroit. There is also an option to fly on United with only one stop, but is not the contract fare.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2011-2013.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

For embassy personnel there are 3 choices: Seafront, Makati, and Fort Bonofacio

Seafront is best suited for families with young and elementary children. There is a pre-school located on Seafront which is convienent for many families, gated to allow elementary school-angers the freedom to run around, and a short 10 minute commute from Embassy proper. The housing is very outdated, so it is recommended for those that can maintain a minimalist lifestyle. If you leave the Seafront compound, it would have to be in a vehicle or to catch a cab-- there is nothing within walking distance. Many first tour officers will be placed here, simply due to grade level.

Makati is considered the Financial District and great for singles, young couples, or families without children. This housing is typically high-rise condos. There are some family homes in Makati for senior officers or large families. The bus to the international schools only run through the family home neighborhoods of Makati. Everything is within walking distance from the high-rise condos, from restaurants to movie theaters to nightclubs and the mall.

Fort Bonofacio is reserved mostly for families with school-aged children, as the International School of Manila (ISM) is located here. This housing is typically high-rise condos. "The Fort" is the cleanest part of the city and could be found in any upscale city. Everything is within walking distance.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most everything is available and if it's not available, it's easily shipped by DPO. All costs are the same as you'd pay in America.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Common feminine hygiene products are unavailable. Many cosmetics contain whitening lotion, so you must be careful. Bulk items of toilet paper, dish washing liquid or laundry detergent are cheaper purchased ahead of time. Chlorine or pool shock is best shipped in HHE, if you're a family in a house.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Most common American fast food establishments are available: McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme
As stated above, many decent American style restaurants are available. Cost range is on par with American prices.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not many in Manila.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is the best part of living in the Philippines and you will be spoiled. Cost is rough US$10/day and an extra month's salary at Christmas.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, the Embassy and most apartment buildings have a gym on-site. Golds Gym and Crossfit memberships are available. Bikram yoga studios are also available.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No issue, but easier to pay cash to get the tax discount.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Local trains, buses, or Jeepneys are not recommended due to safety concerns. Taxis are relatively safe, but make sure they turn on the meter.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUVs are best, sedans are not recommended. The streets are excessively crowded and the most aggressive/larger vehicle wins. Do NOT bring a new car as it will likely be scratched or a bum will purposely walk into your vehicle on Roxas. There is often flooding in the rainy season, so you will want a vehicle that is easily able to navigate high waters.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes US$100/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Prepaid minutes are used with smartphones and cell phones. I would not recommend a plan because they are hard to cancel and you will end up paying more money. SMART or GLOBE is the most common provider.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A ton! The Embassy sponsors USEC (United Ststes Embassy Club), whose primary mission is outreach through volunteer service.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at the Embassy and casual clothing in public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

As with any big city, a person should be aware of his surroundings.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Great medical facilities, many families choose to expand their family at this post and give birth locally. Medevac point is Singapore.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate, some days are better than others and you will appreciate a blue sky when the smog lifts. Again, getting away from Manila on weekends is key.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy and dry season-- be ready for flooding as it's inevitable near the Embassy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are two primary schools that Embassy children attend, The International School of Manila (ISM) and Brent International School. ISM is the most preferred school within the Embassy community; however, Brent caters to learning support services for children. Both have great reputations.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Brent is the preferred school for special-needs children.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Seafront provides an excellent pre-school program to embassy personnel.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes and many through ISM.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Embassy alone has a mission of over 500 Americans. Morale of most is high, but harder for singles.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Travel, upscale nightclubs, casinos, karaoke, hookah bars, movies, bowling, concerts.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Household help, affordable travel, acceptance and imitation of American culture make it easy to adjust and live for all family types. From my experience; however, it is very difficult for single women. There were very few single young professionals at the Embassy, and while the International School attracted many more young professionals (as teachers), they were less open to allowing "outsiders" into their group. Additionally, while there is some nightlife, it is very uoscale and superficial. There were virtually zero bars and due to the location of the Embassy, the Marine happy hours were poorly attended. Morale for singles was overall very low.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I found.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Great and affordable travel within the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. If you're a single female like me, you'll take every opportunity to travel outside of Manila to make up for the lack of a social life. There are great restaurants and numerous American chains-- PF Changs, California Pizza Kitchen, Chilis, Fridays, etc. Filipinos idolize American pop culture, so there are often American concerts to attend-- in my two years I snagged tickets to Katy Perry, Lady GaGa, Aerosmith, amd the American Idol Tour to name a few.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

For adventurers, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor will be your best friends. Within Manila there is Intramuros, Fort Santiago. and Corregidor. Day trips include climbing or horseback riding to Taal Volcano, visiting Taal Church, and diving in Anilao (while there be sure to snag a Batangas butterfly knife from a local stand). A little further there is Pagsanjan Falls and Villa Escudero. A short plane ride outside of Manila, be sure to hit Boracay, Palawan and the underground river, Bohol and the tarsier monkeys, and the number one must-do: Donsol and the whale sharks.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Batangas butterfly knives and pearls.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Household help, easy travel away from the city, warm weather.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, absolutely and travel/employ domestic help at the same time.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

The Embassy is large, but is best suited for families or married couples.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

It was great and provided numerous opportunities for travel and growth in my career, but not as a young professional seeking a balanced social life.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter coat, sedan, and little black book.

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4. But don't forget your:

Suitcase, sunglasses, bathing suit, and scuba gear.

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Manila, Philippines 11/23/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

West Coast, 14-16 hours generally through Narita.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

1. Seafront compound, which contain nice, open apartments or townhouses 10 minutes from the Embassy. These units are not luxurious, but they are functional and more than sufficient. 2. High rise condos in Makati or the Fort, which both contain good shopping and dining options. 3. Houses in one of the various neighborhoods. All in all, housing is good here, though a few complain about the Seafront vs. Makati disparity. Don't invest yourself too heavily in your housing preferences, as most people I know did not get their preferred housing.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you buy U.S. products only, probably 10% higher than DC prices. If you buy on the local market, much cheaper.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, really. Most items we use are available locally or on Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Extensive selection of U.S. based chains.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

In Manila, few to speak of. Some units have cockroaches or ants, but rarely are they troublesome. Outside of the city, mosquitoes can carry dengue or (in Palawan) Malaria.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO/FPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap, reliable, plentiful.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Generally fine, though I did have a couple minor incidents that my bank quickly reversed.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All affordable. Taxis are generally safe (with standard precautions). RSO advises against trains and buses and "Jeepnys" though I've never heard of anyone having an incident on any.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Asian brand is easier to repair, rugged is not necessary, though high clearance can be helpful for the handful of days when the roads flood. Otherwise, something you don't really care about too much.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, US$50-90/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone uses prepaid minutes, or "load." Most use a cheap phone, but smart phones with data plans are available. Coverage is excellent throughout the country.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

A few, but slim pickings.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Depends on your job and which office you're in. Anywhere from jeans (for LES) to business casual, to suits. In public you can wear almost anything.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Within Manila, very few. Only the usual "big city" stuff. I've walked around various parts of Manila with no issues. Select parts of Mindanao have terrorist elements. Much of Mindanao is pleasant and safe and spectacular, but due to the threats in western Mindanao, the whole region is off-limits to personal travel for USG employees.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Generally very good and much cheaper than the U.S.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Somewhere between moderate and unhealthy. It's not nearly as bad as I had expected, but it's still worse than most U.S. cities. The poor air quality is primarily from auto exhaust, rather than factory particulate like you see in many Asian cities.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mid March - early June, hot and dry. June - November, hot and wet. December - early March mostly pleasant and dry, but still a little muggy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I understand both International School of Manila and Brent are highly regarded. ISM is in the Fort and can be inconvenient unless you live there. Brent is inconvenient regardless of where you live.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Plentiful. Several daycares and prechool are around and reasonably priced. The Embassy community runs its own preschool at Seafront. Many family have a full or part time ya-ya (nanny) to help out.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Like all places, it depends on the person. We have had a great time.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Better than most.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Gender prejudices exist, but females wield a surprisingly large amount of power, from the highest levels of business and government down to the family unit. Yes, racial and religious problems exist like anywhere else in the world

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling to Palawan and seeing the underground river.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel, beach resorts, dining scene is actually good and cheap. Mountain/jungle trekking is fun, but the industry is not at all developed.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Beaches, diving, island hopping, cheap regional travel, and friendly people.

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8. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

Lonely Planet.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?


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Manila, Philippines 08/04/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

We were traveling from DC. Our travel time was about 25 hours with stops in Detroit & Nagoya.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We've been here 2 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I'm a trailing spouse, my husband works for the U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

This depends on where you live, my husband is home within 20 minutes of leaving work. We live in a nice townhouse, very spacious.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find almost anything with most boxed items costing at least as much as in the U.S., fruits & vegetables are relatively inexpensive. We buy a lot of stuff on Amazon.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, you can get almost anything or order it from Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are tons of great food options here, prices are similar to U.S. prices. There are McDonald's, Hooters, Chilis, Papa Johns, KFC, Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Again, I would compare it to Florida. There are mosquitos, cockroaches, lizards, beetles, worms, huge snails and they all come out after the rain. I wouldn't consider it bad though, you probably see even less if you're in the sky-rise apartments in the Fort.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and it's incredibly fast. Amazon Prime takes about 5 days and we've been able to ship almost anything we've wanted.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available & pretty inexpensive. The range seems to be pretty large with help being paid 550-1000 pesos a day [the current exchange rate is 43 pesos = US$1]

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use cash only, we pay for everything in pesos but I know lots of people who use credit cards without problems. For us, cash is easier and helps us keep tabs on our spending.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You don't need to know any, learn to play a bit of charades and you'll do just fine. Learning to say "salamat po" [a polite version of "thank you"] is much appreciated. I am learning Tagalog and everyone I've talked to really loves that I'm taking an interest in the culture.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The sidewalks are small, we never bothered getting a stroller because we knew it wouldn't be of much use in Manila. I think getting around with a wheelchair would be very difficult, lots of places have stairs with no ramps and in Makati the only way to cross the major streets is to take stairs down into the tunnel under the road.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are considered safe & affordable. Jeepneys, buses & the train are not safe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have an SUV, I would bring a car to post because there are lots of nice places to drive to outside of Manila. The traffic here is a little nuts but I know a lot of people who do not bother hiring a driver because it's pretty manageable. You can also get drivers just for a night or day if you don't want to hire someone full time. Your car windows can have just about any tint you want on it, I've seen a car with black paper lining the window with a cut out just so the driver could see the side-view mirror. You'll see people trying to sell things walking up and down the road while waiting for the light to change and if you're obviously a foreigner they might target you, come up to your car and start talking to you through the window. It is important to remember to keep your doors locked & not to roll down the window.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We pay 4000 pesos [43 = US$1] for high speed internet. It's pretty decent, we also have a VPN and a Netflix account. We didn't bother getting cable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone or if you've hired help have them go get your phone unlocked or you'll be overcharged. We tried to get a 2 year plan for me so I could get an iPhone but the process was a little ridiculous. They also wanted to charge my husband a ton to unlock my phone and so he paid a little more to get me some bright yellow Nokia thing and a Smart SIM card.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We have a German Shepherd and almost everyone is afraid of her. There are vets, we haven't had to see one yet but I've heard great things and that they make house calls. We order her food through Amazon because it's significantly more expensive here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not that I've heard of, it would be a huge pay cut.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work depends on the section, my husband wears a suit every day. In public you can wear whatever you'd wear in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The Philippines is a higher threat level than a lot of countries but I haven't felt threatened since arriving. I don't like to travel alone [I didn't in the U.S. either though] and take my yaya [nanny] with me almost anytime I go out in a taxi. The Jeepneys & buses aren't considered safe because petty theft occurs a lot in the tight quarters.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Some pollution, the water isn't considered safe to drink so you'll need to get water jugs if you live off the compound, I'm sure there are small accidents on the roads all the time. The medical care is supposed to be decent and it was suggested I have another baby while at post here [that is not happening] but I guess the experience is great here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I would say moderate to unhealthy but I suppose it depends on where you live. The Fort area seems cleaner. I've only noticed the pollution seeming to blanket the city one day since we've been here and I've seen it like that in the U.S. so I didn't think it was too dreadful.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This is rainy season and I would compare it to Florida. It's warm, humid and rains almost every day for 2-4 hours, then the sun comes out and you can continue on with your day. I would recommend to take advantage and go swimming/do things anytime it's nice, that way when the storms roll in you don't mind grabbing a corner of the couch and watching a movie.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I've heard great things but my daughter won't be old enough to attend school at this post.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, I'm not great with numbers but it's a big post.

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2. Morale among expats:

Honestly, it's a mixed bag. A lot of people don't seem to like it here during their first year or so and then suddenly turn a corner once they have a relaxing beach vacation! Get out of Manila and see what else the Philippines has to offer because it's a beautiful country outside of the city. I'm really enjoying the post but I think I'd set my expectations incredibly low so I've been blown away with how much is available here & how nice everyone is.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are lots of good restaurants/happy hours at the multiple malls around town. Gin is cheap here so get used to drinking gin & tonics or gin & ginger ale! The beer is pretty much all San Miguel but the Pale Pilsen & Red Horse are decent and pretty inexpensive. Even going out to a restaurant you won't pay more than 50 pesos [43 = US$1] for either of those beers.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it's a good city for everyone. Families like that help is affordable and dedicated to the family they work with, you can find green spaces around town if you look. Ayala Triangle Park, Rizal Park, Intermuros are all nice places to visit. Getting out of town is key for families, head to the beach, visit Taipei/Hong Kong etc while you can for cheap. Singles seem to like it here, there seems to be a decent night life. There is tons of shopping and lots of happy hours.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We haven't been here long but we love the post so far and are really excited to see more of the country. Our goal is to get out of Manila at least every 2 months.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The parks I mentioned earlier, there are lots of places in driving distances & tons of cheap flights.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls are pretty inexpensive here.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Travel, there are tons of cheap options for traveling within the country [the beaches are beautiful] and to other countries in South East Asia. We're spending less than in DC but we don't eat out a lot and it would be easy to spend more here though because of all the malls. Prices here are similar [if not higher] on clothing here, you can find almost anything you want Gap, Zara, even Forever 21 but you aren't saving anything. Household help is inexpensive and almost everyone speaks English although they really appreciate a little effort to speak Tagalog.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Even with traveling a lot we're going to be able to save some money while at post. We're vegetarians and eat at home a lot though so our food costs are pretty low.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if we do another tour in Manila in the future.

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2. Do you have any other comments?

The city is a little messy, you'll see "bawal umihi dito" [no peeing here] signs all over the place, the roads are crowded and it's pretty sweaty here but it's a nice post. Don't come expecting this to be the Paris of Asia but you can really enjoy yourself if you make a few friends and love traveling.

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Manila, Philippines 04/21/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in many cities overseas.

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2. How long have you lived here?

August 2010 - August 2012.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My apartment was very close to the embassy and I could walk. Most people lived in Makati or Fort Benefacio with a commute time of 45 minutes one way. Traffic is always bad in Manila, unfortunately.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It depends on whether you buy locally-produced food or imported items. American goods are available, but they can be a little pricey.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I had everything I needed available there.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are many american fast food restaurants and they all deliver for very cheap.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are everywhere, but if you use repellent they are not too bad.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the DPO at the embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

The domestic help is very cheap and very good.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, the U.S. Embassy has a brand-new facility, and there are other gyms available for a fee.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They are everywhere and I had no trouble using them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, TV in my apartment was free.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Nothing. Most people speak English, but it is nice to know a few words.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It is difficult. Not wheelchair accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and cheap. They are metered, but sometimes you need to request them to turn them on.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Manila tends to flood. I was glad to have an SUV so I could get through the flooded streets without harm. I suggest a compact SUV because parking can be difficult with a large SUV.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, I think I paid 80 dollars for a 3 Mb/sec connection.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Sim cards are very cheap, and you can reload with prepaid credits very easily at any Seven Eleven store.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

At work, the dress code is business casual, but a lot of people wear ties. Not many wear suits because the heat is a factor.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

My neighborhood had lots of pickpockets, so beware! But I did not feel in danger, even at night.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Hospitals seem very good and cheap. For any type of surgery, though, I would suggest going to the US or Singapore.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I would rate it unhealthy. Manila is a very congested and overpopulated city.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Weather is tropical warm year 'round, with a rainy season and a dry season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large. Many Americans and Australians, Japanese and Koreans are based in the Philippines.

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2. Morale among expats:

I would say high.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Nightlife is very popular in Manila.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is great for singles, and I know a lot of families and couples that enjoy the Philippines. The key is to get out of Manila and explore the beautiful Islands.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, from what I hear. Filipinos do not mind gay or lesbian people.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I am aware of.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Scuba diving (which is superb) and traveling to many of the islands.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Scuba diving, exploring the Islands. Lots of nightlife.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Manila is very cheap, you can save a lot of money. There are 7,000 Islands to visit, and domestic flights are very cheap. Gorgeous Islands with white sand beaches. The weather is warm to hot year 'round with a rainy season. Filipinos are very friendly and polite.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, definitely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Larger-size clothes and shoes. It is difficult to find large sizes in Manila.

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Manila, Philippines 02/12/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

Affiliated with the U.S. Embassy

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2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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3. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US East Coast. The trip requires a connection in Atlanta/Detroit and then a connection in Japan. All told, it takes about 24 hours.

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4. How long have you lived here?

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Embassy and has been living in Manila for a year and a half, a fourth expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are houses in gated communities, high-rise apartments in the nice part of town, and townhomes and apartments in the Seafront compound. Although Seafront has the shortest commute times, the housing is very poor. I could go through a litany of complaints: the layouts make no sense; things are old and falling apart; the parking lot floods and can ruin one's car; there is virtually nothing to do in the areas surrounding Seafront, and the traffic at night makes it a chore to travel to more interesting parts of the city. Also, the "community" mentioned in earlier RPRs is lacking. There is no real communal space for residents to gather. Many people live here but we don't see each other regularly, and there's no system to introduce new residents. We thoroughly enjoyed having a short commute and used the tennis courts/gym/pool regularly, but overall the housing situation had a large negative impact on our experience.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

At the places we tend to shop, it is slightly more expensive than shopping in the U.S. We do not have a helper, and it wouldn't be feasible for us to shop in local markets on our own. If you shop mainly around the edges of the grocery store (fresh veggies, meat, dairy), prepare to be very disappointed. Even though this is a rice country, rice here is terrible. And despite being surrounded by ocean, it is very difficult to get good seafood. Although the weather is great and there is lots of arable land, fresh vegetables are terrible. Meat is a mixed bag---local chicken and pork are very good, but beef is not. Tropical fruit is fantastic. If you buy more processed foods than fresh foods, you will find a lot more availability of American goods than in other third-world countries---but they are more expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A larger television -- Amazon only ships up to 37 inches through DPO. Anything else can be shipped from the U.S.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the major American chains are here. There is plenty of international food, and it's not bad, but generally bland and generic. I gave Filipino food many chances, but it's very disappointing. Fruit drinks are amazing and beer is cheap and not too bad.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are bad. We have had ant problems in our car (what are they eating?) and house, despite our best efforts. Weavils got into almost all of our dry goods, requiring us to toss a bunch of stuff. After we purchased airtight containers, the problem disappeared.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy's DPO. Things arrive very quickly, and Amazon is a godsend.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Plentiful. Drivers, nannies, cleaners, cooks -- this is one of the best parts of living in the Philippines for many people. We do not have any help and we're doing okay as well.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, the embassy and Seafront have gyms, and they're good enough.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

The embassy has an ATM, and we use credit cards most of the time.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Filipino papers are in English. IHT is available, though pricey.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. English level is extremely high here.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's impossible to walk anywhere anyway, so the disabled, like the abled, would need to rely on cars.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring a vehicle with high clearance (think SUV). Flooding may ruin your small car. It's also much better to be high up in traffic so that you're not staring up at jeepneys or face-to-face with the street children who tap on your window. Don't bring a car you aren't afraid to scratch up a bit!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, ranging from US$25 to 75 a month. It is not fast and can stop working for hours -- or, rarely, days -- at a time.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I use my phone provided by the embassy.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

My wife works on the local economy. She enjoys it, but she earns a Filipino wage. Despite providing a professional service, she earns less than U.S. minimum wage.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

For men, a short-sleeve Barong and slacks is sufficient. This was a highlight of my time here.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There are plenty of scammers, including taxi cabs. I feel comfortable using cabs, but my wife does not. I would not feel comfortable walking or using public transportation in many parts of the city, although some of the wealthy areas are very safe, and malls are walkable. One embassy employee's spouse was murdered outside a gated community as he was trying to be a good samaritan in the middle of the night.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I've been severely sick as a result of foodborne bacteria three times since coming. One incident required hospitalization for two nights. My wife developed a medical disorder, and she has gotten a number of smaller illnesses. Be prepared to get sick. We've been satisfied with the health and dental facilities. Good psychiatric services, however, are not available.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

On and around the Seafront compound, it can smell terrible. If you're riding an open-air vehicle (U.S. Embassy staff don't), I imagine it could be bad being directly in the path of car exhaust fumes. But compared to Chinese cities, the air here is fantastic. We don't use the air filter provided by the embassy, and we frequently play tennis outside without any problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Most of the year it's humid and hot with a chance of rain. For about 3 months it's dry and hot, and beautiful at night. Then there is the monsoon season and the hurricane parade. These are especially difficult if you live on the Seafront compound, as the apartment parking lot floods during heavy rain---it flooded 10 straight days last year. You have to wade through knee-deep water and save your car by moving it to higher ground. It also makes it difficult to travel, which is the biggest advantage of living in this country. Although the weather is nice at night, I find it impossible to enjoy it on a regular basis. Our seafront apartment does not have windows that open. There is no communal area with screens where people could congregate. You can go to outdoor restaurants or play sports, but most of the time it feels like a waste of being in the tropics.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. The embassy itself is massive, and there are tons of Americans living here in the Philippines.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed, but probably below average. Those coming from less developed countries, those who love diving, and those who want helpers seem the happiest. Some love it, some are comfortable and like it, some are comfortable and don't like it, some detest it.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Going to restaurants in malls? Having dinner parties? Using the sports facilities? Your guess is as good as mine, as we have really struggled to have a social life during our time here.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

We're a couple without kids. It's not terrible, as there are international restaurants for dinner and shopping malls to walk around. But at the end of the day, I find Manila boring. Filipino food is not appealing. International food is available, and there are nice places to sit outside, but most restaurants are located in malls, so they're owned by large corporations and are a bit bland/generic. There are almost no green spaces in Manila, no interesting places to explore by foot or by bike, and all activity centers around shopping malls, which I don't find interesting. It seems like a good place for families with very young kids---help is very cheap, and the Seafront compound is a safe and easy place for young children.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Filipinos treat white people better than others, and this colonial atmosphere is not something I will miss. Gender roles are more distinct, and people are not politically correct. For xample, a progressive Filipino contact once told me, as I sat next to my female colleague, that "I do all the trouble-shooting. That's a job better done by men."

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel in the provinces outside of Manila---the beaches are fantastic. Learning about the history of the country has also been a highlight. Although the day-to-day news gets bogged down in personal politics, the recent political history and America's colonization of the Philippines are fascinating subjects that I previously knew almost nothing about. Also, I really like the Filipino people. They are fantastic to joke around with and very friendly. If you are shy, they will appear shy, too; so the key is to give to them what you want to get back.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Manila, you can eat at malls and go shopping at malls. That's about it. I wish I was exaggerating. Outside of Manila, diving and beaches are great, and the countryside is beautiful.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls, furniture, Catholic religious paraphernalia.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Diving, Pearls, Hired Help (including childcare). For a third world country, it has tons of American stores. English is spoken widely, so it is not necessary to learn the local language.

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11. Can you save money?

We've saved a ton of money. Hardship pay (20%) and the 15% COLA goes a long way. But we don't have kids and are thrifty people.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

We didn't have a choice. But if we did, no, we would not have come here. The Philippines has a lot to offer some people, but we weren't those people, and it's been a boring, uninspiring, and difficult tour.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bicycle and winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and plenty of things to entertain yourself at home.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Dogeaters

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 09/18/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

San Diego, California. From San Diego to LA to Tokyo to Manila takes almost 24 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

(The contributor is a corporate expat who has been living in Manila for four months, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We looked at condos in the Rockwell area and Bonifacio in Global City, and we liked Rockwell better. One Rockwell West where, we are now, is brand new and very nice.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are surprisingly expensive. You can find most anything here, but since much is imported, prices can be high. Also, you can't always find things when you want them. The store is often out of speciality items when you need them: taco mix, ricotta cheese, that sort of thing.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many American fast-food restaurants are available, including McDonald's, Pizza Hut & KFC. Jollibee is the local fast-food favorite, although we are not fans.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

In our condo, we have little fruit flies that we just can't seem to get rid of. Around the rest of Manila there are giant flying cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap. We have a 2-bedroom condo and have a woman come in once a week to do cleaning, laundry, and ironing.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, most condos have decent gyms, BGC has a fitness world, and in Rockwell many people (including us) belong to the Rockwell Club, which has excellent facilities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are fine for vacation, but if you are living here it gets expensive to use them with the extra fees that are sometimes tacked on and the exchange rate loss. We primarily use cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Sky Cable is available for TV and has many English stations including some in HD for about $50/month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, everyone speaks at least passable English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Within Makati, BGC & Rockwell there are not many problems, but other areas of Manila are lacking in sidewalks, escalators, elevators, etc.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are fine, although I wouldn't say they are safe. They have no seatbelts, and back seats are sometimes are not quite bolted down. I wouldn't recommend buses or the MRT. We have a driver because Manila's traffic is maniacal. It is a difficult city to navigate, so a driver would be recommended and is very affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Toyota, Honda, Nissan are most popular. You don't really need four wheel drive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but it is expensive. We have a 12MB/S connection for $120/month. Fairly consistent speeds.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are cheap. Buy a SIM card from Globe or Smart and just top it off as necessary. Go prepaid.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

While Manila has a reputation for crime, it is more the normal big city stuff. Watch out for pickpockets, though, and avoid certain areas.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical care isavailable from St. Lukes in BGC and Makati Med.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. We live in Rockwell and work in the Fort, and the air quality doesn't seem too bad. I am not sure if it gets worse during the drier times of year when the rain can't just wash the bad stuff away.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot & rainy from June to Oct. Cool (relatively speaking) and dry Nov-Mar.Hot & dry Mar-May.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No kids, so no experience, but expat friends with kids seem to like the schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly big.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good to great. Most people have some culture shock when they first arrive, but once they meet some people and get adjusted, people like it here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We've met a good group of people here and often get together for dinner/cocktails, etc. There are many good restaurants around so plenty of places to socialize.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For families, couples and single men, yes for different reasons. For single women, maybe not as much, although it is not terrible or anything.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would think so. Filipinos seems very tolerant.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that we've seen.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Diving, meeting people from other countries, international restaurants. While not a fan of Filipino food (too bland, heavy, fried very meat-based), there are many other great international restaurants.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Manila, shop and eat. There are not a lot of sights in the city. Chinatown tour and Intramuros are okay. Outside of town, Tagatay and Corregidor Island are good day trips. Decent beaches aren't accessible for a day trip, reallly. Maybe Batangas has some.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Diving is spectacular, and the beaches are great. This is an easy base from which to travel to the rest of SE Asia. Weather is good if you like tropical (we do), although the rainy season can be a bit much.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, depending on how much travel you do and how much eating out.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. Though we've only been here a few months, we are enjoying ourselves.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter Clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Meds! Bring any medications you like from home. Cold and sinus medicines are not very good here, and some have been banned in the US/Canada, so I would recommend bringing them from home.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Culture Shock Philippines

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 05/24/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

My fouth expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

USA, Utah.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

American Embassy folks have a “choice” of Seafront, an isolated compound in a rough neighborhood with a close commute to the embassy. This is perfect for singles without children as the commute is easy and there are some facilities for adults --racquetball, tennis courts, a swimming pool. While there are also playgrounds and a preschool there, most families prefer the villages or Fort Bonifacio. The single and childless couples crowd seem to enjoy Makati and Malate.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available. Groceries cost about twice as much as in the U.S. if you are shopping at the local “Costco” or Rustans where you can find imported products. If you brave the open markets (hanging raw chicken in tropical heat, etc.) or shop the bargain supermarkets, you can save some money. The local foods have more additives, less hygienic processing of perishable and meat items, and don’t require labeling. It is worth it to accompany your helper on a shopping trip to see where your food is coming from.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

"DEET-free" mosquito repellent at a reasonable price.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Filipinos seem to love fast food. Restaurants of all types and even American chains are plentiful. Many people gain weight due to the poor quality (lots of high fat, sodium and MSG), but relatively cheap restaurant food.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

It's available, but you’ll pay through the roof for it. Everything is here. Wholefoods looks like a bargain compared to the organic food chain here.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Dengue fever is a major concern here, with three people we know having been hospitalized due to contracting this. A four-year-old child living in the ritzy Forbes Park neighborhood died due to Dengue last year. Roaches and other insects can be an issue, depending on where you are housed.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Via the embassy only.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Plentiful. $200-400/month per person you hire (driver, maid, cook, nanny, etc. Some families have more staff than family members!

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, at the Seafront compound and in most apartment buildings. (There is an annual charge for the Seafront facilities).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They are safe, but use them with caution about your surroundings, as robberies at some local malls have been on the rise.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, all.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, although the local version of English gets frustrating at times

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Immense! This is not a walkable city for the able-bodied unless you enjoy breathing smog, sweating, and dodging vehicles. Most people (I don't know of anyone!) won’t drive their own cars and opt to hire drivers. So if you wouldn’t drive your own car, imagine walking for an able-bodied -- not to mention a disabled -- person!

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All public transport is inadvisable, but taxis seem safe enough. You will, however, spot cockroaches in them!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

If you plan to hire a small staff to take care of you and your children and your pets, then bring a minivan or large SUV. Driving here is really not advisable, so plan to have at least one extra person in your vehicle (the hired local driver). Otherwise, any vehicle will do.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, about $20/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are lots to choose from here. Globe seems more popular than SMART.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We don't have a pet, but there are lots of stray animals around, and the animal situation here looks sad.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not unless you are a teacher or are employed by a major NGO like ADB.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Just try to stay comfortable and dry in the heat..."Barongs" are popular with the new officers.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Robberies are on the rise...there have been numerous reports and one person we know who has been stopped by a "fake guard" regarding a vehicle problem and then robbed.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality, Dengue, Tuberculosis, are major concerns that the embassy has been making public notices about. Most people have their servants tested via chest x-ray before hiring, as TB is rampant. Medical care is great, though, and there is an excellent health unit at Seafront plus a smaller unit at the embassy.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

There is talk of the “Manila Crud", an insidious upper-respiratory infection that stays for weeks or months due to the pollution. The pollution here is pretty awful -- people hold kerchiefs and masks over their faces here for a reason. If you enjoy being outdoors in fresh air, this might not be the city for you. Most major embassies issue air purifiers with housing, but these can only do so much. At least once during our stay the airport shut down due to pollution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid and hot and rainy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our child is adjusting to ISM -- it’s a big school and does have some discipline problems, but it also has strong social support for parents.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is a preschool at Seafront. We have heard mixed reviews about it, but didn’t need one due to family dynamics. Most families who don’t want to care for their child firsthand hire a local nanny to care for their child. We’ve heard good and bad about this, but again, it not applicable at this point in our lives.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through the schools and in the villages.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good among single men especially. Okay among couples. Wanes with families.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Everyone does their own thing.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles and couples enjoy travelling and self-indulgent pampering. Families have a harder time due to the air quality and security concerns. There are limited options for children besides a few parks in the villages and pay-to-play centers with questionable hygiene. Most families had a “doing time” attitude.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are a lot of racial prejudices, particularly against other Asians. There are strong gender ideas as well. There is also a strong caste system that is very real, though less codified than other places. This doesn't affect expats, though it makes lots of pampering and servants available.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Diving, buying the notorious fake pearls and designer items at Greenhills, going to spas, travelling. Resorts in the Philippines are hit or miss, but if you’re going on a diving mission, you can find reputable places.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fakes at Greenhills, diving trips, pampering by impoverished locals.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

If learning languages isn’t your thing, you can get by in most of the expat haunts without Tagalog. English, at some level, is spoken by most of the Filipinos you will come into contact with, but you will have constant reminders that it's not a first language among locals here. If you enjoy beaches and diving, there are numerous travel opportunities. If you enjoy hiring other people to take care of you, your children, your car, your home, your pets, etc . . . then you can sit back and ponder the universe whilst paying someone else to handle your home and children.

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11. Can you save money?

No -- services are cheap but you pay for things you normally do (clean, cook, drive, etc) and goods are expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, but it was an experience.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothing.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, swimsuit, patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There is a reason this is a hardship. This post has serious issues if you have children. This is a good post for singles, couples, and folks coming from posts in third-world countries who will appreciate the shopping and large expat community. It should also be added that there is more poverty here than to be expected -- there is a VERY strong caste system and a lot of suffering (hence the availability of so many servants and inexpensive “pampering”).

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Manila, Philippines 03/17/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC, about 24 hour trip, connecting in Tokyo and the west coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Embassy folks either live at the Seafront compound in old housing with lots of mosquito problems, close to the Embassy, but not close to ANYTHING else. If you have a large family, you might be lucky to live in one of the villages:You get a big house in a quiet gated community your kids can even bike on the roads!For everyone else, housing is split in between Makati (a great metropolitan area with everything you can imagine right at your doorstep) or Fort Bonifacio (looks very much like any planned community in the US).Housing in the Fort is great, all new buildings, a few things walking distance but very very "sterile" -- quiet and not as much to do.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are the only part where you'll be spending some money -- luckily eating out is cheap, so it evens out at the end. If you buy Filipino products you can save some money, but for imported goods you'll be paying a pretty penny. Most expats have a membership at S&R when you can find lots of American products (for a price). As for produce, you can find pretty much anything, and the fruits are also amazing. We prefer to buy them at the Saturday Market in Makati for better quality than the grocery stores.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bread flour (cannot find it ANYWHERE), canned pumpkin (ditto), black beans and other type of beans (sometimes you see it for sale, but you never know if it'll be there when you need it). If you like tanning, you cannot find tanning lotion anywhere. As for cosmetics, you can find pretty much anything, but you may pay a price for it. Also, lots of people have difficulty in finding shoes and clothing their size (Filipinos are petite), but that's what online shopping is for!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Filipinos love America, and anything American, so you can find your Starbucks, McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Shakey's Pizza, Burger King...Seriously it won't be hard to find fast food (we have about 6 Starbucks, 4 Coffee Bean, and I think 5 McDonalds within a quarter mile radius from us). The cost of Starbucks & Coffee Bean is similar to the US, McDonald's is even cheaper.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Organic produce you can buy at the Saturday Market, as well as a couple of places in the Fort. There's even a CSA some people use. There's such a variety here of foods, that those with restrictions should not have issues, but those allergic should make it very clear when ordering at restaurants, as they're not really used to customizing a meal, or taking allergy seriously.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lots of BIG cockroaches outside (like any tropical country), but we have had no issues with it inside our apartment. Loads of mosquitoes, but if you live in an apartment in Makati or the Fort you won't be bothered by them.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use DPO, which usually takes about 2-6 weeks to get here. We haven't had issues yet.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available, and it's great. We spend about $250/month for our full-time helper and $300/month for our driver. That's on the high-end, which is what embassy folks pay. We love our helper and she's 100% worth it. As for drivers, you can totally drive in Manila, even if it looks scarey at first, but we only have one car, so having the driver helps.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

If you live in Makati or the Fort, there are a ton of gym options, either full gyms or more specialized places (yoga studios, bikram, martial arts, dance, crossfit...).

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They can be used everywhere, except at times at other provinces. In Manila, there are no issues.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, many. Anything you can imagine, though the majority is Catholic.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

With cable (about $50/month) you can get pretty much all US TV programming (though in odd times/frequencies).Lots of English-language newspapers as well.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. Most people speak English, and though sometimes you have to repeat slowly and rephrase things, you get used to it.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Hard. Sidewalks don't have ramps, and not every place even has sidewalks, and when they do, is not unusual to have a pole or a tree in the middle of it (a wheelchair would not fit).Makati is full of underpasses with stairs, no ramps, and no other way to cross the street. It is not a disability-friendly town.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Embassy staff are not allowed to take train, buses or jeepneys. Taxis are VERY affordable (think $2-$3 for a ride most times).Taxis are also safe. The only precaution is that they're not familiar with other neighborhoods but they'll rarely admit that. If you have directions it will help. Also, they're known for stopping to get gas or going to the bathroom, WHILE YOU'RE IN THE CAR WITH THE METER RUNNING. If I knew the area better before our car arrived, I would have gotten out and taken a different cab in the many times this has happened.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a Corolla and it fits us fine -- it blends in with the local cars, which are mostly Honda and Toyota (so finding parts here is not an issue). An SUV will treat you better during a flood and when competing with road space with jeepneys, but we like that our car blends in.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We spend about $30/month for high speed internet. It's not the fastest, but also not the slowest by far.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most embassy people get a prepaid SIM (for P40 -- about $1) from either Globe or Smart, and use that for their time here. Postpaid you need to be tied to a 2-year contract that cannot be broken without costing a lot. With prepaid there are even internet plans you can sign up for using your minutes for P300 (about $7) for 300MB/month of usage. We spend about P500 (about $12) for a phone card a month. Most people here use texting, instead of calls (think doctors appointments, salons, friends, vets, etc), so one card goes a long way.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. Just current rabies shots. Also need an import certificate, that must be arranged before flying here.(Our embassy sponsor took care of that for us.)

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

The quality is good, but some things are not comparable to the US.Said that, the vet does home visits for the equivalent of a $12 charge. He is always available by text, at no charge. The cost of vet care is also very affordable, specially compared to the over-inflated prices in the US! Though there are kennels, most people just get their helpers to sleep in when they travel instead of bothering with kennels. Grooming is not the cheapest, at P700 ($18).

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If you're a teacher, there are plenty of opportunities for a somewhat competitive price. The Embassy also posts new jobs weekly. The ADB is also headquartered here. For other jobs, however, if you're coming from the US or Europe, the salary is just not competitive enough to bother (think $500/month) -- so why steal a job from a local that can actually benefit from that money?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Barongs (the Filipino national dress -- short sleeve shirt) is accepted anywhere and considered proper office-wear. People at the Embassy choose to wear that instead of a suit/tie, since it's a lot more comfortable. You can get them made to your measurements, and even pants, for about $20/piece. Women wear western clothes to the office, like you would expect in the US.As for socializing, anything goes, shorts and flipflops is fine, unless you're off to something fancy.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We are not allowed to take jeepneys or the MRT here, based on embassy restrictions. No big security concern, unless you decide to be in the wrong part of town at 2 in the morning (in Makati and the Fort things are fairly safe).Always aware of your belongings so you don't get pick-pocketed, but robberies are very very rare.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

If you go to Makati Med or St Luke's, you'll likely get treated by a US trained doctor. The quality is very good, but people have had issues with a few things, but as third world countries go, you can come here without worrying that they won't know how to treat you. The medical staff at the embassy is also very competent, and have a lengthy list of doctors/specialist. Cost of medical care is cheap -- about P1000 ($23) for an office consultation (not including what your insurance may cover).I had a mole removed and the surgery + biopsy was my most expensive bill yet:P5,000 ($120)

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is bad, but comparable to any other major over-populated big city. There is no such thing as emission control, so the pollution from cars is pretty bad. I haven't had any issues, but some people have their breathing troubles exacerbated while living here.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

I think you can divide the weather here in two seasons:hot and sunny, and hot and rainy. People warned us of raining season, but I didn't know that meant a couple of weeks without even seeing the sun peeking out. During the rainy season it rains a LOT.Things here flood quite quickly once the rain starts (but drains fairly fast once it stops).If you're coming here, don't forget your rain boots!The black dirty flooding water is disgusting.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a couple of international schools and people with kids seems pretty satisfied with them. Haven't heard any complaints.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There's a day care at Seafront compound for those embassy folks, but there are also day cares in every other block in Makati and the Fort.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Since we don't have kids, I'm not sure, but I will be surprised if there isn't anything.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, but depends where you live (lots in Makati/Fort, not so much in other areas).

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies. People here seem to either love it or hate it -- some even get bothered by security guards saying "good morning, mam" when you walk on the street -- that's just the Filipino niceness. People forget that the Philippines is still a third world country!For a third world country you have MANY comforts of a first world one, and some days you even forget you're outside the US (places like Makati or the Fort feel like you're in an American city with lots of Asian immigrants, and not actually thousands of miles away).

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of bars, but local bars close at midnight. Lots and lots of different restaurants. A few clubs as well, sports bars, etc. You won't get bored, unless you chose to!

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, for couples and families. Since you get household help for a very affordable price, and a driver as well, you can really relax and enjoy Manila. As for singles, men love it, as Filipinas love western men (which they associate with being "rich"), women are not as lucky. The expats here are interested in the Filipinas, and most single women are not interested in the local men (and I believe the local men also prefer the local women). The girls I know that are single are not too excited about their time here.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Asians are surprisingly open about homosexuality, and though you don't see male/female couples out in the open as much, lady boys are everywhere, and it's part of the culture. There are definitely gay bars and clubs, but just as the issue with single women: if you're gay in the Philippines, make sure you find Asian men/women attractive. If you don't, you'll be miserable here too.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Most of the country is Catholic, but those who are not, do not suffer prejudice. You can find pretty much a church of any denomination to attend services as well.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Filipinos are incredibly nice people, and we have traveled a LOT.We are averaging about 1 trip a month, if not more. It's a great way to explore Asia, and the Philippines has gorgeous islands to visit. If you like the water, you can learn how to dive here, as it has some of the best diving in the world.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go diving! You can go to Batangas on a 3-hour road trip, fly to any of the islands for beach, diving and snorkeling, fly to other Asian countries (yes, we love travel the most!). There are lots of dining options here, and though Filipino cuisine is not very interesting, you can find anything else here, so foodies will not be disappointed!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lots of Filipino handicrafts, from furniture to home decor (gorgeous vases made of coconut shells and lots of capiz and wood carved goodies), and don't forget the pearls at greenhills, you can find every type you want!

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Manila is a great place to live, you can eat out for relatively cheap, you can save money, or do what we did and blow it all on travel to the other amazing Asian countries nearby!Pampering is also SUPER affordable here!Less than $10 for a 1 hour foot massage, about $25 for a 1.5 hour massage at a fancy spa, facials for less than $12, laser hair removal for $20/treatment!Etc, etc, etc!If you're stressed out while in the Philippines, you're not traveling and pampering enough.

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11. Can you save money?

If you don't travel, yes, but we choose to spend our money on travel, since it's so affordable and we're taking full advantage of Asia. If both spouses work, then you can save a bundle, even with travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

ABSOLUTELY!We love it here, live in an amazing apartment, have traveled to so many amazing places in Asia and the Philippines, eat delicious food every time, have a helper that takes amazing care of our place and our pets... We love this place!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes!The seasons here are hot and hottest!Think flipflops, shorts and sundresses year-round.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience. Filipinos are very-nice, but lack the efficiency other Asian cultures are known for. When you go out to eat, expect each person to get their meals at a different time (sometimes 15-20 minutes apart), expect to hear a lot of "wait a while" and you'll always be stuck behind people on escalators -- no walking up them here!Long lines for everything, lack of organization for most things. Even local flights are most often delayed (have plenty of reading material with you before heading to the airport!).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

I would search for the BBC "Toughest Place to be a Bus Driver" episode. It gives you a good realistic look into the other side of those living in Manila. It makes you really appreciate what you have.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 01/28/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC.About a 23 hour plane ride, but the total trip time was more like 30 hours including transfers, getting to the airport 3 hours before, and so on. From DC, Delta is the preferred airline, which goes through Minneapolis/St. Paul to Narita, Tokyo, then onward to Manila. The BETTER flight is from DC to Atlanta, then to Narita, if you can get it.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Several. Seafront, where we live, houses the GSO, CLO, Medical Unit, Amerikids, Public Affairs, has a tennis court, gym, playground, and full sized pool and kids pool. It's a walled guarded place, which is really nice because if you have kids, you can take them to the playground without much problems. However, the location is in the 'bermuda triangle' of three very busy roads, so pollution is high on the compound. Closest housing to the Embassy - commute time by Embassy shuttle is around 15 minutes. There is housing in the Makati area, which a lot of single people enjoy because shopping is very close by. Commute time is much longer. About 25 minutes in the morning, but evening can be up to an hour or more. Fort Bonifacio - VERY Nice area, very rich area, less traffic. Mostly high rises, but the commute time is the WORST.A few folks live in the 'villages' or spread out around the metro Manila area. Many people pay to have a driver as not to deal with the cruddy traffic.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If your expecting American or European quality - few and far between. Many of us shop at S&R, which is basically Costco here. Produce is not always good. Expect produce to rot or go bad sooner than it would in the States. It is also limited in quantities and type. A lot of people buy canned or frozen.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Infant and baby supplies (they are available here, but not as good quality or questionable content).A HEPA grade air filter for the house.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Almost any type of fast food is here, and they deliver!Lunchtime around the Embassy has all the biggies delivering: Papa Johns, McDonalds, Jollibee, KFC, etc. Many American restaurants: TGIFridays, California Pizza Kitchen, etc at the big malls only.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Almost none. There is a store called Healthy Options that DOES carry speciality foods, but expect to pay triple the prices that you do in the States. We buy our son's food (Earth's Best) from Healthy Options, because the cost of buying it here is cheaper than the shipping cost through DPO.Meat-free here to most locals means you can eat fish and other seafood, so be careful.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Cockroaches at night. We only saw one in our apartment. Our yaya keeps our place pretty clean, so we haven't seen any inside our apartment. Mosquitos outside, ants perhaps. Just like living in Southern Florida really.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO at the embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Crazy cheap. Americans are advised NOT to pay more as it skews the economics and makes the local staff not hireable when you leave. About 11,000-13,000 pesos a month for an all-around or yaya/nanny. You can pay lower if they are live in. Drivers get more.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. The embassy has a gym in the NOX building. Usually the local staff hang out there because they can watch tv. It is open to anyone who works there. At Seafront, the ARC sponsors a gym, tennis court, etc, membership is required to use them. The ARC gym is open to Americans only.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't. Pay cash. LOTS of problems with credit fraud.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. We could not find our denomination here though - Evangelical Lutheran.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. International Herald Tribune and Wall Street Journal. Usually price. Local papers in English - plenty of choices.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot. I've personally experienced this. I was hospitalized for a disc problem in my back and lost partial feeling in my leg and foot. I required a cane to get around for a while. I had a VERY hard time in the city getting around. Areas like the Fort and Makati are built up enough to be handicap accessible, but the rest are not.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Taxis are okay'd by the Embassy, but everything else is off limits. Due to safety concerns, only a taxi is allowed.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We've seen everything on the road, however bring extra tires, hoses, filters, etc.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, through the embassy. Not a bad price, but doesn't always work!

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap, lots of plans, and EVERYONE texts.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Unknown.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Men wear a barong, which is both dressy and casual (lucky guys). Women usually wear pretty business casual. The Embassy is very cold, but outside is really hot.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, depending on where you live. If you live on the Seafront Compound, DON'T take your kids out for a walk outside the compound walls. Most people hire drivers, so this is not a problem. The Embassy is good about sending early alerts out.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes. I had to be flown to Singapore to get a decent diagnosis. I'm also pregnant and have to go back to the States to deliver. The medical unit here trusts the OB, but does NOT trust the hospital. Others have had luck with the medical care, but we are finding it very difficult and very disappointing. Hence, we either need to medevac outside for certain issues, or use our R&R to get help back in the States.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy. We only take our son outside for no more than 30 minutes at a time. When we depart for work in the morning, you can see and smell how foul the air is. After the New Year's Eve celebrations, we woke up to a complete haze of smoke and fog. Lots of families bring in their own air purifiers, otherwise you wake up with the 'crud' in your throat and nose.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

About 80-90 degrees, all the time. There is the rainy season, and the dry season. Lots of typhoons come through. This last year a big one hit Manila and the Embassy had serious water damage because of it's location. Otherwise, just expect rain at strange times.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Everyone has a yaya (nanny).We lucked out with ours, but many families go through a few before finding a good one. Usually they are passed around the Embassy families. Amerikids is available when the child is 2, but it's only 4 hours a day.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

LARGE. Lots of military guys retired here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Iffy. Some love it here, others hate it and can't wait to leave, some are middle of the road. Personally, we cannot wait to leave.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We have young children - we have none!

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Single men seem to have a really good time. Single women do too, they usually hang out at the Marine House for happy hour or go clubbing on the weekends. Hard for the single women to find a man, because the locals are all over the single men. Families it is pretty good so far. There are a lot of families with small children on Seafront.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is a special type of gay male here in the Philippines that is culturally acceptable. I don't know about lesbian expats here.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No. Although the northern part of the Philippines is Catholic, and the Southern part is Muslim. The southern Muslim part is intolerant of anyone not Muslim.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We have been working with USEC at the Embassy with charity work. Poverty is very in your face around the Embassy area and the Seafront living area, to include the main roads. Doing what we can to help local orphanages and homes for older children and the eldery. It's very sad, and somehow a lot of people seem to tune it out.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hang out at the huge malls.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wooden carved figurines, handicrafts from recycled items, coconut liquor

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Going on weekend vacations outside the city. There are many resorts, beaches, vacation spots, snorkling, scuba diving, etc.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes - if you don't shop for groceries at the high end stores or eat out a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

For the work experience - yes, it's worth it work wise. To live - absolutely not.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

High expectations, cold weather gear

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3. But don't forget your:

hot weather gear, insect repellant, swimming and scuba gear and air filter!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 07/16/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From DC to Manila, the flight time is about 36 hours. Currently the Embassy flies most people on Delta from Detroit to Manila via Japan.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government - associated with US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are a few different housing types in Manila for government personnel - Seafront, Makati/Fort Bonifacio and the villages. Seafront is a US government property located about 15 minutes from the Chancery (proper Embassy). SF contains several office building including the new VA hospital. It also contains warehouses. The residences are small out-dated townhouses or apartments from the 60s with little renovations or updates to current US standards. Residents complained there was nothing within walking distance and the compound was surrounded by less desirable elements of city-living. However, there is a large pool, several tennis courts, and a small gym on the compound. The proximity to the Chancery is also a positive. Residents also enjoyed (or not) the feeling of small community living with neighbors that were also co-workers. Makati and Fort Bonifacio are cities/areas within the Manila metro area. They are further from the embassy and commutes can take 45 minutes or twice that depending on traffic, weather, etc. The housing is large, spacious apartments built from the late 90s to yesterday. All are within walking distance to Manila's Western-style malls, restaurants and grocery stores. Expats you meet will tend to live in one of these areas if they are not in a village. Villages are small communities of houses around the metro region. Commutes can range from 30 minutes to an hour or more depending on location, traffic, weather, etc. The houses are large and often include are a good-sized yard. They are usually well-placed near the commercial areas of Makati and Fort Bonifacio.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Fruits, vegetables, and meats are a lot cheaper than in the US. Any packaged item that was not made in the Philippines, is more expensive. US food items and products can be purchased from S&R, a Sam's Club equivalent, and Rustans, a grocery store chain catering to Makati and Fort Bonifacio residents. These two are significantly costlier than the normal supermarkets.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Paper products - everything from toilet paper to paper towels. Brown sugar - light and dark. Canned pumpkin for the holidays.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All major fast-food options are available from McDonald's to Burger King to Pizza Hut to Taco Bell and a lot more. There are also a lot of Filipino-branded fast food restaurants like Jollibee. Costs of all of the above is less than in the US.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

The chain of Healthy Options stores stocks many organic, vegetarian, and allergy-friendly foods. Meats are not widely available in the stores though. Costs are twice that than if you bought the same thing a Whole Foods.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Big, large flying cockroaches. Ravenous mosquitoes. And all sorts of ants from harmless brown ones to the biting kind. It's a tropical climate, so expect a lot of insects around the place. The mosquitoes can carry dengue - even in Manila. Most sprays, candles and other defenses don't really work. The roaches are just gross but I didn't hear of people having them in their house. But the brown ants can be a kitchen nuisance.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and Pouch is available at the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap. Drivers, nannys, housekeepers, and cooks are about $400 - 500/month. You are also required to give a bit more for Social Security and a bit of a food allowance.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Fitness First and Gold's Gym are located throughout the city. Membership rates are equivalent to the US but so are the facilities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit Cards are widely accepted throughout Manila and major cities though sometimes compromised. Likewise ATMs are found throughout the city. Check your statements thoroughly to identify additional or incorrect charges. If you go outside of Manila or any other large city, you should bring enough cash. Most resorts charge a 3% usage fee if they accept the card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Mostly Catholic but other Christian denominations available. Not sure about other religions.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Just about every cable channel is a mix-and-match of shows from the US. Cable is about $50-60/month. Most local newspapers are in English.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None though helpful outside of Manila.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot. The sidewalks are crumbling. Ramps to buildings are non-existent in most areas outside of Makati and Fort Bonifacio. A helper would need be needed to assist with movement.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe though drivers don't like turning on their meter and sometimes don't want to take you to your destination if it's out of their way. Buses are not safe. They are frequently in deadly accidents. A surprisingly efficient rail system is available in Manila. It's only two lines but in a pinch, you can take it. But watch your purses and pockets. Jeepneys, specific to Manila, are not recommended since they also get into deadly accidents and are improperly maintained. Additionally, your probability of being robbed is significantly increased.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Four-wheel drive vehicles are good if you plan to drive outside of Manila and also when it rains. However, a sedan or coupe would work fine around the city.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is available through DSL or Cable. Both are slower than the US but streaming video and phone calls work. It's about $50 for DSL, $100 for Cable/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Pre-paid plans are available but most people go with a pay-as-you-go plan. Talking and texting in the country is cheap. Get Skype or another internet-based service for calling back home.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, there are a few in Makati.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Few. There is high unemployment and few challenging jobs available. Most opportunities are volunteering at local charitable organizations.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work unless you meet with a government official. Ties are unheard of outside of Manila. Weekend wear is shorts, jeans, or khakis. Whatever you feel comfortable wearing in a hot and humid climate.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The Philippines has three regions. Government personnel are not allowed to travel to the region of Mindanao. Current information should be obtained from the State Department's website. In the city of Manila there are a few concerns like purse snatchings and pickpocketing. But violent crime for money - like carjackings, gun/knife holdups, et cetera - are rare. When traveling around the country, the crime is even less. I never had an issue with it, but heard about money being taken from accommodations so I'd suggest leaving valuables at the front desk of the resort.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue. Respiratory issues. The quality of care varies from not good to acceptable. The embassy works with the premier hospitals in the country - Makati Med and St. Luke's. They would be acceptable in the US.Acceptable dentists and primary care physicians are also available. Cost is significantly cheaper than the US.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Horribly unhealthy. It hasn't gotten to Beijing horrible but certainly surpassed LA in the 80s/90s. If you have a respiratory problem, you will have issues. If you don't, you may develop one. This is a good reason in itself to get out of Manila as much as possible. Get the yuck out of your lungs!

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, humid and rainy or hot, less humid, and less rainy. It's a tropical climate but there are seasons:Winter - November to February - is the best season. Warm/hot and not so humid during the day and warm with no humidity in the evening. Summer - March to June - is hot/hot and humid during the day and night with very little rain. Rainy season - June to October - is rainy but not rain all day long. It's mostly heavy rain for a few hours every day with the very good chance of typhoons and tropical storms throughout.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large. Due to the former military bases, there are lots of retired military personnel. The Philippines also has a large immigrant population in the US, so there are also lots of Filipino-Americans who moved back to the Phil.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies to who you speak with. Some love it and some are on their 2nd or 3rd tour. Some want to leave now. But I think many are content. Whether they want to return or not is unknown.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

During the day, you can go to Seafront for tennis or squash lessons or meeting up with a personal fitness training. It's also possible to find golf, badminton, soccer, and other facilities around the city. In the evening, you can head to a movie theater, coffee shop, or a mall to meet friends. There are also several decent restaurants. There are numerous clubs and bars. They range in quality from seedy to posh and the prices reflect it. Also, some expats will host house parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families especially enjoy the cheap access to helpers - drivers, nannies, cooks, and more. Most families hire at least two helpers - a driver and nanny. Filipinos love children and are very accommodating. Around the city there are several children's activities. Families seemed generally happy. Couples find easy access to Western-style dining for nights out, romantic travel around the country in nice resorts and easy international escapes. Couples are just as likely to fall into a large group of friends made-up of other couples and singles. Straight single men seem to be in heaven. Most have a Filipino girlfriend and many more are waiting to take her place. (Many employees at the embassy have a Filipino wife from previous Manila tours.) The expat community is welcoming. It's not uncommon to walk into a bar by yourself, meet a few other expats and have plans to meet up again by the end of the night. Straight single women have a more difficult time. Most women have a difficult time dating but have lots of girlfriends to do things with. The female expat community is welcoming and there isn't a real feeling of cliques.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Gay men and lesbians will find Manila to be open and closed at the same time. There are many trans-persons around the city but they have a specific place in society - such as clothing retail, salons, outdoor markets, entertainment, and nightclubs. Don't expect to see a trans-person in an office or government setting. Additionally, many gay men and lesbians are not out at work if they don't work in one of the areas welcoming to trans-persons. There are a handful of bars and clubs that cater to gay men and lesbians but the scene is not comparatively as big as DC. For a long time the epicenter of the community was in Malate. However, Quezon City is growing and has a handful of gay bars and clubs. It was the site of Manila's Gay Pride, co-sponsored by the mayor's office. (The mayor of Malate refused to co-sponsor it.) Gay men and lesbians who are out or 'noticeably gay' should not have a problem with violence. However they may endure stereotypes or strange questions from inquisitive Filipinos. Also, it may not be wise for a same-sex couple to kiss in public, but same-sex couples holding hands in malls is not uncommon. Bars come and go fast but www. Utopia-Asia.com offers current information on Manila and other cities in the country and region.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Filipinos can be racist. There are many billboards around Manila advertising whitening creams. Darker skinned persons that visit spas routinely are asked if they want a whitening creme. The thought that lighter skinned persons are superior is prevalent. However I never heard of a violent hate-crime based on skin color. Filipinos are pre-dominantly Catholic but in the south, there is a large population of Muslims with a small group of Islamist extremists. I'm not sure if there are prejudices in Manila based on religion.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel. Get out of Manila as much as you can. See the country; see the region. In the city, there are a few decent Western-style restaurants, clothing stores, and food supplies. For golfing, there are a couple of nice courses with Intramuros being very popular with the expat community. Massages and spas are certainly a highlight. Most are cheap but the quality is not equal to Thailand or China. Still, they were nice and you can easily communicate areas that need extra pressure. Shopping at the pearl market in Greenhills is great - but you should get there when they set up to avoid the crowds. There is also a good opportunity to meet some nice expats in the community. I also made some good Filipino friends but sometimes there are underlying reasons that Filipinos befriend expats - visa, money, status, et cetera.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Take a spa day to release the frustrations of the week. Drive 45 minutes south to check out Taal volcano and escape the heat of Manila. Take a day to check out the American Cemetery and Memorial in Fort Bonifacio. Go the movies - IMAX or Director's Club with La-Z-Boy recliners. Check out the Saturday farmer's market in Salcedo, Makati.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls. Hand-made furniture.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The country offers lots to persons who want to get out of Manila. There are endless diving opportunities. Even with a two or three year tour, you may feel you won't get to all of the spots you want to dive. In addition to diving, beaches are abound on the islands though accommodations are not to US standards - i.e. expect a Motel 8 room as luxury and less for the more remote places. The mountains in the north - Baguio and Banaue - offer a nice break from the heat and dirt of the rest of the country. If you need a break from the islands, you're an easy hop to South East Asia with daily direct flights to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, and more.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. Even if you travel and buy American products. It's about being sensible with your money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. But one tour is enough.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter supplies.

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3. But don't forget your:

Summer clothes. Sunglasses. Umbrella. Patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Culture Shock! Philippines: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 05/13/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my 3rd expat experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

East Coast of the US -- travel time to Manila is approximately 22 hours (layovers included) connecting in Detroit or Minneapolis then again in Narita or Nagoya (Japan).

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3. How long have you lived here?

over 1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most housing is high-rise condos/apartments. Some people live in housing in a number of developments. Commute is horrible -- traffic is usually terrible and it will take hours to go 10KM. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in cars.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Depends on where you want to shop. There is a Costco-like shoppers club called S&R that carries just about all of the American products you could wish for. As does Rustan's grocery and Market! Market! in the Fort. If you shop at the local markets, food can be VERY affordable.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would bring a breadmaker and hand soap. I hate the smell of the handsoap available on the local market.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Anything you want, you can get: from TGI Fridays, McDonald's, Pizza, Indian food, Thai. Generally very affordable or on par with the US (in US chains). Most places deliver (yes, even McDonald's)

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

If you're a vegetarian, this post is miserable. Everything is cooked in pork fat. Meat is key in every meal. Shellfish is ubiquitous, so if you're allergic, exercise a lot of caution. Gluten free & soy alternatives are found in many grocery stores and a store called Healthy Options (Greenbelt and MOA are the 2 I know of -- there are probably other branches).

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The mosquitoes are fairly vicious. Cockroaches. Embassy GSO does a good job of controlling them, however.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very affordable. Quality can be touch and go (I ended up with an AMAZING helper, some have had troubles). Drivers average salary of 500 to 700 Pesos/day; Helpers' wages depend on if you provide housing. Live-out, part-time runs 500 to 800 pesos a day depending on other benefits and duties. Ya ya's (nannies) are very common and their cost is comparable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, very affordable and nearly everywhere you go.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Regularly used & accepted. ATMs are everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Philippines is heavily Roman Catholic. Many English-language services.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

A subscription to the Int'l Herald Tribune 6 days a week runs 12,000 PHP/year, local papers are mostly English as well and cost less for delivery.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None -- I found some guerrilla Tagalog to use with cab drivers (to show them I didn't just get off the plane here) was helpful.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Buildings are not wheelchair accessible -- some have ramps and elevators, but generally very difficult to get around. Only method of public transportation that one could use is taxis and they generally aren't accommodating. Sidewalks (if there are any) are generally poorly maintained and uneven.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are very cheap & affordable, but the drivers will often try to get more money out of you ("Oh ma'am, too far, lots of traffic, you pay 300 Pesos!").Insist they use the meter. If they don't get out and get another cab (unless it's Friday night in Makati, then you might be a victim to the market!!)

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Go Asian! Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, Honda...all very common. Some Volvos and BMWs. No carjackings. Road quality in Manila is generally good enough to accommodate compact & low profile vehicles, but if you want to drive out into the provinces, vehicles with a higher clearance are your best bet.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, highest speed will cost around 3500 php/month (less than $100). Other packages are available for much less.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The Philippines is the top sender of text messages worldwide. You can get cheap unlocked phones here & SIM cards for a song (about $1 for the card + "load" -- credit for calls & texting).

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good...the vet will come to you.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes -- often with NGO's or PIOs. There are also a lot of "call centers" that are US owned that employ expats.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Public: Very casual (sundresses, shorts, jeans -- all are acceptable).Work depends on where you work -- business casual is common. Expat men frequently adopt a Philippine "barong" or dress shirt and that is perfectly acceptable in all work and casual environments.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

USG personnel prohibited from traveling on island of Mindanao. In 2011, bombing of a commuter bus on EDSA.Daily security not usually an issue -- usual heightened awareness of one's security is sufficient to thwart would be pickpockets.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is accessible and generally very good. Very affordable (currently a cleaning at the dentist will run 800 to 1000 Pesos, same for a doctor's visit).The climate is horrible and upper respiratory infections are very common. Expect to contract stomach bugs while you're here (BYO Pepto Bismol -- it is NOT available on the local market -- if you want to use it.)

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

HORRIBLE. Everyone I know gets upper respiratory infections on a regular basis. Most days the city is covered with a rusty brown haze.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, wet and hot. If you love sun, this is your place. Wet season lasts generally from June through September/October. While a few typhoons may affect the western side of the island of Luzon, usually rain is limited to a few hours a day during the rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large (ADB, multiple embassies, WorldBank, aid agencies & NGOs.)

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2. Morale among expats:

Dubious

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Can be great, but the traffic and congestion in the city often puts a damper on plans. It's a major effort to go from one end of the city to the other. If you live in Makati or the Fort, opportunities abound. First run American movies are very inexpensive at air conditioned theatres.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a horrible post for single women -- don't even bother. Dating options are next to nil and the expat community is so disparate that you end up feeling very, very isolated. It seems to be a great place for the single men.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I haven't personally experienced any or heard of any. I have heard men I'm acquainted with say that they are downright uncomfortable with how frequently they are accosted in public places, but that is not so much a prejudice as it is opportunistic.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Scuba diving & snorkeling, spas are fantastic, antiquing

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Handcrafted wooden boxes with mother of pearl inlay, lots and lots of real pearl jewelry (Greenhills)

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great jumping off point for travel throughout Asia (I have visited India, Thailand, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam during my tour); availability of great helpers and drivers, lots of beaches to enjoy throughout the Philippines with inexpensive flights on Cebu Pacific or PAL carriers.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you buy local.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Not now...ask me in 10 years. I might change my mind.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and sense of humor!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

If you're going to be working here, read "Anarchy of Families" for a good explanation of the barkada and family structures here.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 05/06/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

6th expat experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

East Coast. 22 hours, with connections through Detroit and Nagoya or Narita (Tokyo).

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Seafront Compound: about 15 minutes from the embassy. Apartments and townhouses, tennis courts, squash and racquetball courts, a gym, and a pool with a lifeguard. Unfortunately, there's nothing around there, and the neighborhood is kind of sketchy. Makati:built-up neighborhood with lots of expats, restaurants, etc. Apartment living - no green space. 30+ minutes to the embassy. A lot of shopping. Fort Bonifacio: apartment living, some green spaces, though construction is booming. Close to most of the int'l schools and shopping. The Villages: single-family homes sprinkled around. Some have pools, most are pretty spacious but not necessarily well-maintained. The layouts can be kind of weird, too.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We have found groceries and supplies to be expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Pool toys for the kids. Birthday/Christmas presents.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's is cheap but does not have exactly the same flavors. Krispy Kreme, TGI Fridays, Chilis, Outback, Texas Roadhouse, etc., all a little bit cheaper (except the alcohol).

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There are a lot of American-imported products with U.S. labeling about allergens. But it's expensive. Vegetarians sometimes have a hard time here.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Regular tropical bugs.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap and plentiful. However, you get what you pay for.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, at the embassy, on the economy, and in some apartment buildings.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use them frequently and haven't had a problem.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Anglican and non-denominational are frequently attended by expats.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, widely.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None - we have no Tagalog and get along just fine.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot. Don't do it.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

RSO advises us against public transportation. Taxis are fine, as long as the driver is willing to go where you want and turns on the meter.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I would suggest something like the Honda CR-V, the unofficial car of the foreign service.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, we pay about $85/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Many things are done through texting, so get a phone ASAP.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Don't know.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

don't know

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No -- but there are a lot of jobs at the Embassy, not all of which are clerical in nature.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpockets are frequent. Pay close attention to your purse/wallet. Terrorist groups operate in the south, where our embassy personnel are forbidden to travel. In late 2010, there was a bus bombing that killed two. It took place just outside a neighborhood that houses many embassy families.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is not bad -- but there are some things I wouldn't have done here (like anything requiring general anethesia).Some people have babies here and reports of experiences are varied.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy. All from automobiles -- there's no industrial base here. Many expats complain about it, but it's nowhere near China's air.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm/hot and sunny for part of the year, warm/hot and rainy the rest of the year (approx July - November).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The two main ones are ISM and Brent, which have been pretty well covered here. We are happy with ISM. We chose it solely based on proximity to our housing.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Brent can handle them. ISM has some limited services.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Amerikids at Seafront is cheap and good, though pretty academically-oriented for a preschool. Other parents have found Montessori schools or pay for their kids to go to ISM.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through the school and locally.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Variable.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families: sort of. Domestic help is cheap and plentiful. There are things to do (little league, after-school activities), but it's not a fun city to be in. Couples: yes. Singles: I would say "yes", because the embassy is so big, and the expat community is so big, it is not hard to make friends.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that we have seen.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Getting certified to SCUBA dive, traveling around SE Asia.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel outside of Manila.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Furniture, clothes, handicrafts.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The weather is warm year-round. Manila is a 20% hardship post, so there may be opportunities to save money. Domestic help is cheap and plentiful.

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11. Can you save money?

We have been able to.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. I don't regret it, but I will never come back.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter gear.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience and realization that Filipinos are Asian, first and foremost.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Ilustrado

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Gas is really expensive. We just got notified that we will now pay (through the embassy recreation club) $100 for 100 liters of gas. Manila also started getting a 5% COLA recently - I expect that to go up, especially as the dollar weakens against the peso.

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Manila, Philippines 02/06/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. The Hague, Paris, Geneva, Venice, Vientiane.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It takes about 25 hours to get to Manila from Florida, connecting through any combination of 1 U.S. and 1 East Asian city.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There is an enormous disparity between the 10% who live at Seafront and the 90% who live in Makati, Fort Bonifacio, and the Villages. Seafront has smaller, outdated apartments and townhouses, but a nice sense of community and grass for kids and dogs. The Villages have mansions for larger families. Most people live in luxury highrises in the financial district of Makati or the Beverly Hills area known as the Fort. Seafront commute averages 15 minutes, while everyone else has up to an hour travel time.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Household supplies can be expensive, if you want the brands you know from the U.S. Groceries are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, if you are willing to shop at local supermarkets like Hypermarket, Robinsons, or Cash n Carry. The overall quality is very good. European and Japanese brands are readily available at reasonable prices. U.S. goods can also be found, particularly at S&R (Sam's Club), but are much more expensive on the whole.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Air purifiers and dehumidifiers. If you do not have air purifiers running constantly, you can come home to a smog cloud in your living room. If you do not have dehumidifiers running constantly, you house and clothes can quickly develop mold.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

The Philippines is the real Fast Food Nation. Anything you want, you can get in fast food variety. Filipino food is roundly critized by almost all expats, but there is a wide selection of excellent international cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese, Indian, American, and Mediterranean.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are ever-present, and dengue fever is a problem, particularly in the rainy season. Malaria is only an issue in Palawan.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Don't use the pouch or the Philippine Post if you can avoid doing so. They are unreliable.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available. Drivers, nannies (Yayas), cooks, and all-around helpers (Katulongs) can be hired live-in or live-out for about $10 a day. Quality is variable, as is trustworthiness.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are plenty of gyms all over the city that you can join for U.S. prices. Seafront has its own gym, and so do many of the highrise apartment buildings.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs can be risky. This is a cash-based society. It is advised to use the ATM at the U.S. Embassy, but you can also feel comfortable at reputable international banks like HSBC or Citi.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

The Philippines is a Catholic country, and churches abound. There are also Protestant, Mormon, and Muslim congregations throughout the country.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Many television channels are wholly or partially in English, and you can find many of your favorite shows from around the world on many of the international cable channels. Cable cost is slightly lower than the U.S.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by on English alone, but a little Tagalog goes a long way and will save you lots of money and hassle. Do not expect the English here to be of the same level as at home, and remember that the underlying Philippine culture makes the meanings of many expressions different. There may be seven ways of saying "yes" but six of them actually mean "no."

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It is not easy to be disabled in the Philippines. Very few facilities are adapted for wheelchairs, and the sidewalks are horrendous. Think twice about coming here if you need handicap accessible facilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Innercity buses are perhaps the least safe form of travel, as they drive like maniacs. The Manila metro train system is a haven for petty criminals, and jeepneys and buses are sometimes targets for robberies. Taxis are generally safe, but the drivers will often try to cheat you. Make sure the meter is running, and don't be afraid to get out if you don't feel comfortable. You can get anywhere in the city for less than $4.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can pretty much bring anything to the Philippines. Seafront has its own gas station. Watch out for local stations, as many water down the gasoline. Quality mechanics are inexpensive and easy to find for just about any brand.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High-speed internet is readily available in Manila. Everywhere else, it is dialup. Prepare to pay $50-100 a month for high-speed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

If you bring a cell phone, make sure it is unlocked. You can buy knock-offs everywhere in the Philippines, but they are unreliable. Cell phone usage is very inexpensive, and most communication is through texting.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vet care is fantastic and affordable in the Philippines. Pets are also inexpensive and easy to find. If you leave on vacation, it is much better to hire your helper (Katulong) to stay with your pets than to put them in a kennel.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. There are plenty of jobs in the various Embassies around town, but professional jobs are rare. If there is an advertised opportunity, there will thousands of applicants, as Filipinos are highly educated and underemployed. Unless your uncle is advertising the position, you are unlikely to get it - vacancies stay within the family.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

The Philippines is a very casual place, and a t-shirt is accepted just about everywhere. Work attire typically consists of a dress shirt and or local barong if you are male, or pants or a skirt with a top if you are female. Dressing up is somewhat rare, but also always accepted.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The restive southern islands of Mindanao and Sulu are off-limits to Embassy personnel. There are several terrorist and non-terrorist Muslim insurgencies in the south. Communist guerrillas operate in rural areas across the country, but are not typically a barrier to travel. Urban crime is an issue, but not if you stay alert and are selective in where you travel. Manila traffic is the most dangerous thing in daily life.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The water in the Philippines is generally not potable and is unsafe to drink. Sanitation is extremely poor, and it is unsafe to eat at street stalls or food courts. Local markets are generally unclean, but supermarkets are generally safe. Diahhrea is common. Take Yakult every day to save you from local bugs. Medical care is underwhelming, but Asian Hospital is very nice and Makati Med is usually ok. Cosmetic medicine is of high quality and low cost, as is general dentistry and ophtomology.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very unhealthy. Emissions laws are not enforced in the Philippines, and the chronic traffic produces a heavy layer of smog over the capital region. Plan on getting some form of respiratory illness once every two months - expats call it the "Manila Crud."

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Tropical island monsoon climate, beautiful all year around. Rainy season runs from about May to October. The cool dry season runs November to February, and the hot dry season runs March to May. Year-around highs average 90 degrees.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We do not have school-aged children, but notice that some generations of officers rave about ISM while other generations rave about Brent. ISM is close to Makati and the Fort, which makes it the easy choice for those who live there. Brent has the better academic reputation, and is somewhat closer for those living at Seafront or the Villages. As with most things in Manila, commutes can be long.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

If your child has special needs, they will need to attend Brent, which has a very good reputation in this regard.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The Seafront Compound hosts its own preschool, which has a waiting list to get in. It is very easy to hire a nanny (Yaya) for your children, live-in or live-out, for about $10 a day.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Basketball is extremely popular in the Philippines, the two big international schools have no shortage of activities. You will not find things like little league baseball, because Manila is a city of concrete with few green spaces.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Variable. Many people love it here and come back time and again. Many people hate it here and count the days until departure. Most people go back and forth between the two, remarking that they could be somewhere worse... or better. The friendliness of the Filipinos goes a long way toward their endearment, while their seeming inability to get anything accomplished goes a long way toward frustration with the country.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Entertaining is easy here, and there are lots of activities like movies, bowling, or shopping - all at the mall. There are plenty of restaurants, and the Filipinos are the world's biggest partygoers. There is no shortage of nightlife, but most of it surrounds redlight activities.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is not the greatest city for families, as the pollution is high, green spaces few, and non-mall-related activities few and far between. Unfortunately, the red light district stretches over almost a quarter of the city, including the area surrounding Seafront and the Embassy. Couples will enjoy all the dining options and the easy day trips. Single women tend to have a hard time here. Single men fall into two groups: those who enjoy the red light district and those who have a difficult time dating because it is hard to tell when a Filipina is interested in the man or his passport. This is not a city for bad marriages - it tends to break them.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

The Philippines is an extremely gay-friendly country, and might have the highest proprotion of openly gay men in the world. Lesbians are few and far between, but are equally accepted.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Women are on top in the Philippines, and men sometimes feel like the glass ceiling is on them. There are religious problems between Muslims and Christians, but it is largely confined to Mindanao and Sulu. We have not really seen racial, religious, or gender prejudices in Manila. If you are American, you will be an instant celebrity whether you like it or not.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Shopping is a blast, and it is easy to find inexpensive brand name clothing and top quality pearls. Island-hopping has been a great way to blow off steam, and we have made some good memories travelling within the Philippines and across the sea to mainland Southeast Asia.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are several great daytrips close to Manila. The Tagaytay highlands are stunningly georgous and a nice place to relax. Anilao has quiet seaside resorts with fantastic diving. Corregidor and Bataan are good for WWII buffs. There are no shortage of malls to explore in Manila.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pearls, furniture, clothing, handicrafts, picture frames.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Because of the Filipino fascination with the United States, you can find just about anything American in the Philippines. The Philippines, outside of Manila, is a beautiful country with friendly people. Domestic travel is easy and inexpensive, and if you live in the right neighborhood then you can save a great deal of money. The tropical weather is a big plus, and if you have always wanted to learn to dive, then the Philippines is the place to do it.

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11. Can you save money?

You can save a lot of money, if you make the right choices. If you live in Makati, Fort Bonifacio, or the Villages, then everything will be more expensive than if you live at Seafront or elsewhere in Manila. If you buy American goods, you will pay for it. Philippine equivalents are cheap, plentiful, and usually similar quality. Local travel is very affordable, and international travel is slightly less than U.S. prices.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

If you are expecting a Southeast Asian country, then maybe this isn't the place for you. This is more like the love child of Honolulu and Mexico City. If you are expecting an exotic version of Americana, then you have found it. For us, we would not come here again.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothing, bicycle, and clean lungs.

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3. But don't forget your:

Personal hygiene items, feminine products, cold and flu medicines, anti-diahhreals, summer clothes, and sense of adventure. Most of all, bring your patience, beacuse you will need it to stay sane.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal is the national novel and provides a great look at the Spanish era and good insight into the Filipino. Lonely Planet is great for travel. In Our Image provides a long but helpful look at U.S.-Philippines relations. The Philippines: A Singular and Plural Place is probably the best mix of culture and history. Muslim Rulers and Rebels is a fascinating look at the southern conflict.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Living La Visa Loca is very entertaining. The Philippines is a quirky place with a highly productive domestic film industry. There are no shortage of Philippine films.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The Philippines is a very friendly but very frustrating place. The biggest challenge will be that you are both speaking English but almost never connect at the same level.

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Manila, Philippines 01/21/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Not my first expat experience. Lived in Germany many years ago for a year with U.S. military.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is Washington, D.C.Took us about 19 hours to get here straight from D.C. to Korea, then Korea to Manila. Korean Airlines was the nicest airlines I have ever flown. Last summer flew on China Airlines from Manila to New York stopping in Taipei and Anchorage. Not a very desirable airlines or flight, but it was very cheap (880 for adult, 680 for kids)which was important as we paid flight ourselves. Taipei was a very nice airport. Traveled alone with 3 kids fine.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been living here 1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of a U.S. Embassy employee

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Available housing is U.S. Embassy compound, condo, or house. Embassy compound is nice because doctor is right there, nice facilities such as playground, tennis and swimming pool, safety good and preschool for U.S. Embassy kids. Actual apartments there are small and location not great for anything else. We chose condo which is good in newer Fort Bonifacio area. Condos nice because less mosquitos, swimming pools, gym included, less people to hire to maintain it, good security. Downside is less privacy, no place for kids to ride bike, less space for pets although helpers usually walk the dogs. Also condos usually have 110v/220v options so you can use your appliances etc. from home. Houses- good for size and lots of kids. Quality is not guaranteed so it is hit or miss if you get a house that needs a lot of work or not. Flooding has also been a problem with a few houses where people have to go to a hotel or be relocated to a condo. May not have 110v available. Also need to hire more help to maintain. For example, if you are leaving for a while, you need a security guard or at least your driver or helper staying there to watch the house. Commute time varies for all depending on where location is.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Lots of available stuff here, but you have to go to many different stores. For example, didn't see EGGO waffles for about 9 months. Suddenly found them at a regular store I shop. Went back this week and they are GONE!You hear lots of "out of stock, ma'am".Once you figure out where to get things it's fine. I also order anything I can't get on drugstore.com. There are less options for healthy snacks for kids than in the U.S.Lots of MSG in things also.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Kirkland Laundry Detergent, Kirkland Toilet Paper, Wipes, Swiffer refills etc. YOu can get here, but expensive. Also sport equipment such as baseball bats, gloves etc. cause expensive here. Ziploc bags and also rubbermaid containers to keep your food in to eliminate pests. I mailed my spices and was happy I did that. Bedding materials buy before you come like Mattress pads, sheets etc. Cheaper in the states and better quality. Larger womens clothing. Buy lots before you come like pants. I am a size 10-12 and have difficulty buying tops here unless you pay expensive prices. Sometimes I luck out and find some. Pants are tougher. Also bathing suits. Battery back-up for your computer and surge protectors for others like t.v. We bought and shipped one before we came. Extremely important with power outages. Embassy supplies aircleaners, but if you have any at home BRING THEM! More of my Winter stuff because we went ice skating and had no gloves or if you travel to cold weather.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonalds, Jollibees (Filpino equivalent of McD's), KFC, Kenny Rogers, Pizza Hut, Shakeys, Yellow Cab Pizza, some Wendys, Sparro pizza. Also Applebees, Fridays, Hard Rock Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen..lots!Fast food is cheaper than U.S. but have to figure out how to order it so you get what you like. Prices vary depending on location. In nice areas, eating U.S. food, cost of food is equivalent to U.S. prices. If eating Filipino, price is less. Steak is outrageously priced for decent steak.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Definitely mosquitos. I just experienced Dengue and it was no fun and can't even remember getting bitten. Condos are nicer in this regard than a house. I have heard of large cockroaches, but haven't had a problem personally with them. Ants..large and tiny tiny small ones you can hardly see.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use Embassy mail system. None Embassy people use the DHL type of service and you can also send and receive Balikbayan boxes this way.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household helper ranges 4000p-15000p. live-in or live out. 4000p you get someone who probably hasn't worked for expats and a big language barrier.10,000 gets you someone usually really good with good english. I have one for 7,000 and her English is good, but cooking is less experienced with AMerican food. We eat Filipino food about 3 times a week so not a problem for us. Also I would expect less issues with the higher paid. Driver- salary and hours vary too. For about 10,000 you can get decent driver. For more you can get very good driver. Most expat drivers are higher salary. Again depends on hours. Mine works Mon-Sat, 730-5 and we pay overtime and holiday pay.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms in the condos, lots of workout facilities are available. People in houses usually opt to join a fitness studio. You can take tennis lessons, dance lessons, Scuba certification is huge here, swimming etc. Also a personal trainer is about 10 bucks an hour. Great!

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Try to avoid if you can. Although I get my money either out of Embassy bank by writing a check or on the outside at a trusted ATM like one in front of a bank or the one on the ISM school campus. Can also open up a local bank account.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Mostly Catholic, but other churches around. Not sure about Jewish. Large Indian population also here that are Hindu.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

All available. CNN and lots of other stations with Cable. Cost much cheaper than the states. I think I just paid about 70 dollars for my cable, internet, and phone bill this month. In states it was like 150.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None really. Mostly I want to learn so I know what people are saying like my help or to direct people.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I don't think this would be a easy city for a disabled person to navigate. I have a brother who is physically challenged that I think would have a hard time here even with his scooter. Easier because you can hire the personal help or have your driver take you places, but when trying to just navigate a stroller it is difficult because sidewalks just suddenly end or you can't get a door open.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We have been told not to ride buses, trains, or jeepneys. I have taken taxi from the condo (the guard writes down the plate #) and also from the malls. Don't enjoy the taxi though, prefer my own vehicle.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a Ford Expedition and are fine with it. Good car cause it's BIG!You can even add lights and sirens to help navigate through traffic. We also got our windows tinted darker so no one can see us in car. We are not planning on bringing our car back to states with us though as we are here for 4 more years. There are Ford dealers here, toyota, Hyundai, Nissan etc. However, the cars they sell here are different models so it can be a problem when you need parts. The Ford parts for our Expedition are more expensive than in the U.S. but the labor is CHEAP!so it balances everything out. Carjacking not a problem living in condo and also having a driver to watch your car when you park. Anything goes with driving here. I can drive when necessary, but easier and safer with driver when you have small kids.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet access available..better in condos. Internet speed varies, never excellent, but functional

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You will need a cell phone here. You can purchase here, purchase a SIM card, and buy load for it. Only costs a peso to text and terribly expensive to use as actual phone. Texting will become your life here. You can buy load in different increments. I usually get 500p which is about 10 dollars and that lasts me at least a month

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

AS far as I know yes for vets, no for kennels. Most people ask a friend or the helper to stay to watch pets while out of town. People see pets very differently here and only the rich can afford the pet care.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not sure. I know a few that work. There are people here at Embassy who can help with that though.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

In public, jeans and nice shirt the norm with sandals or flip-flops. People tend to dress nice here and care about their appearance.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Be aware of surroundings, avoid public transportation such as train and famous jeepneys. Taxis usually fine. Watch pockets, purses. Keep purse in front of you with no credit cards with you. Had my purse slashed in a mall when I had my kids with me. I was perfect target. Bring yaya, driver or maid with you if alone with small kids. Don't travel to Southern islands like Mindinao due to terrorist activity and kidnappings. Local people though are very friendly and overall Americans are well liked and respected.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Allergy, asthma and sinus problems an issue here. Embassy has nice clinic with xray machines. Makati med which is the hospital the Embassy deals with after hours is fine, but I would not have elective surgery there if I can help it. New hospital being built called St. Lukes in Fort Bonifacio is supposed to be nice. Drive farther towards Brent to Asian Hospital which is excellent. Overall good medical care, especially because we as expats get a lot of respect here and have money to pay. Not good care for general public who don't have money. Lots of people get Lasik eye surgery here and are happy..

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality moderate to unhealthy. Some days good if windy. I had very little asthma in the states and came here and basically can't workout outside. Every time I do, I get really sick. Some people though have no problems. There is a cough many people have here and they call it the Manila cough. There is no control of pollution and trash so I can't see it getting any better. Once you are here for a while you get used to it though and if you can stay indoors in your house you are good. Also this is reason many people travel out of city once a month because once you get out of city you can instantly breathe well again!

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

June-October is the rainy season. Lots of rain and typhoon warnings. Nov-Feb nice..reminds me of Southern California. March-May is considered summer so is hot and relatively dry. This is when the local schools are out for their summer break.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

My kids go to ISM.Good school, but took a bit of time for my kids to adjust at first. Their equivalent to kindergarten (ECLC) was more lenient and play based than Virginia school. However, 1st Grade picked up and I am perfectly happy and impressed by the school. Kids really learn to think outside of the box while learning traditional things too. Truly makes them global thinkers. Playground and afterschool activities are phenomenal. School promotes living a healthy and active lifestyle. PE, ART, Music and medical depts wonderful. I have liked the teachers although from other parents I hear communication can be improved. Most communication through e-mail or actually going to the school. Very close to most houses and condos. Bus needed improvements which they implemented this year so am very happy. Helps to keep eye on kids and be active in school. Will accept certain number of children who do not speak English yet and children with mild special needs although they do not accept children with what I would call moderate to severe special needs. I know kids who receive Speech or extra tutoring and children who are on the High Functioning Autistic Spectrum who go to the school and parents are happy with the services. Brent- I know kids that go here and both kids and parents are very happy. From what I hear it is a more traditional academic school, but kids that go to either Brent or ISM seem equally academically challenged (especially in older grades)and are happy and go on to do well in college. Commute is long 45-1hour. Makes it more difficult to visit school if child sick or for performances, sports etc. Most kids nap on bus. Mine get carsick so the school was not an option for us. Also Brent accepts more special needs children and has the ability and staff to support them. They also are more apt to bend on accepting kids at the cut-off dates of Grades. For example, I knew one family whose child already completed 1st grade in states. Came here and birthday was like Oct 5th or something and ISM wanted them to redo 1st grade. These people went to Brent because they allowed child to go to 2nd grade after testing them even though birthday cut-off was Sept. 30.British School- know expats that go here although none from U.S. Embassy. Mostly Australians and British and then other foreigners. Smaller school, across from ISM,less classes per grade level. People seem happy there too and say communication is good

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

As my above school experience says, Brent is better at accommodating special needs kids, such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy etc. From what I hear they have the staff and ability to support them properly. Again this is only through word of mouth though. My son had a speech impairment when we looked at schools and both Brent and ISM had no problems with this. ISM is not equipped to take children in wheelchairs etc. This would be one of my biggest complaints about ISM.However, my children have all gotten individualized attention at ISM and teachers have adapted to suit their needs and help them. Mine were premature infants so have history with dealing with various therapists. I also know a person who has Autistic children and she is 100% happy with what ISM has done for her kids.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Different options. At U.S. Embassy compound they have AmeriKids which is similar to a U.S. preschool, but takes 30 minutes to get there. This would be my first choice if my kids were in preschool here. There are Montessori schools I think in Dasmarinas village and also know people who have sent kids to Summit School near ISM that are happy.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Most sports are at the schools, but lots on the outside too. My son is in ILLAM which is the Little league here and there are a lot of others if you just meet other parents and start asking them. Also there is a ice hockey group on Sundays at Mall of Asia I think run by a Canadian, kids to ice skating, piano lessons affordable..great stuff!Just not too much open park space. Baseball gets difficult with availability of few fields.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large..many Americans with Embassy, ADB, or other banks, telecom centers etc. Lots of Canadian, British, Australian, New Zealand, etc.

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2. Morale among expats:

I think good among most. Even with weird illnesses and difficulties here, you can always find someone to share your woes with or to help you out. Good community support among ISM parents and good at Embassy.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Can be busy or stay home if you want?There are dances etc. among expat community and lots of local events. Lots to do

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good city for anyone

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Some religious tension between Christians and Muslims, but don't see it really in Manila. I find people listen more to my husband, but that may just be personal experience. No gender prejudices that I see among the high social classes, but definitely a male dominated society among the lower classes. Women are not always treated equally and they are often abused. You don't really see this much though in the daily life of an expat.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling is definitely a bonus. Many different places to go depending on whether single, married and ages of kids. Large population of expats so you can almost always find someone that you click with and make lasting friendships.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Various beaches are wonderful, ice skating and bowling are affordable at Mall of Asia. Movies are cheap and you can either get the food there or bring your own in no problem. Lots of clubs and groups. Something for everyone.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

woodwork and furniture.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Advantages to living in Manila is the cost of living in general and ability to afford to hire household help. Also it's a easy hop to many Asia locations so you can travel to a lot of other countries, such as China, Thailand, and Australia during holiday breaks. Weather is decent..don't ever have to bundle up the kids. Rain can be depressing during the rainy season though which is why a lot of kids at international schools just go home during our own summer June-July. People speak English although you can still be often misunderstood.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, lots

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Most of your winter clothes. Just bring a few. If you are moving into a condo, space will be a huge issue so leave behind anything you can or don't need. Also leave behind if you can with family your valuable things like wedding album etc.

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3. But don't forget your:

Car, sunglasses, piano, sports equipment, air cleaner, computer all-in-one printer/scanner/fax! Spices. Hair care products...and hair color if you do your own. Can't get the right colors here.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Arrival Survival put out by I think the Union Church here. If you get a sponsor have them buy this for you.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Overall Manila is a nice place to live. Even with the daily enviromental and household staff issues, I still have so much more time to myself here than I did at home and we are able to save money. Also with all the money you save it's usually no problem to go on trips or to go home to visit for the summer. Glad to be here.

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Manila, Philippines 07/17/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

November 2007 - present.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Affiliated with U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

It is approximately 20 hours from the U.S. to Manila, transiting through Tokyo.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing ranges from small condos near the embassy compound to large houses closer to Fort Bonifacio and the international schools. There is a huge disparity in U.S. Embassy housing. First tour officers are likely to end up on the U.S. Embassy Seafront compound, which is not very well maintained. Senior officers, particularly those with children, are likely to get large houses with pools and large yards. Married couples tend to be housed in condos in the central business district of Makati, close to restaurants and malls. Also expect to spend several weeks to several months in temporary housing.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Overall, the prices are about what you would pay in the U.S. Local produce is cheaper, but imported goods such as cereal, laundry detergent, and cleaning supplies are much more.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

High-quality bed linens, detergents, cleaning supplies and baking supplies.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants are generally plentiful and relatively inexpensive (especially compared to D.C.!) All types of food are available and most of the fast food chains are here. Filipinos love sweet food, so bakeries and Krispy Kreme abound.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are problematic, particularly outside of metro Manila. Dengue fever is a growing concern, although one can minimize the risk by avoiding standing water and going out at dusk.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has both an FPO and a pouch. It takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks to get mail and packages from the states.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is both inexpensive and plentiful. Expect to pay about $200-$300 for a live in all-around maid, about $200 for a yaya (nanny), and about $300-350 for a full time driver. Having domestic help makes life much easier in Manila, especially because most tasks, such as paying bills, must be done in person.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many condos have their own gyms, and there is a chain of Fitness First facilities throughout metro Manila. Both the main embassy compound and seafront compound have gyms, as well as almost all of the nice hotels.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I haven't personally had any trouble using my credit card, although I try to use cash for most of my small purchases and eating out at restaurants.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

The Philippines is a Catholic country, but most other religious denominations are available. I know for sure there are Jewish temples, Islamic mosques, mormon churches, and non-denominational protestant churches in Makati alone.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Most local newspapers are in English. A 3-month subscription for the Philippine Star runs about $45. Cable television costs about $30 per month, and although it can take quite some time to get set up, once you have it it tends to be quite reliable.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is an official language and is thus spoken everywhere. Learning a few words of Tagalog is definitely appreciated, but not usually necessary.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Manila is not at all friendly toward those with physical disabilities, in the sense that sidewalks and buildings are not equipped. With that said, domestic help is very inexpensive and you could hire a nurse, maid, or driver to get you around.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The embassy advises against using trains and buses, given that they can be targets for crime and bombings. On the other hand, taxis tend to be quite safe and inexpensive. The only issue with taking a taxi is that you have to be vigilant about making sure the meter is turned on when you enter the vehicle.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A small to mid-size SUV is perfect for Manila. The roads tend to flood during the rainy season, which can stall a low-clearance vehicle. I also tend to feel safer in an SUV given that driving in Manila can sometimes turn into a contact sport!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High speed internet varies from condo to condo, although generally the cost is around $40-$50 per month. I have had quite a lot of problems with my internet going out, but some people have had few problems.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone texts in Manila, and most people purchase 'load' cards instead of purchasing a calling plan.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I don't believe so.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are a few vets that offer high quality services and pet food. Instead of using a kennel, your best bet is to hire a domestic helper to stay with your pet while you are out. Several officers at the embassy have hired pet 'yayas' (nannies) to care for their pets during the day!

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are little to no decent paying jobs on the local economy. Most spouses and EFMs find jobs in the embassy or international schools.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work places are generally business casual, and the dress code for the general public is very casual. Jeans are a staple here.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy: Manila is a city of over 20 million and the government does little to nothing to combat air pollution.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

I had every immunization on the schedule, except yellow fever.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Manila is relatively safe and there are security guards everywhere. The southern island of Mindanao is generally unsafe for foreigners, but most U.S. government officials are prohibited/warned from going there.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Pollution is the biggest concern for most people. Outdoor activities are generally minimized in metro Manila due to the poor air quality. Basic medical and dental services are available and generally cheaper than in the U.S., but if you are delivering a baby or having any major procedures done, the embassy recommends you go to Singapore or the U.S.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather is generally 80-90 degrees year round, with high humidity. The rainy season lasts from approximately June - November.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't yet have any kids, but I've heard both International School Manila and Brent International School are quite good, especially the high schools. I have heard that enrolling your children in school can be quite cumbersome, especially if there are special needs.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Brent is better at making accommodations for special needs than ISM, but generally if you are able to pay the additional money to the school for tutoring/mentoring, you should be okay.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The U.S. Embassy has an Amerikids program for 2-4 year olds, which I hear is quite good.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I believe ISM has many sports programs available, including little league and soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge! There are hundreds of thousands of expats in the Philippines, particularly those affiliated with embassies and U.S. retired military. The U.S. Embassy here is our fourth largest in the world, I believe.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally pretty good. Filipinos are very laid back and Manila can be a pretty easy place to live so long as you are patient and have domestic help.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is a lot to do in Manila, and you can be as involved with the embassy and other expats as you want to be. Restaurants, cafes, and night clubs are also plentiful.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles, couples, and families all seem to do quite well in Manila; there is definitely something for everyone.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would think so, although I'm not sure if there are gay/lesbian bars and establishments. Filipinos are generally pretty tolerant (at least on the surface) regarding sexual preferences.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Things seem to be pretty equal regarding gender, with women in high levels of government and business. Religious prejudices are more of an issue in Mindanao, with the constant tensions of the native islamic peoples trying to obtain independence.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel opportunities throughout southeast Asia are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Travel throughout the Philippines is also very nice and inexpensive. I have had the opportunity to see much of the country, and the Philippines is really a very beautiful country. SCUBA is also big here, with some of the best diving in the world.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Handmade furniture, wood carvings and pearls.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, particularly if you buy local food and goods.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, this has been a great first tour for myself and my husband!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Cold weather gear.

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3. But don't forget your:

Summer weight clothing and fabrics; patience!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The only fiction title I'm aware of regarding the Philippines is Noli mi Tangere, by Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The only fiction title I'm aware of regarding the Philippines is Noli mi Tangere, by Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Manila, Philippines 04/13/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

We went from DC to LA to Tokyo to Manila--with a 13 month old. Absolutely exhausting!

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in one of the Makati villages or Fort Bonifacio. There are the houses that are generally pretty large. They are great and a lot of them have pools but it is a lot of maintenance. You will need to have at least one maid (if not two), gardner, pool man, and most people have a driver. In the Fort you have condos so you don't have to worry about a yard. Commutes vary depending on where you are going. From Fort Bonifacio to the U.S. Embassy it takes 30 minutes during work commute times.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you eat like an American you will pay the same on groceries. If you eat like a Filipino, which I couldn't manage to do, you can save a lot of money.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Paper plates, paper cups, decent tupperware, wrapping paper, printer cartridges, batteries.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDos, Jollie Bee (which I have yet to eat at), KFC (although no biscuits! What is that all about?), Pizza Hut, and a lot of other generic American stuff. Plus a lot of places deliver, which is nice. It is a usually a bit cheaper unless you are eating imported meat or something.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

You have to be vigilant about bugs here. Food can't be left out and regular pest control is a must (find a company that adheres to Western standards of pesticides).

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available. They range in price from 4,000 (if no ex-pat experience) a month to 12,000.That is about US$80-$220 a month. Be careful when you hire, red flags should go off if your maid complains about her bathroom size.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms available and a lot of the condo buildings have great gyms with hired trainers.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Be smart. Only go to reputable banks and stores.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Speaking Tagalog is helpful and I wish I knew it better but not necessary. The biggest problem here isn't the language gap but the cultural way of conversing. Most people do not expect you to speak to them so they aren't listening when addressed. It is necessary to learn this, since you are already going to deal with limited English, it is important to learn how to address people and make sure they are listening.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Depends on how active they wanted to be. If you want to get out a lot, there are only so many places you can go. If you want to stay in this is a great place because you can get a lot of good and affordable help.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and affordable but be smart and text someone taxi info when you get in. Lock your doors.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The Honda CRV is king here. Don't get anything too low. SUVs resell well here, especially in the diplomat community.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, not super reliable but about as reliable as Comcast in the US was. It costs us about US$50 a month for high speed internet.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You need one immediately. Oh, and texting (SMS) is a way of life here so remember that when buying a cell phone. You can also do pre-paid phones here instead of obnoxious contracts like in the U.S.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Not sure, depends on works. However, Filipinos generally are modest and don't wear swim suits to the beach so be prepared to be the foreign scandal when you come.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The pollution here is unhealthy. The main cause of pollution is traffic from buses and jeepneys. It looks gross but certainly is not the worst city in the world. It is really bad when stuck in traffic but at home not too noticeable.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

You need to be on watch and cautious, however, if you are smart you will be fine.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

TB is a major health concern. If you have small children you MUST send your staff to a clinic to be x-rayed for TB before starting. It has gotten to the point that even the expat kids are starting to spread TB so be careful.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, hot and wet, moderately hot, and hot and breezy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ISM and Brent are the two schools that U.S. Embassy folks use. Don't have kids in them. From what I hear the elementary at ISM is disappointing but the high school is fabulous. Brent is a great school if your child has special needs but it is a long commute from most of the expat housing.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Lots of it, not cheap. ISM has a pre-school. The U.S. Embassy has its own preschool that is really good but once again, a 30 minute commute. The embassy preschool is really inexpensive. The other preschools range in price and programs. There will be plenty of people with strong opinions about the different schools here. Contact the local MADS (Mothers and Darlings) group when you get here.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

It ranges. It is extremely frustrating to live here at times but can be incredible.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It really depends on your attitude but I would say this is a great post for families. There is a lot of built in social networks for families. As for singles, if you are a single man up for dating local ladies, you will be in heaven. If you are a single woman it seems to be a bit more difficult. Pretty cool place for couples. Lots of things to do and places to see (those without kids who can travel and actually see things).

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Definitely a great place or gays. Without really looking you can see a pretty vibrant gay community. As for lesbians, not sure.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Filipinos themselves seem to naturally discriminate among each other (ie you go to a store and see a help wanted sign with requirements of height, age, religion, and skin tone). However, with expats they seem to just view us all as foreign and exotic. Admittedly every time I see a skin whitening commercial it breaks my heart a little.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Massages, manicures, pedicures, facials, lasik surgery, botox, and other vain items. The Filipino art is nothing to write home about but you can find other Asian art here for relatively good prices.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't hire a staff of 20 people.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, I love it here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, year supply of pepto and immodium (most drugs are available here).

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3. But don't forget your:

Summer clothes, swimsuits, sandals, and patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

The Philippines is great but incredibly frustrating. You are surrounded by people who speak English but speak it at a limited level...and they do not tell you when they don't understand. It takes a lot of patience but it is a great place with warm loving people.

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Manila, Philippines 06/18/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've also lived in Singapore.

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2. How long have you lived here?

5 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work for a development organization.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing options range from large older homes with pools to new condo units with full facilities. Many expats live in the Makati or Ft Bonifacio area, as it is close to international schools, shopping and activities. Ayala Alabang and certain villages north of Makati are also popular, with newer houses and cheaper prices, though commute times will increase. Housing is surprisingly expensive, given that this is a developing country, so it's helpful to have some financial contribution from your sponsoring organization.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Pretty much everything can be found eventually, but selection and availability can be spotty. Imported goods usually come from the U.S. or Canada and are very expensive. Grocery stores carry a wide selection of goods, but buying fruit and vegetables from the local markets is a cheaper option, with a better selection of fresh produce.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Only things that you absolutely must have. The only other thing I can think of is good quality cotton sheets in light colours, because they aren't always easy to find.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Filipinos love to eat! American fast food and chain coffee houses are on every corner, with slightly different menus from their U.S. counterparts. A number of good restaurants are available in every price range. Filipino food can be very good or very sweet - and definitely worth a try.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Delivery can be spotty - sometimes things arrive quickly, sometimes it takes months ... and sometimes they never arrive. If your company allows it, sending packages and letters there is probably the safest option.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is everywhere. Many people have at least a driver (~US$200-300/month) and a maid (~US$100-200/month). Families with small children often hire a yaya (or two). Cooks, gardeners, pool cleaners, lavanderas (laundresses), guards, etc. are also common. It's best to get recommendations from colleagues or parents at school.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Use them with caution. Major establishments are generally safe for credit card users; small shops might not take them and/or the risk for fraud is greater. ATM machines are everywhere, but it's safer to use one that is guarded or inside a bank.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are many Catholic churches, some non-denominational Christian services and at least one synagogue.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

A few English-language newspapers are available and are quite inexpensive. Local stations are generally in Tagalog or Taglish (Tagalog/English blend), but there are many cable channels that can be subscribed to.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, but people are happy to hear expats speak Tagalog and it helps with bargaining. Most Filipinos speak some degree of English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Manila and its buildings are not designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities (or even strollers/prams!). However, since household help is inexpensive, a live-in companion can be easily arranged to make things a bit easier.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are affordable and generally safe. The MRT (light rail) system is safe and reasonably clean, but doesn't go many places. Many employees of the Asian Development Bank who live in the Makati villages of Forbes and Dasmarinas take the MRT because there are convenient stops near these locations. Buses and jeepneys are not recommended for travel by expats.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Imported vehicles are available, at a price. That price also extends to the expense of imported parts that can take ages to arrive and cost a fortune. Locally assembled cars from well-known Japanese manufacturers are cheaper and easier to have repaired.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Prices vary dramatically based on the plan you choose, but it's fairly reasonable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You need one. Most people send text (SMS) messages rather than calling, and you'll learn to text quickly. Prepaid cards and subscriptions are available everywhere.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Communication infrastructure is good, so the options include landlines, cellphones (expensive for international calls) and Skype (broadband internet connections are available).

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good vets can be found and some will come to your house.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

If your visa allows you to work, there are numerous work opportunities if you are seeking experience, though salaries are very low. High paying jobs with international salaries are hard to come by.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Smart casual and fashion forward, particularly for women. Men rarely wear suit jackets and a barong (Filipino shirt that is worn untucked) is considered appropriate work wear (formal versions can be worn in lieu of black-tie).

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy at best, very unhealthy at times. If you look outside towards Manila or Makati, you will usually see a brown haze blanketing the city. People living in houses often find that their floors and curtains are covered with a fine black soot from the pollution.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Manila is safe for expats, provided they follow basic big-city street-smarts. Scams and petty theft are common, so double check your bills and be careful of where you use ATMs and credit cards. There are armed guards are at the entrance of most large buildings, shopping centres, hotels, villages (gated communities), etc. Be prepared to open your bags for inspection upon entering most buildings.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Be careful of mosquitoes, as dengue is quite common. I know a large number of adults and children who have contracted both dengue and typhoid, so precautions are advised. Medical care is unreliable - some very good doctors work in Manila and can be found by asking other expats.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid. Hot and rainy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

British School Manila (BSM), International School Manila (ISM), Brent International School, Beacon School, Eurocampus (French and German schools) and Chinese International School Manila (CISM) are all popular options. BSM is particularly well-regarded for its primary school, but admission places are difficult to obtain unless your child is a UK or Commonwealth national. ISM is a more relaxed, American-style school with an excellent high school program for IB/AP students. Brent is located near Ayala Alabang and has a religious affiliation. A local international school, Beacon, has a number of expat students. CISM is a new school with a bilingual English-Mandarin international curriculum. It is extremely small at the moment (but growing) and the expat families I know with children there are very happy. My children have attended both ISM and BSM; we find that BSM is a better fit for us, as we prefer the high academic standards, discipline and family atmosphere.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ISM, Brent and Beacon make accommodations for children with certain special needs, though there are no options for children with significant disabilities. ISM and Brent have ESL programs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are many excellent options for preschool in Manila. Local preschools are staffed with caring teachers and the children seem very happy. Families who are staying for several years and wish their children to attend the British School often apply to its Nursery program in spite of the fees, just to try to secure a place for primary. Families with very young children usually hire a yaya (nanny) to mind the children.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. Many expats enjoy their time in Manila, despite all the frustrations.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Expats spend a lot of time socializing at private homes and restaurants. Bars and nightclubs abound, but most seem a bit seedy. It's easy to find friends through work and schools.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Manila is a good city for families with young children, though I am not looking forward to the teenage years! Everything (alcohol, drugs, etc) is available for a price and drivers/househelpers seem incapable of saying 'no.'

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. The gay male community is oddly camp in nature, but gays and lesbians seem to be accepted.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Religious and gender prejudices are not apparent, but expats of African descent will often encounter odd looks and might overhear negative comments. Filipinos are very concerned about skin colour and every other ad seems to be for whitening products.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Trips to the beach, diving, eating out, ice skating (!), bars, social dancing lessons, language courses, sporting activities, movies, and the like. There are a few interesting museums to visit and entertaining tours of Manila can be arranged through a couple of guides.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Baskets, furniture, items made from capiz, wood carvings

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't have children in activities (sport/dance), don't travel to the beach every month, and don't go crazy buying handicrafts and furniture.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations of efficiency and competence, cold weather gear.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, patience and more patience. Good humour. Clothing in sizes larger than U.S. size M.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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