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Business Etiquette in the Philippines: 7 Tips for Professionals Working with Filipinos


Over the past 5 years, we have seen a huge increase in demand for Philippines cultural awareness training.

More businesses are investing in the country as well as more Filipinos working in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

Due to this interaction with Filipinos, global professionals are needing help and support in navigating the culture, whether that be understanding the communication style, approach to management or relationship building.

One aspect of working with Filipinos that is very important is etiquette and how you behave.

Here are some key points around Filipino etiquette to keep in mind

1. Building Relationships:

Filipino business culture is rooted in personal relationships. Therefore, it is essential to take time to build rapport with your business associates. This involves making small talk, sharing stories, and finding common interests. ‘Cutting to the chase’ is the height of bad manners.

2. Courtesy:

Filipinos place a high value on politeness and courtesy, and this is reflected in their business culture as well. It is important to use polite, friendly language and to avoid confrontational or aggressive behaviour. As a result, you will find office etiquette in the Philippines very important.

3. Addressing People:

Filipinos are very respectful and formal when addressing people, especially those in positions of authority or older people. Until invited to do otherwise, address people using their title, such as "Sir" or "Ma'am," followed by their last name. A common social custom is to use terms of endearment like "Tito" (uncle) or "Tita" (aunt) to show respect.

4. Respect for Hierarchy:

Filipinos generally show deference to people in positions of power. Seniority, rank, and authority are important, and it is expected that those in positions of authority are not questioned. Protecting ‘face’ is essential and demands a solid understanding of the Filipino communication style.

5. Gift-Giving:

Gifts are a common social custom in the Philippines and feature in the business setting as a way to build relationships. When giving gifts, it is important to choose items that are culturally appropriate and of good quality. Avoid giving gifts that are too expensive as people usually try to reciprocate with gifts of equal value which could possibly be excessive.

6. Dining etiquette:

Sharing meals is an important part of doing business in the Philippines and it is common to conduct business over lunch or dinner. When dining, it is important to observe good table manners, such as waiting for the host to begin eating, using utensils correctly, and avoiding discussing inappropriate topics.

7. Punctuality:

While punctuality is generally valued in the business culture, socially-speaking time is seen as something flexible. It is not uncommon for meetings to start later than scheduled. Deadlines may also be more elastic than you are used to. It is important to be patient and avoid showing frustration or impatience.

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