Regularly sitting in the top-five nations most reliant on remittance, it’s no secret just how many Filipino expats are searching for economic opportunities the United States.
And the $10 billion+ that those expats are sending back home is nothing to scoff at.
The writing seems to be on the wall for Filipinos; however, making the transition isn’t always so so simple from a financial or personal perspective. From dealing with legal paperwork and visas to breaking down cultural barriers, the journey of a Filipino expat to financial success in the States can indeed be a tricky one.
As such, we’ve broken down some smart tips and considerations for Filipinos looking to find their footing in the States. No matter what your current financial situation might be or if you’re already en route to a life abroad, keep these pointers in the back of your mind.
Manage Your Money Wisely
This advice rings true for just about any expat and is no different for Filipinos.
Budgeting must become part of your DNA when you’re living abroad, especially if your family back home is relying on remittance payments. With services such as Remitly, you can send money to a specific bank in the Philippines without a second thought and squeeze more out of your budget.
When it comes to daily expenses such as food or entertainment, it likewise helps to be money-minded. Everything from ridesharing or relying on public transit to living with roommates or fellow expats versus on your own is huge for saving money.
That’s not to say you can’t have fun or must live with less; however, embracing a more minimalist lifestyle will certainly help you stretch your budget long-term.
Settle Down in a Filipino-Friendly Area
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind if you aren’t being sponsored by someone else. There are Filipino communities all over the country, granted you know where to look.
The population of Filipino-Americans ranked by state can help clue you in on where you should find your roots, with California and Hawaii being the two biggest states friendly to Filipinos. Meanwhile, the likes of Illinois and Texas represent popular regions for Filipinos in the Midwest and South, respectively.
Use Language to Your Advantage
Although there might be a societal expectation for expats to know English inside and out, don’t let your native tongue go to waste. This rings especially true when you’re looking for jobs: the ability to speak Filipino or a Tagalog dialect could not only help when assimilating among fellow Filipino-Americans, but also nailing down a job looking for bilingual speakers.
Don’t Settle for “Dirt Cheap” Jobs
Speaking of jobs, don’t make the assumption that you have to settle for second-best when it comes to employment. Especially if you have previous work experience or a university education, there are certainly opportunities in the States which can be particularly lucrative.
For example, consider how nursing represents a popular profession for Filipino Americans, something that has been well-documented since the early 2000’s. While you shouldn’t necessarily be pigeon-holed into a profession based on your background, perhaps look at where fellow Filipinos are working as sort of a starting point.
Prepare Yourself for Cultural Differences
The good news for Filipino expats is that many are able to assimilate without too much of a problem. Although the American emphasis on entertainment (think: television, sports) or materialism might be a bit of a shock, it’s not as if social and societal norms are totally night and day.
That said, expats shouldn’t be surprised as questions or potential confrontations regarding their heritage. Some of these may indeed be friendly and some may not: both come with the territory of living abroad. A positive outlook and expectation of such situations are helpful for dealing with them at the end of the day.
As such, it is indeed helpful to have a support system in place which can help you deal with culture shock. Whether it’s regular Skype calls home or an active social presence which keeps you connected with friends and family, you should always remind yourself that you aren’t alone on this journey. Again, this is why making connections with local expats is so important.
Although know two Filipinos journeys abroad are the same, these tips are pretty much universal. Remember: there are millions of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans living happy, productive lives in the United States. Those on the fence can certainly do the same, and sticking to tips like the ones above will help make the move so much easier.