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Interview with Ezra – a Filipina expat in Bahrain

Updated 15 Nov 2023

Hailing from the Philippines, Ezra moved to Bahrain for work in 2015. She enjoys travelling and loves Bahrain’s relaxed lifestyle and friendly locals. Read on to find out more about her expat life in Bahrain, and check out her YouTube channel where she vlogs about travel, fashion and lifestyle.

About Ezra

Where are you originally from? 
The Philippines.

What country and city did you move to? 
Manama, Bahrain.

When did you move? 
2015.

Is this your first expat experience? 
No, I lived in Brunei before moving to the Middle East.

Did you move here alone or with a spouse/partner or family? 
No, I moved here alone.

Reason for moving? 
Job. My childhood friend offered me a job at her company.

Living in Bahrain

What do you enjoy most about Manama and Bahrain in general? 
The locals. Bahrainis are very friendly and very welcoming to expats. The safeness of the country where you wouldn’t worry about going home late, walking in the streets or using your phone in public areas.

Have you had any low points? What do you miss most about home? 
My family. During the pandemic, my grandmother passed away, and I couldn’t go home because the flights are so expensive, and I did not have a job at that time. My biggest challenge when I moved was not driving. It’s hard and expensive to move around if you do not drive, so I applied for a driving licence as soon as possible.

What misconceptions about Bahrain, if any, have you learned were not true? 
That it’s dangerous in the Middle East and Arabs are not nice. Arabs are very hospitable and actually very easy to get along with. They have the same traits as Filipinos regarding strong family ties, which I love the most about them. The Middle East, especially the GCC region, is one of the safest regions I’ve ever been in.

What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Bahrain? Did you experience culture shock at all? 
Not at all. I lived in an Islamic country before coming here, so I know the dos and don’ts, but it’s pretty much like my home country; it is just safer here.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend? Any particular places or experiences you’d recommend to fellow expats? 
We have a few expat clubs here in Bahrain where you can meet a lot of expat people. Bahrain is quite a small country, but we do have a lot of restaurants and interesting places such as museums, forts, beaches, parks and of course the F1 racetrack. I do love hanging out with my friends for a breakfast on weekends or just hosting a BBQ party at home.

What’s the cost of living in Bahrain compared to the Philippines? Are there specific things that are especially expensive or cheap there? 
The cost of living is quite expensive, but the quality of living is also better than in my home country. Housing and electricity bills are expensive – sometimes half of our salary goes to it. It depends on your lifestyle. You can spend cheap on a small all-inclusive flat or rent a villa with three bedrooms; you can eat local food which is very cheap or go to high-end restaurants.

What’s public transport like in Bahrain? 
We have buses and taxis here, but not a lot. Most of the people drive, as commuting during summer is a challenge. Taking a bus is very cheap and taking a taxi is very expensive. I drive and rent a car.

What do you think of the healthcare available in Bahrain? What should expats expect from local doctors and hospitals? 
Bahrain’s healthcare is amazing. During the pandemic, we had the best healthcare system, and it was free for everyone, expats and locals. Companies provide insurance, so you do not have to worry about hospital bills.

What’s the standard of housing like in Bahrain? What different options are available? 
Like I said, housing is expensive here, but the situation is better than in other neighbouring countries like the UAE. Expats usually rent flats, and the flats here are mostly spacious with a lot of amenities in the building, such as a gym and swimming pool. Companies give housing allowances, so it helps a little bit. Those expats who are earning a lot live in villas in a gated compound.

Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in? 
Bahrain is very small, so you can live anywhere as long as you drive. The Saar area is mostly expats because it has a lot of gated compounds and is very near to the Saudi Causeway Bridge. Some expats working in Saudi live in this area. Juffair is a busy area in Bahrain, and most of the businesses are located there. It’s near the US Navy base, so most of the bars, restaurants and condominium buildings are there. Seef is the financial district where the company headquarters are located. They have some condominiums there, but the buildings are mostly commercial buildings.

Working in Bahrain

How easy or difficult was getting a work permit and/or visa for Bahrain? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant? 
From my experience, it is very easy as my company sponsors my visa. Even when I do not have work, they have a program for non-employee expats like the flexi-visa. The HR of the company usually settles all visa-related issues, so it’s not that hard.

What is the economic climate in Bahrain like? 
It’s getting better after the pandemic. Businesses are starting to keep up. The economy is mostly running on hospitality, real estate, finance sector and energy.

How does the work culture differ from home? 
It depends actually if you are working in an international company or a locally owned company. People are very competitive. Most of the employees are from all over the world, so you have to be very open-minded and adaptive.

Final thoughts

Any advice you’d like to offer to new arrivals in Bahrain? 
Bahrain is a small country but offers a lot of things. The lifestyle here is very chill, and people are very friendly and welcoming. It’s very easy to settle in, as you will find just a small difference from your home country. Just always be respectful and nice to people.

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