Filipino Expat in Indonesia - Interview With N. Mark Castro

Published: 5 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Indonesia
N. Mark Castro is the chief of content for, which is the first personal finance management for women in Asia and is the chief political strategic adviser for a political consulting firm. His core area of network is in strategic communications, politics, healthcare strategy, media relations that brought him in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. He has traded his happy hours for happy meals and if he's not busy being a clueless dad to his two young toddlers, you can find him typing away in a local cafe around Jakarta. N. Mark Castro's expat blog is called Blink, which is a social commentary (humor) on Indonesia's politics, food, music, and fatherhood. Things that keep him busy in this laid-back archipelago. N. Mark Castro's expat blog is called Blink (see listing here)

Meet N. Mark Castro - Filipino expat in Indonesia
Meet N. Mark Castro - Filipino expat in Indonesia

Here's the interview with N. Mark Castro...

Where are you originally from?
Manila, Philippines but have moved to Bangkok and Singapore before relocating to Indonesia.

In which country and city are you living now?
Jakarta, Indonesia

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I'm on my 9th year and never really made plans on the longevity of my stay. Time flew so fast that I came here as a single guy and ended up being married with two young toddlers. To this day there's no specific length of time I've planned as my contract -- and my wife's -- is on an annual basis. But with the country's vibrant economy, I think we'll be here for a much longer period and be part of that growth.

Why did you move and what do you do?
Embarrassing as it may sound, I was just checking out party places in Asia and using my job as an excuse. In Manila I was involved in Strategic Public Relations; in Thailand I headed a Third Party Negotiations Team; In Singapore I was managing an Asian healthcare training program; and when I arrived in Jakarta I was handling the strategic marketing of a local healthcare group, then after several years moved on as a chief political strategist adviser while concurrently working as a chief of content for a finance website for women.

Goofing around with the kids. Off to school. Off to work.
Goofing around with the kids. Off to school. Off to work.
Did you bring family with you?
The kids are Made in Indonesia, met my Filipina wife here who, ironically, came from the same State University I was in but we never met.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Easy. It's been all Asian countries so it's just a matter of adjusting on the spice of the food.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Again, as Asians, it's been easy. Yes I do socialize with expatriates from other nationalities but the Philippines has always been a melting pot for that.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
It depends on what you would want. If you're after nighlife, then Jakarta and Bali are happening places. Restaurants are also sprouting here from Asian to Western to fusion.

For nature, Indonesia has over 17,000 islands to offer so you can let your imagination run wild.

You sit down in a restaurant and tell them you're hungry and they shove up all these food to you. Fast food?
You sit down in a restaurant and tell them you're hungry and they shove up all these food to you. Fast food?
For urban lifestyle, their malls are simply crazy. They make Mall of America look like a parking lot. How to find these? Simple, take your Starbucks coffee with you, kick it, there's a mall, repeat the exercise.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
It's more laid-back compared to other Asian countries, whether for work or personal time. The country's showing marked growth with its economy so there's also a sense of security if managed properly.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Much higher compared to other Asian countries because of the demand: property or basic goods. Corruption, of course, impacts it as well.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Highly traditional, although it's just a question of adjusting to it. I'm sure traffic would be a major complaint for most people but I come from Manila, so their traffic is just another day for me. If any, it would be the cost of living because it's simply not commensurate to the standards they have, whether it's education, healthcare, and or other basic services.

Pretending to be a food-delivery boy and seeing people's reaction, priceless
Pretending to be a food-delivery boy and seeing people's reaction, priceless
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Be prepared to encounter one of the most traditional countries in Southeast Asia, despite its world-class structures, business here is done based on its relationship and not its ROI. People have walked away from multi-million dollar deals if it doesn't sit well on their values. They can afford to do so because the country is just damn rich with natural resources, aside from the growing middle-class with high consumerism. We're talking about a country of 250 million and a consumer class of about 170 million. Do the math.

What do you think would be the most exciting thing to happen in your Host Country in the next five years?
With ASEAN projected to fully integrate by 2015 and Indonesia the largest economy in Southeast Asia, you can expect additional growth and more opportunities as the country positions itself as among the lead-developing countries.

What can you offer companies or expatriates coming in to the country?
Professionally, I can assist companies in terms of business network development, provide political briefings as to how it would impact their business, and manage their strategic communications.

Personally, if you're willing to pick up the bill on a good cat's dung for coffee (Kopi Luwak), we can shoot the breeze and chat about the country you just landed in.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Finding quality yet reasonably-priced healthcare and education. It just doesn't exist.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It would be to find a company that could absorb my worth, other than that, lifestyle per se wouldn't be much of a problem.

To be served by the infamous Javanese hospitality and drink the world's most expensive coffee
To be served by the infamous Javanese hospitality and drink the world's most expensive coffee
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Build relationships.
  2. Learn the language.
  3. Explore the country.
  4. Understand the diverse cultural values.
  5. Relax and Enjoy, it's Asia, dude.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is generally my outlet in expressing my personal views as opposed to my professional work. It covers Politics, Fatherhood, Music, Food, and LiveOLive (finance management site for women in Asia), which pretty much occupies me these days.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Facebook me ( or visit my blog (see link below)

N. Mark Castro blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Blink has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with N. Mark Castro, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments

Efren Leano wrote 7 years ago:

Very good piece of interview. Informative yet entertaining and full of humor. Well done!

Radel Lopez wrote 6 years ago:

Good Job Mr. Mark I'm one of your fans

Pasky Pascual wrote 6 years ago:

I never had any inkling that you would end up the way you are now, but I have no complaints, just plain happy for you.

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