Skip to content

Business Culture and Etiquette

The Philippine culture and general way of life were greatly influenced by the Spanish, Americans, Japanese, Chinese and Malay. Filipinos are casual, fun loving, sensitive and hospitable people.

The business environment in the Philippines is highly built on personal relationships, with business matters always best dealt with face-to-face in a warm and pleasant atmosphere. While Danes and many Westerners are generally straightforward and want to get to the point immediately, Filipinos are indirect. They enjoy exchanging pleasantries, sharing a joke or two and talking about mutual friends and family members first before going to the main agenda of the business meeting. To a Filipino, cultivating a friend, establishing a valuable contact, and developing personal rapport moves business along.

Introduction

It is common to shake hands with both men and women, when introduced or greeting a person. A personal introduction by a mutual friend or business associate makes business arrangements much smoother. Handing out business cards is a standard procedure although the manner in which the cards are exchanged tend to be rather informal as compared with other Asian cultures. English is the official business language in the Philippines.  

When dealing with high-ranking Philippine government officials, it is best to address them by their formal titles - e.g., Secretary del Rosario, General Santos, etc.  

Meetings and Appointments

Business hours are generally from 8am to 5pm including an hour break for lunch. Mid-morning or afternoon meetings are preferred, and a follow-up call to confirm the meeting a day before is recommended. Filipinos are relaxed about time. Allow for at least fifteen minutes leeway before your Filipino contact arrives for an appointment. For VIPs, waiting time could be longer.  

Negotiation / Follow-through

Communication is indirect, truth is diplomatically presented, manner is gentle, and the perception of the recipient is considered in all communications. All communication should be courteous, regardless of its content. Filipinos find it difficult to say "No," Disagree, Reject or be Confrontational. They would typically offer a polite reply coupled with a smile rather than an outright negative feedback to the other party’s proposal or ideas. A “Yes” may mean a lot of things; therefore one should be aware of the subtleties of a particular conversation.

Gifts

Gifts are not expected, but are appreciated. A small gift at the first meeting might be a good idea. Gifts are not opened in the giver's presence. Christmas is also a time to show appreciation to people with whom you have regular dealings with through token gifts.

Other Helpful Tips: 

  • Many business deals are completed informally over a round of golf, during meals and entertainment. The person who invites customarily pays.
  • Make requests, not demands. Be subtle.
  • Don't be offended by personal questions. These are asked to show interest. Feel free to ask the same questions in return, especially about family.
  • Prolonged direct eye contact is considered rude. Staring is also unacceptable.
  • “Loss of face” in the event of disrespect to his rank, public display of anger and outright criticism are deemed as major concerns because dignity and pride are highly valued by Filipinos.