Expat Interview with James Devonshire in the Philippines

James lives on a small island in the Philippines and talks about his life and work since moving there a few years ago.

1. Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Somerset in the UK, so I grew up in the countryside scrumping apples and drinking cider. But while I love that part of the world, it was never going to allow me to fulfil my IT career aspirations. So, having completed university in Manchester and spent a few years working in Southampton, I ventured to London. That’s where I remained before finally taking to the decision to emigrate.

2. Where do you live now?

I live on the small island of Mindoro in the Philippines. It’s known as the ‘brownout capital’ of the country and with the amount of power cuts we have on a seemingly daily basis, I’m not going to argue with that title.

3. What first attracted you to your new home? Did you try anywhere else on the way? Did you move for work or for lifestyle?

I came to the Philippines for the first time back in 2007 on a motorbiking holiday and had the absolute time of my life. I returned every year, until I finally made the move here permanently in 2010.
I moved for the lifestyle primarily. I always knew I was a good writer and could make a living online no matter where I was located, so that kind of decided my long-term destiny.

4. What kind of property do you live in now? Will you stay here? What’s your ideal place to live in within your new country?

Our house is very modest, but it’s home. Plus, it’s right on the beach. I can literally walk out of my front door and within 20 steps I’m in the sea. We own our house and I have no intention to move, so could well end up staying here forever. A lot of expats here choose to live in Manila as it’s a bit more metropolitan, but I wouldn’t swap the sea for the smog of the city no matter what.

5. Are you speaking a new language? If so, how did you learn?

Oo. Marunong na ako magTagalog – yes, I know how to speak Tagalog (Filipino). I’m pretty much fluent and taught myself from analysing day-to-day conversations. I also have a Filipino wife, so every day’s a school day in our house. I help her with her English and she helps me with my Tagalog.

6. What do you do for a living? Where do you physically work from? Do you work with clients/customers back in your home country or your new one?

I’m a full-time freelance writer and I work right from our house on the beach. I’ve got clients in the UK, France, Thailand, Australia and the U.S. at present, but working 100 percent online means that the world is literally my oyster.

7. Do you work online? If so, what is the internet connectivity like? What software do you commonly use on day to day basis? What would be your top tip for online working from your new country?

I only work online and so Internet connectivity is very important for me. However, I have to rely on a 3G USB dongle for everything I do – unbelievable right? It’s because our island is rather remote and there is no infrastructure for broadband.

I use Asana, Evernote, Buffer, Gmail and Whatsapp Messenger on a day-to-day basis. I should probably use Skype too for communicating, but my Internet connection is just too slow unfortunately.

8. Are you paid in your new home currency or in pounds/dollars/euros? Do you exchange money often? If so, what service do you use?

I get paid in Pounds, Euros and Dollars and used to use Paypal and Western Union for transferring money internationally. That was until someone told me about the Transferwise revolution and now they’ve started supporting Pesos, it’s my number one choice – saves me a fortune in Paypal fees!

9. Do you have children? If so, how did they adapt to the move? How are their schools? Are they bi-lingual? Are their good future career opportunities within your new country?

My Filipino wife and I have an 18-month-old daughter. She’s been talking for several months now and switches between Tagalog and English at will. I think she’ll definitely be bilingual when she’s older.

Unfortunately, schools in the Philippines aren’t great, so it’s going to be a tough decision as to where she’s educated. The same goes for career opportunities, with very little in the way of prospects where we live. Maybe she’ll venture abroad or, if I get my way, she’ll become the mayor of our little municipality.

10. Did you bring any pets with you? Or leave any behind? How did this work out?

Didn’t bring any with me, but we now have three dogs here at our house. One of the biggest problems here is stray cats and dogs – they’re everywhere! So I thought I’d give a good home to a few.

11. Is your life better than it was before? If so, how?

My life is so much better now. I live on a beach and the weather is always hot. Plus I’m my own boss, so can pretty much choose how much work to do on a weekly basis.

My IT manager job in London paid really well and I had great benefits, but the associated stress became too much in the end. Nowadays, I have zero stress and have loads of spare time for my family.

12. What are the best things about living in your new country? Has the move been good for the whole family?

Probably just the laid back lifestyle. Filipino culture is very family-oriented and we’ve always got visitors. My wife’s family live nearby (she’s one of eight children) and so there’s always an event to attend.

13. What are the most challenging things about moving to and living in your new country?

Filipino people don’t complain about anything and as a result there’s zero customer service here. You could be waiting a whole day for a ferry trip only to be told it’s cancelled and to come back the next day. It infuriates me, but Filipinos just seem to take it in their stride.

Also, there’s a lot of corruption here and the people of the Philippines, who need support the most, often don’t receive it.

14. Are you here for good? If so, why? If no , why not?

I honestly can’t see myself returning to the UK again now. The only reason would be if my family or I got sick and needed serious medical treatment. Hospitals here are very poorly equipped and people die from diseases that have been eradicated in a lot of other countries.

We’ve got health insurance, but that only helps out financially if the need arises.

15. Any partings word to people thinking of moving to your country?

As a foreigner, you can’t legally own land here in the Philippines. So if anyone tells you that you can then you should be wary. Do your homework and visit the country several times before making any decisions.

Also, if you don’t cope well with hot weather, the Philippines definitely isn’t for you. It’s currently 31 degrees while I’m typing this and the air coming off the fan is even hot!


James Devonshire is a freelance writer who specialises in crafting brilliant content for blogs, social media, SEO and other digital marketing purposes for a wide variety of businesses. From his adopted home in the Philippines, James has carved out a literary niche for himself to support his young family. His personal blog – jamesdevonshire.com – provides great insights for anyone thinking of emigrating to the Philippines.

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