Jim Yuan – Perception vs Reality of the Philippines
Last updated August 30, 2019
In this podcast, Derek is joined by Jim Yuan, who works in IT consultant and commercial strategy. He’s now in the startup world and also a digital nomad travelilng throughout the world. Together, they talked about business opportunities in the Philippines and Manila in particular.
- Jim states that every country has its own challenges and potential.
- The Philippines is becoming a consumer society with a mix of American culture we are starting to see a lot of the American culture transferring over to the country.
- Jim stated he felt like I was in Central America. He said that the Philippines reminds him of Panama because of the significant cultural transference and alignment from Spain and America as evidenced by the culture of the people and old colonial infrastructures found in Manila.
- The Philippines is one of the more international and trade-oriented cities.
- There is huge potential for the Philippines because it’s one of the largest English speaking countries in the world.
- Derek and Jim both agree that the President of the Philippines is progressive in his aspirations to develop the Philippines and bring the country to the prominence it deserves.
- When safety in the country was discussed, Jim stated that it’s the negative perception that the media portrays that really influences how we think of some places. It’s all relative and it’s also very influenced by media perception.
- Jim described the Philippines and its citizens as having high potential, kind, and hardworking.
- Every country has its own challenges but also potential.
- The Philippines has a lot of cultural diversity and ethnic diversity.
- One’s perception of a country is very relative and is influenced greatly by media perception.
Derek: Hi, and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast. This is episode #66. My name is Derek Gallimore and today, we are talking to Jim Yuan. Jim is a digital nomad amongst many other things. He was born in China and raised in the US. We chewed the fact on Philippines and Manila and business opportunities over here amongst a lot of other topics.
So, I think you will find this really interesting and you can learn a lot in terms of opportunities generally present to the Philippines and working with staffing in the Philippines. So enjoy and if you want any information, if you want to get in touch with Jim, then go to our show notes at outsourceaccelerator.com/66.
Just as a quick note, I apologize for the sound quality on this podcast. I had a bit of an issue with my microphone, but I’m hoping that the content more than makes up for the slight inconvenience with the sound quality.
Today, I’m with Jim Yuan. Hi, Jim.
Jim: Hi Derek.
Derek: Jim is an international man of mystery. He was born in China and brought up in the US. He works in the IT consultant and commercial strategy. He’s now in the startup world and also a digital nomad moving throughout the world. So, I’m a dynamic guy and we both find ourselves in the Philippines and he has some interest here. I wanted to get him on the podcast and get a feel for his first impressions and fresh pair of eyes for Manila, Philippines. So, how are you doing, Jim?
Jim: Good, good, good, Derek. Thanks for having me here. I really appreciate it. It’s quite an interesting night here in Manila, Philippines. Lots of rain and lots of traffic.
Derek: Well, this is actually a really good place to start, isn’t it? It’s Friday evening. It’s now 8 o’clock. We were meant to meet at 6 o’clock.
Jim: We were, yeah.
Derek: But there is a typhoon coming into Manila and everything just grinds to a halt. And so what’s your impression of that? How did you go with that? You spent two hours trying to book..?
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Jim: I did, I did. Well, the transportation infrastructure, I think, it’s due for overhaul. In the Philippines, there’s the MRT and LRT, the two lines in Manila, but Manila, it’s a city with over 20 million inhabitants.
Derek: That’s 10 million per line then.
Jim: Yeah. It’s quite, I think I sent you the photo of the amount of congestion within the MRT and then also along EDSA, which is the largest road in Manila. It’s quite a challenge. It’s a quite a challenge, but again, that’s, it’s the challenge with every country. Having, I’ve been in Southeast Asia as a digital nomad, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and now the Philippines, every country has its own challenges but also potential.
When I first got to the Philippines, you know, what struck out to me is how young this country is. The average median age of the country is around 25, 26, maybe plus or minus a couple of years, but in the mid-20s whereas if you look at Asia Pacific, if you look at country like Japan, for example, the average or median age is around 48.
Derek: And I think it’s one of the only countries where they are very, well, there are obviously more countries, but it has a very positive birthright as well.
Jim: It does.
Derek: Getting born and the average age is getting younger still.
Jim: It does. When you go to a shopping mall, you see a lot of parents with a lot of children. It’s one other thing that struck out to me is the amount of consumption in this country that for the country where on average, people would earn up to maybe $8 or $10 a day, you have individuals who would not hesitate to spend money on a cup of cappuccino for the equivalent of $4 or $5.
Derek: Yes. It’s becoming quite a consumer society, isn’t it, and maybe borrowing from the US where you were brought up, I see it maybe with a slightly distant eyes than you, this is a very American culture and for better or worse, you see a lot of the American culture transferring over here, everything from NBA basketball to pizzas, and also then shopping malls and possibly even consumerism.
Jim: To a large extent, I would agree with the consumerism and you do see certain institutions and certain hobbies like basketball that’s translated from the other side of the Pacific. By the way, I do want to also add that when I first got off the plane to the Philippines, it actually felt like I was in Central America.
I’ll explain as why because it’s a combination of the influence by the neighbor of North (United States) and also the influence by the Spanish, because this country was a Spanish colony for a while before the Americans took over and it does remind me of a country like Panama, for example in that it’s very significantly American influenced, but at the same time, you have the Spanish colonial infrastructure in the old parts of the cities. You have the churches, you have the Roman Catholic.
Derek: Yeah, I mean, it’s quite a unique country in that it’s very Asian, it’s very much within Asia, Southeast Asia.
Jim: It’s the most Latin American or Central America of the Asian countries.
Derek: And that is primarily because, I mean, it was moved to Catholicism about 500 years ago and through that, there’s a significant transference in terms of, I suppose, cultural alignment now.
Jim: Correct and also…
Derek: And then there was the Spanish colonization, so a lot of different kind of western influence from…
Jim: There’s a lot, a lot of divergence populations in the Philippines and also even in terms of ancestry, you have up to 5% Spanish ancestry in a lot of the Filipino populations, you have, actually a lot of it is coming from Latin America because the Philippines used to be a part of New Mexico.
The viceroy of New Mexico actually ruled over the Philippines because when the Spanish established the colony in Manila, Manila was the central most trading post where spices from India and soap and tea from China would go to Manila, and that would, in turn, go to Mexico and then back to Spain. You have this entire trade route and with that….
Derek: Manila became a hugely sophisticated city and very affluent city. And just prior to the wars, it was one of the most glorious cities in Southeast Asia.
Jim: One of the more international and trade oriented cities, and we also have a huge, I was born in China. I moved to the US when I was very young. They have, in Manila, a very large Chinese population. The Chinese have come to the Philippines ever since the 1500s.
Derek: And I have been told that Binondo, which is the…
Jim: It’s the oldest Chinatown.
Derek: It’s the oldest Chinatown in the world.
Jim: It was because, to a large extent because of the trade routes and…
Derek: And also quite possibly because it’s very one of the closest countries to China.
Jim: It is. It is primarily because of trade that the, I think, about 20-25 of the Filipino population has some extent of Chinese ancestry because of the historical migrations and the trade, and also ancestry from Latin America, from Spain, and also US as well because of the historical ties of the US as well. So very diverse country and there’s a lot of, a lot of cultural, actually cultural diversity and ethnic diversity, I think.
Derek: Let’s make this forward a few hundred years and interestingly, the traffic thing came up tonight because you were delayed by two or three hours getting here and really, this is a very common problem in Manila and it’s probably one of what the newbies first notice and comment on.
Jim: It is.
Derek: I have a great pride and hope for the Philippines, and there is huge potential for the Philippines because it’s one of the largest English speaking countries in the world.
Jim: It is.
Derek: It is the, I think, biggest Catholic country in the world.
Jim: It is, yup.
Derek: It’s highly aligned to western cultures, so there’s huge potential and obviously, huge economic progress with the outsourcing industry.
Derek: But it hinges on having a good infrastructure and that means good traffic, good transport, good internet, and affordable utilities, which is obviously the electricity, air conditioning and things on there. And this is where the Philippines is a little bit…
Jim: It’s a little bit lagging behind as where the region goes, but that said, things are, I hope, improving. Everywhere you go in the Philippines, you see construction. I actually am here right now and I see that there’s a construction going on in the building next door.
There’s a major infrastructure overhaul that’s happening, but again, because we’re fixated on time, we have to take a step back and look at it from a typical progression perspective. I think if five years from now, the infrastructure is certainly going to be much better.
There are companies and money going in investing in railroad systems, investing in new urban infrastructure, investing in other types of facilities. That’s happening.
Derek: It’s public private partnerships and hopefully it’s the government enable things to do.
Jim: Yeah. Currently, there’s a competition between China and Japan over infrastructure investments and Duterte, his policies, one thing that he does very smart is to play to major investing countries against each other and there’s a big competition between Japan and China over bids to invest in the critical infrastructure in this country.
Derek: Well, he certainly has very over intentions to develop the Philippines and bring the Philippines to the prominence it deserves. And I think he’s quite progressive certainly in his aspirations, so let’s hope that a lot of that plays out.
Jim: I think that in terms of what he does for the country, I think he deserves more credit than certain media gives him. I think he deserves a little credit in terms of the certain efforts of moving this country forward.
Derek: Well, let’s look at that. As a newish person, but you’re very experienced. You’ve travelled much of the globe, what do your parents say about you coming to the Philippines? Are they worried sick? There’s a lot of negative media coverage about the Philippines. And it’s either, I find either negative or people just don’t know where the Philippines is. They are either completely ignorant about the country or that people are worried.
Jim: Well, I think my parents didn’t know I was in the Philippines until three months after I landed, but that’s another story. But I want to answer your question. I think we have to think in two different directions. In one direction, it’s certainly, I wouldn’t say, I don’t want to downplay the danger because danger can happen anywhere in any big city, whether it’s Manila, whether it’s London, whether it’s Paris.
Things can happen. It can also happen in a concert in Manchester as well. It’s always there and one always has to be very careful. At the same time, I do want to point out that the world is a much better and safer place than what certain media gives it credit for.
Derek: Yeah, because the issue with media generally is it magnifies anything.
Derek: There’s still 100 million people living very harmoniously in the Philippines and a lot of business and a lot of business expansion happening.
Jim: It is, it is. I mean and most people whether it’s in Manchester or whether it’s in the Philippines are hardworking, kind people who just want to do better in the world. In terms of global travel, in terms of comparing different regions, I think for Asia, it’s all relative, right? If you’re from Japan and you land in the Philippine shore, you might think it’s quite dangerous, but at the same time, I would say it’s arguably safer than most places in Latin America.
I’ve lived in Brazil. I’ve accidentally gotten into favelas two times in my life. One time, I accidentally drove into one. But I will say, again the favela is 99% of the population who live in favelas in Rio and Sao Paulo are hardworking, kind people who just want to do better for their families.
Sometimes, it’s a negative perception that the media portrays that really influences how we think of some places. I want to giving the example of how when I was in Brazil, I remember reading that there were certain inhabitants and residents in some of the most dangerous favelas or slums in Rio who were praying for the lives of people in the US because they read about how there were certain gun violence in certain cities in the US.
It’s all relative and it’s also very influenced by media perception.
Derek: It is. It’s a perception of perceptions almost, isn’t it?
Jim: It is, yeah.
Derek: Okay, that’s great insight. So if you were to summarize in three words, how would you describe Philippines, not three words but three descriptive.
Jim: I think one is high potential because it’s one of the fast growing countries in Asia Pacific with over 6% GDP growth. The other word would be kind. I think it’s one of the most kindest people I’ve seen. Almost like no one I meet in the Philippines ever gets angry over anything. It’s quite amazing.
The third adjective or phrase I would say is hardworking. Hardworking because it’s not meant to be a particular compliment but I’ve never seen so many people work so hard to support their families. Everyone I meet, you know, I use to interview for different positions at the startup I was working.
I was interviewing for team managers. I was interviewing for office managers and when I ask people, they would say, “I want to be the hardest worker I can be so that I can support my parents, so that I could support my brothers and sisters so I could send them to school.” It’s quite incredible.
Derek: Incredible community.
Jim: Hardworking, that hard work that people inject in their culture and their minds.
Derek: Amazing. Thank you Jim.
Jim: Thank you, Derek.
Derek: How was that? That was Jim Yuan. If you want to get in touch with Jim or want to know anymore at all, please go to our show notes at outsourceaccelerator.com/66 and if you want to ask us anything, anything at all, just email us at [email protected]. See you next time.