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Shopping in Manila as an Expat

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A fun aspect of traveling and living overseas is always learning what aspects are true to all people and all cultures, and what minor and major things are different between countries. Much like comparing McDonalds in every country you visit is a good way to find subtle cultural differences and a general indication of costs of living, doing something as simple as shopping in Manila offers a very different experience to Australia.


When I refer to shopping in the Philippines, I will be primarily referring to the large shopping centres. You can and should of course visit small shops, street vendors and markets for a whole new set of experiences, but for convenience of comparison between countries, my observations here are based on large shopping centres.



Mega Atrium at SM Megamall


Coming from Australia, the first difference is apparent as soon as you walk towards the shopping centre. There is security at every entrance, along with bag checks and metal detectors. Initially this is quite a culture shock, but you will soon get used to swiftly moving through this process without giving it a second thought. There is an impressive range of shopping centres to chose from, and of shops within each centre.



Greenbelt Malls 3,4 and 5


The next big culture shocks comes once you’re inside each shop. In Australia, due to high salary costs, staff in retail stores are an endangered species, borderlining on extinct. Finding help can be an exercise in futility, and once you make eye contact across the shop with an employee, they’re just as likely to run and hide as they are to come over and help. So it’s a pleasant change here in the Philippines to visit stores that have an overwhelming by comparison amount of staff. These staff are friendly and helpful, they will help you find what you’re looking for, mention discounts and even offer you a shopping basket if you haven’t yet taken one. While they speak English, making an effort as a foreigner to practice some basic Tagalog such as ‘Good Evening’ (Magandang Gabi) and ‘Thank You’ (Salamat) often brings a smile to their face.



Inside the Powerplant Mall


Why visit a large shopping centre here in Manila other than to shop or see a movie? The air conditioning provides a cool change from the hot outdoor weather, they’re a great meeting spot with friends because all taxi drivers know them and you have infinite variety of eating choices in the food courts.



Author: Derek Stewart  




Photo Source:

Megamall –

Greenbelt –

Powerplant –


Related posts:

Upmarket Shopping in Manila

The Legacy of Hard Work and Prosperity of Henry Sy, Sr.

Service Directory of Makati City

Service Directory of Ortigas / Mandaluyong / Pasig





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