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Australia or Philippines? You’re an Australian man and you’ve met your Filipina lady and you have a future together. You know who you want to live your married life with, but you can’t decide where you want to live. Australia or Philippines? What should you do? What’s best for the Australian sponsor and what’s best for the Filipina (or Filipino) spouse? Do you need an Australian Partner Visa, or maybe not?


Australia or Philippines? Where should an Australian Filipina couple settle down and live?

Australia or Philippines?


Just to let you know from the start, I won’t be disclosing “the answer” about the perfect place to settle down. There is no such place. I hope I can give readers, Down Under Visa clients or not, some food-for-thought. Australia or Philippines. You decide!


Australian Filipina couples


This is written from the perspective of Australian Filipina couples, who make up Down Under Visa’s clients. That means Australians who meet the loves of their life in the Philippines and come to us for Australian visas so they can be together. And these are the people who are sometimes at a quandary as to where they want to spend their future lives together, in the short term or the longer term.

I can still remember my first trips to the Philippines back in the 1990’s in pursuit of a Filipina wife. Yes, at first I was in culture shock. But then things changed, and on the surface things looked really good. New love with a Filipina lady, and in a new place surrounded by smiling  Filipino faces and sensory overload. New Filipino foods and drinks to try. Everything so cheap. Everyone happy to see you. Going from a lonely existence full of mundane drudgery back home to the Philippines full of fun and good lovin’? Yes, I think most Australians in some way fall in love with the Philippines when we first come here.


Life in Philippines for Australians


There’s a big difference between life on holidays and everyday life in the Philippines. Holidays means resorts and sipping strange drinks out of coconut shells. And I suspect a few chaps imagine that moving tp the Philippines would be an extension of their previous visits. One long holiday. There are issues that you will need to deal with if you do end up settling here.



Can you earn an income in Philippines? Or do you have a stable and sufficient income from Australia in the form of business returns, superannuation payments, investments or a good pension? And will it be enough to live on? Many make a budget with rose-coloured glasses on. My suggestion is to come up with a budget and then double it. There are always cost increases and Peso – Australian Dollar exchange-rate fluctuations, as well as unexpected living expenses. And whilst you may be happy in the short term to live on market food (fish, rice, local vegetables, etc), you will probably end up craving some more Aussie tucker as time goes on. And this costs more.



If you don’t have a reliable fixed-income, then you will need to earn a living. Trying to get a job in Philippines is not going to be easy for an Australian, unless it’s something like teaching English to Koreans (which is poorly paid). And many a naive person has tried to compete with Filipinos with a local-based business. Locals can live on a much lower income than you can, plus locals are not going to be comfortable dealing at Dave’s Sari Sari Store. Thinking you can “show the locals how to do it” is a big mistake. You will have trouble understanding the local market, and they won’t respond to your Aussie ways. Unless you have a business that is aimed at Australians (like what we do), you will not do well.


Being accepted by local Filipinos

You will no doubt make Filipino friends. Some of you may be better at this than others, but with most? Sorry to say this, but you will always be the “foreigner”. Most Filipinos will be shy and awkward with you. Kind, yes. Most Filipinos are kind and will wish you no harm, but they will be shy about their English skills (and have trouble with your accent) and will feel that you are too rich and too worldly compared to them. Children will mostly accept you at face value, but many your relatives (even after 20 years like mine) and others will smile awkwardly and then disappear away from you. So unless you develop a social circle of expats and more wordly Filipinos, you may feel lonely.


Cons and scams in the Philippines

In the Philippines you are a rich man, whether you like it or not. So you will always be a target from Filipinos (including family) and even ex-pat foreigners who are not doing so well (known as “pooreigners”). Depending on your level of trustfulness and naivety, you can expect to be conned a few times. If you are blessed with a good Filipina woman who is smart as has your back (as I am), you will find it a lot easier. If she’s more loyal to her family members than she is to you, then good luck to you! You will need it!


Health issues

Health care quality in Philippines varies. It can be excellent or it can be third-world standard. And you can also be scammed by hospitals that overcharge for everything. Main issue is that your Medicare card won’t work here. You pay or you don’t leave the hospital. If something major happens you could end up in serious trouble. I had a mate lose his life here a couple of years back. He was working as a builder here, trying to complete with locals who were shy around him. Hospital overcharged him. He ended up needing to take cheap generic antibiotics and an infection took him out. 


Old age

We get a lot of clients who’ve lived here for 5, 10, 15 years who decide to finally head to Australia because their health is declining and they want to avoid the factors mentioned above. We’ve seen others where the husband dies here leaving his wife of many years penniless and with kids to raise. It happened to my mate above. Two kids already, and she gave birth to the third child about a week after he died. Can she get a visa? No! A partner visa will not happen without a living sponsor at application time! Is she entitled to an Australian pension? No! Think about this possibility, and consider getting her a Partner Visa followed by Citizenship and Citizenship By Descent for your children so at least they have a chance at a better life if something happens to you.


Overall thoughts

If you have a good wife you can trust and a reliable income that’s sufficient to lead a good life, life here can be great. I live here myself and have since 2010 and I live really well. But life here can be hard and scary for those with dodgy business plans of writing BLOG articles and running sari sari stores or trying to stretch the pension further. You simply don’t want to be poor here! Australia or Philippines? It often comes down to money!

But don’t get me wrong either. I love it here. I really do. I love the locals. The smiles. The kindness. I’m the moist spoilt individual you could ever hope to meet. And we have a house full of kids which could not happen if we were in Australia. If you have enough money you can deal with most of the things that could otherwise annoy and frustrate you, and if you’re surrounded by the sweetest and kindest human beings on the planet then life can be very fine indeed.


Life in Australia and Australian Filipina Couples


Speaking for most of my clients? Very happy! For most, the Australia or Philippines question never even comes up. Most of them thrive in Australia, and much of them comes down to that indomitable spirit that exists in Filipinos. Filipinos/Filipinas are the most adaptable of people. These are the same people who up and work overseas as OFW’s in other countries in Asia and in the Middle East, and do so with the usual smiling faces and positive attitudes. They learn local languages and customs and often keep doing this year after year. Life in Australia with a husband?? A very nice walk in the park by comparison. 

Again, yes, most thrive. They turn formerly feral bachelors into well-fed and well-loved husbands, and houses into homes. You only need to see the photos a few months later to see the clean clothes and larger bellies and the looks of contentment. 


For the ladies?

It means they get to experience a higher standard of living, no question. Houses with hot water showers, washing machines, etc. An abundance of healthy food. Medicare coverage. Excellent public schools for kids. Fresh clean air (depending on where you are). Traffic you can live with. A lack of crowds. And a life without the fear of something terrible happening and not being able to deal with it through lack of money and resources. 

It also means they will miss their family and friends, and some find the isolation hard to take. The fact that we don’t know our neighbours generally, and the lack of people on the street gossiping and generally making noise. Suburbia during the day in Australia can be very quiet and unnerving to those who are not used to it, and family members whom they’ve seen every single day of their lives simply not being there, this can be hard. It’s easier on the former OFW’s (Overseas Filipino Workers) and much harder on the girls from the provinces. 

I suppose I could say from observation that most adapt really well, as I said. You can and should expect some culture shock initially and you should be sensitive to it. She may even say she wants to “go home” a few times in the first year because of missing family and feeling confused and lost. Whether you think she’s now leading a better standard of life, it’s still a completely new life and you need to be very aware of that. My advice has ALWAYS been to help her to meet some local Filipinas so she gets some support and doesn’t feel so lost.


Other Filipinas

This can be a blessing or a curse, to put it bluntly. That nice Filipina who’s happily settled with her husband and kids whom she makes the centre of her life? She can be a great friend. The social climber who largely ignores her poor husband and spends her time swanning around and socialising? She can be bad news, especially with the younger and more trusting wives who are used to listening to older Filipinas. Filipino Associations can be hotbeds for trouble makers. Gamblers are bad news especially, as are recent divorcees where they were the main cause of the divorce. 

From experience? I would say to avoid the social groups. This may be local Associations, which get bogged down in factional nonsense and competitive social climbing. Or it may be those social groups that revolve around a few strong personalities who organise parties at their homes for large numbers of Filipinos. The last one we attended, I can remember there was the group outside and the group inside…..who hated each other! Some were texting those who were there and asking “is SHE there?” before they decided to come or not. Filipinas can be very “catty” and mean to each other, and this can cause a lot of misery. Find a handful of REAL friends, and keep it at that.


Other Australians

Australians are a fairly accepting lot. But be aware that some Australian women can see Filipina wives as being some sort of competition, ie “Why did Steve reject all Australian women?” and someone take it as a personal affront. Australian men are usually fine, but yes we had some issues with a few women along the way. Lost a few friends. Do I regret this? Well, no one likes losing friends but if someone has a problem with my wife they therefore have a problem with me too. Hopefully you have some better friends that I probably did, and be aware that this can happen. 


Life in Australia generally?

You can have a few problems with idiots (as above) if you let them get to you. If you make good choices about friends and try to work on quality rather than quantity, much better. Better if you can make your own Australian family (ie your husband and kids) the centre of your life, and let quality friends enhance what you have. 

This means a smaller social circle and a quieter life than life in Philippines in most cases, but it means a secure life with less to be scared about. No fears about not being able to provide food and shelter. No fear of not being able to pay school fees or medical bills. Healthy food and healthy kids. Clean air and water. And a society more accustomed to welcoming and accepting to those who were born overseas than most countries in the world. 


Conclusion – Australia or Philippines


So whilst I won’t guide or even suggest to anybody where they should settle down and live, the fact that probably 99%+ of our clients settle in Australia and remain there probably indicates that it has a lot of advantages. 

And apart from a few crazies like myself, most who live in Philippines even for a number of years end up heading back at some stage. Again, life here can be great when you’re on top of the heap, but can be very hard otherwise. And it’s really not for everyone. Live here for year before you start selling up and burning bridges. Always have an escape route if it doesn’t go the way you expected.


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Jeff Harvie is a Registered Migration Agent from Australia, but resident in Philippines since 2010 with his Filipina wife Mila and large extended family. Experienced with the Philippines culture, cross-cultural relationships and bureaucracy as well as Australian visas and Australian Migration Law, he writes with authority and fortunately with enough informality and humour that the average Aussie gets it!
Mike and Patricia - Down Under Visa Testimonial
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  1. Duncan

    Thanks, Jeff for your blog. This article, as usual, consisted of excellent advice and a balanced and realistic overview of life in the Philippines. Having lived in the Philippines myself a lot of the key issues and challenges were outlined by Jeff. It would be a wise man or woman indeed who would listen to the above comments and bear them in mind.

    • Jeff Harvie

      Thanks very much, Duncan. Appreciated.

  2. Greg

    Hi Jeff
    What an excellent article that I gained knowledge and understanding from – Thank You

    • Almira

      I love this advice you hit the spot.
      Mu bf is now in Australia and want me to live with him there Im aware that life in Australia is great but I don’t want mundane and quiet places I kinda love the fun and upbeat ambiance here in the Philippines I don’t know what to do

  3. russell craig

    Very good advice jeff .i am living here in the philippines but intend to get a partner visa for my lovely .as we have business and asset s here we intend to make an annual visit back here .once we are settled back in australia .so when we visit the philippines it will be like a holiday to catch up with family .so we will be able to have our cake and eat it as well .

    • Jeff Harvie

      For most people, that’s a wise choice!

  4. Bill in Oz

    Off Topic : Geoff
    Do Filipinas returning to Oz after visiting family in the Philippines, needa return entry visa ?
    I have been told completely contradictory things about this.

    • Jeff Harvie

      Do you mean a Resident Return Visa to Australia? If they have a permanent partner visa, then yes they need to ensure their resident return visa is up to date in order to return to Australia. Look it up on the BLOG page. I have an article about it.

  5. Tibor Bode

    Great article Jeff, as usual, thank you. I was laughing when you wrote “Traffic you can live with. A lack of crowds.”. Definitely not in Sydney and even Melbourne and slowly in Brisbane as well. One specific issue what cheeses off lots of people ) is the language spoken when you are in company in Phils. They speak their local lingo (tagalog or any variation) and you have no idea what is going on and feel totally excluded and not part of the group. I experienced myself and was very frustrated by it and of an FB sire “Married to a Filipina” other raised the same. One guy I know simply refused to go to Phils then “be left alone”. I agree not much fun and more often than not the non local speaking “foreigner” feels like it. We are thinking to maybe have a “dual country” living, but it wil very much depend whether this issue can be resolved. Food is another issue as you correctly pointed out Some food is great but I personally do not eat fat and and everything is full of sugar (lol). Anyway, the article is great, very useful and thanks again for it.


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