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Is living abroad better? Reasons why Filipinos stay abroad.

As far as I can remember, all of my relatives who moved abroad stayed abroad. Some started out as OFW (Overseas Filipino workers) and worked their way into being permanent residents or even citizens. A few were immigrants. I myself have joined the statistics having lived abroad for more than 20 years.  Although it wasn’t by plan, I’ve come to realize that living outside the Philippines definitely has its advantage when it comes to living a good life or “magandang buhay” as they say it in Tagalog. My parents both had humble beginnings from the provinces and worked hard to get a good education, moved to the city for work and started a family. But like many others who struggle living from paycheck to paycheck, my father started working abroad to provide a better life for his family back home.  

Every Filipino who worked and lived overseas has their own story to tell. Some have good reasons to go back home. Some have better reasons to stay.  Why do Filipinos that go abroad stay abroad? I think there are three main reasons why. 

(Kind warning: this is of course only my own opinion and is not supported by any statistic or survey.)

Higher pay

By far the most practical reason why Filipinos prefer to go abroad to work is for higher pay or salary. Both my parents graduated with a college degree and even took post-grad studies. They both had decent jobs that provided for a family of eight. But as we grew older and the tuition fees became more expensive, it became clear that their combined salaries would not be able to sustain a life where all of us kids could go to school. When the opportune moment to work in the middle east came along, my father made the ultimate sacrifice and worked abroad. Thousands of Filipino workers do the same for the same reasons. On top of that, Filipino employers generally offer low salaries for jobs that are sought after or in demand in other countries that provide better incentives and better pay abroad.

Career opportunity

As a skilled worker, there’s better opportunity for career growth and development which is one big reason why we stay abroad. A survey once showed that the majority of people move to a different country because of better work opportunities, followed by cultural experience and lastly for financial reasons. In my experience, the exposure I got from working with different people, learning new skills together with improving my communication skills allowed me to grow in my field of work. While here in the west, I continue to find myself relearning, adapting and discovering new things that I can do to improve myself. And definitely I see a sense of appreciation and encouragement from the people I work with. Not that I'm saying that work is not appreciated back home. I just think that working abroad, you have a different mindset, and that mindset is not limited by the work culture that I'm used to back home. There's always opportunity and room for growth that you deserve (so long as you work hard) when you work abroad.  

Sense of belonging

It’s human nature to feel you belong and as the saying goes, ‘no man is an island’. For a lot of Filipino immigrants, it’s a no brainer. Not only are they welcomed by family or relatives that already live in the country they’re moving to but they also develop new friendships and relationships that make them have more sense of belonging. When our neighbor’s son moved to England for work, there was excitement but also a sense of uncertainty. After all, he was leaving behind parents and siblings and the life he’s used to all those years. But through time he made new friends, developed new relationships and started his own family. There is now a community where he feels and knows he belongs to.   

I would love to go back and visit the Philippines again. It’s been 22 years since I left my home country for good. For now I am just thankful for all the means that we have to keep in touch with friends and family I left in Manila. But my home is now in the Netherlands with my husband and kids. I have more reasons to stay. 

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