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I think most of you know that we shut the doors on life in QLD and re-settled to life in Philippines in 2010 and became Australian expats. When I look back I realise it was an incredibly bold move, but it was well-planned over a long period and I’ve never been lazy or cowardly. And I was fortunate to marry a fine Filipina woman, so I certainly wasn’t on my own.

And eight years later? Whilst I’ll always be an Aussie at heart, I believe I’ll leave Philippines one day in a box. This is home, and we’re staying. I’m in a rambling mood, so I might explain why the Philippines is great for some but not for all.


live in philippines for an expat Australian

Why does Jeff Harvie like life in Philippines?

People ask me sometimes what it is I like most about life in Philippines. Main thing would have to be the Filipino people. Kindest people I’ve ever met, plus “simple” people meant in the nicest possible way. By “simplest” I mean not needlessly complicated. Not reading nonsense into things and making dramas where none exist. This, combined with kind hearts, makes for a people who are very easy to live with.

  • I remember one of our domestic staff a bit more than four years ago. She had a young baby whom she was breastfeeding. We adopted a 6 week old baby. Sarah was producing plenty of milk, so she happily breastfed two at once. Didn’t blink over it! The two kids grew up together and are now best of mates.
Life in Philippines always involves chidren

Looks like one got the better breast!

  • We’ve had other relatives get woken in the middle of the night and happily drive someone 10 – 12 hours away. Not even worth mentioning and no thanks necessary.
  • Had to get an NBI Clearance for myself once. I have the back-from-hell, which gives me awful pain when I need to stand for even a short time. Foreigners need to get their NBI Clearances from the main office in UN Avenue in Manila. Someone mentions this to a guard. I get my own section basically, and I’m in and out of there in 10 minutes. And no, no money changed hands either. They were just kind.

I could easily go on and on, but I think you will get the idea.

And just the fact that people will smile so easily. How they will “adopt” someone new so quickly. New staff member arrives and they’re a new sister within about a day. Children fill peoples hearts with happiness ie security guards will happily carry them, and pretty much anyone will “babysit” your child at a moments notice. Older children don’t get jealous when a baby arrives. In fact they adore them instantly, and will also take care of them happily. Older people are treated with respect.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted here. I think most of you who fell in love with a lovely Filipina lady also fell in love with the Philippines because of the people you’ve been privileged to meet and to know.

What else keeps me here? I’ll be blunt, because this is an area you mustn’t ignore, and whilst you may like to think you can live on love? Wellllll, no. No you can’t! You need a roof over your head to keep the rain out and you need to eat! That takes money! We have a successful business (Down Under Visa) and I like the fact that I can afford to live here and pay for the things I need to pay for. I’m far too practical to ever be happy here without that.


Is life in Philippines for everyone?

No. No life in Philippines is most definitely not for everyone, as many have discovered. Yes, there are those rustic types out there who will happily live on the smell of an oily rag. There are those who add an extra room to the parents nipa hut, sleep under a mosquito net and eat dried fish and rice for breakfast and love it! These are the ones who live in shorts, tshirt and tsinellas (thongs) and roar around the place on a Chinese motorbike and love it. And I can’t and won’t knock them. It sure ain’t me though I have to be honest, and unless you describe yourself as “rustic” then you need to make sure you have a healthy and reliable source of income and not some wacky scheme to have the best sari sari store in town!

The ones I really feel sorry for are the chaps who come here on a pension and a very optimistic budget and think they can live a stress-free life. They loved it every time they visited, and the memories of those holiday-mode times drew them back. Rose-coloured glasses in full-bore, they assumed that would be their daily life.

And I’m not going to touch on those horror stories of wives and girlfriends who’ve drained a man’s bank account leaving him destitute. There are enough moaning and groaning websites out there full of one-sided tales of woe. Yes, it happens just as it happens everywhere in the world. I would HOPE you readers have a mature enough relationship and know each other well enough to have some well-earned trust and faith in each other. I will however warn you against those who can and will con you. You will get stung somewhere along the way. This is almost a certainty. I just hope you won’t get stung so hard that you can’t recover.

Please understand one thing:

Here you are a rich man, even if you don’t think you are. And there will be plenty of people who will want some or all of what you have. The quicker you learn you are a target (probably for the first time in your life), the better. Over-enthusiastic new friends (Note the key phrase there!), family members, Filipinos AND other white fellahs could try to con you. If you have limited savings and/or a fixed income, think very carefully of the consequences. This is a lovely place full of lovely people, but you do NOT want to be here without money! Rock-bottom is a long way down here, and it hurts when your bum hits it!

And budgets are just figments of your imagination if based on your theories rather than fact. Make a budget, sure. Then double it! Then redo it after you’ve been here for 12 months. And only then should you make any firm plans about actually living here permanently!

And will the lack of Aussie-ness here annoy you? Maybe a little, or maybe a lot! Again, it’s not for everyone. Someone quite wise and experienced told me after 5 years here I would hate it and want to leave and never come back. Well, no. Didn’t happen. Yes, things annoy and frustrate me. I’m a bit of a control freak by nature and not as laid-back as one should be to be a resident here, however I weigh the good versus the bad and I find more good things.

We managed to build a good life for ourselves here and we CAN afford to live here comfortably and do what we want. Probably a good approach to life anywhere, really. If you want to be happy with your life? Make yourself a life that you’ll enjoy. What’s stopping you?


Dengue Fever in Philippines – Awareness for Australians
Professionally prepared Australian visa applications from Philippines


  1. Craig Proctor

    Wow, thanks Jeff for your insights, After we marry in December I will be staying for three months in a new room built on my in laws little hut in a rain forrest in Boboin to give me an idea of how it will be on my pension before deciding weather to stay there until my lady finishes her study. Thanks again

    • Jeff Harvie

      Watch the mosquitos there, Craig. And yes wise to do that. Definitely not for everyone.

    • frank

      I sponsored Philipina to Australia. Right after she got permanent visa she took awey my 5 kids with support Australian government. I have no chance to get my kids back, Be aware of bringing Philipina to Australia> Do not bring them to Australia or enter into legal contract with them

      • Jeff Harvie

        So your advice is that because your marriage went wrong, that nobody should have anything to do with Filipina ladies?

        Frank, I sympathise. But these things happen. Even the most Anglo-Saxon of women in Australia have been known to leave their husbands and to manipulate to deny them custody. Failed marriages and custody battles happen regardless of the national origin of the lady involved. Your advice should be to take your time and to make the wisest possible decision before you marry any lady from anywhere.

  2. russell craig

    What about the laungage did you try and learn it and if so was it hard

    • Jeff Harvie

      I was determined I would, but it seemed more important to encourage the kids to speak English therefore it never happened. Those who do, I think if you immerse yourself in it you can pick it up quickly.

  3. Graham

    Well summed up Jeff your pretty spot on.. I guess Luz and I are lucky we have a nice home in Mindanao and share our time equally between Tandag and Queensland enjoying the best of two worlds ????

    • Jeff Harvie

      Definitely! And a lot of people do just that. We just have a business where we work 8 days a week and 25 hours a day. Plus we have a large number of children here who we can’t take with us.


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