How to Do Business in Philippines
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Filipinos are casual, fun loving, sensitive and hospitable
people. Personal and family honor are stressed, as well
as dignity and pride. Education is highly valued and families
make great sacrifices to educate their children. Hiya (shame)
is instilled in Filipinos at an early age. To be shamed
is the greatest form of disgrace.
Meeting and Greeting
- Men and women shake hands with everyone
present at a business meeting or social occasion and when
saying “goodbye.” Handshakes should be friendly
and informal, but limp. Men should wait for women to extend
- If Filipinos don’t understand
a question, they open their mouths. Raised eyebrows signify
recognition and agreement.
- Laughter may convey pleasure or embarrassment;
it is commonly used to relieve tension.
- “Yes” is signified by a
jerk of the head upward. “No” is signified
by a jerk of the head down. Since the Filipinos rarely
say no, the non-verbal sign for “no” is sometimes
accompanied by a verbal yes, which would still indicate
- Staring is considered rude and could
be misinterpreted as a challenge, but Filipinos may stare
or even touch foreigners, especially in areas where foreigners
are rarely seen.
- To Filipinos, standing with your hands
on your hips means you are angry.
- Never curl your index finger back and
forth (to beckon). This is an insult.
- To indicate two of something, raise
your ring and pinkie fingers.
- To beckon, extend arm, palm down, moving
fingers in scratching motion. Touch someone’s elbow
lightly to attract attention. Do not tap on the shoulder.
- “Eyebrow flash” —
a quick lifting of eyebrows — is a Filipino greeting.
- Filipinos are relaxed about time. Meetings
and appointments often begin late. Foreigners are supposed
to be on time.
- A personal introduction by a mutual
friend or business associate makes business arrangements
- Establishing a personal relationship
is important to the success of a business relationship.
Trust and loyalty are central to developing relationships.
Insincerity is easily detected and can ruin the relationship.
- Filipinos often have a “take it
or leave it” attitude when it comes to selling prices.
They may also may place less stress on the absolute selling
price and place more emphasis on percentages, unit cost
or rounded figures.
- Casual conversation may precede business
discussions during meetings.
- Negotiations and business deals move
slowly. A third-party go-between may be a good idea to
relieve tension or give criticism. Do not allow meetings
to go too long. Filipinos love to eat and their enthusiasm
wanes when they are hungry.
- 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. The Filipino attempt to please may result in
many unfinished projects.
- Filipinos find it difficult to say “no,”
disagree, reject or be confrontational, especially when
a superior is involved. Expect an ambiguous or indirect
answer — not to deceive, but rather to please and
- Face-to-face meetings are preferred.
Written communications might not be answered. Communication
by mail or telephone is unreliable at best.
- Small bribes are occasionally used to
cut through bureaucracies. This is illegal, but done quietly
and often. Participate with caution.
Dining and Entertainment
- Most business entertaining is done in
restaurants or clubs, preferably a good restaurant in
an international hotel. During business entertaining,
you may be asked to sing. Try to join in.
- A dinner invitation to counterparts
and their spouses is appreciated before you leave the
country. Don’t bring your spouse to a business lunch.
Lunches are generally for business discussions.
- Filipinos may view a dinner/party invitation
as just a passing thought. They may answer “yes,”
but not take an invitation seriously. Phone to re-invite
and remind. An R.S.V.P. may not be answered. It must be
reiterated to be taken seriously. Don’t accept an
invitation unless repeated at least three times.
- People who have not been invited may
turn up at dinner. They should be included graciously.
- Punctuality is appreciated but not demanded
when attending social affairs.
- Getting drunk is considered greedy and
- Toasts are common in the Philippines,
especially at business meetings. Usually the host or lead
of the visiting party initiates a toast.
- It is polite to decline the first offer
of seating, food, drink, etc. Accept the second offer.
- Keep your hands above the table during
- Leave a small amount of food on your
plate when you are finished eating. When finished eating,
place your fork and spoon on your plate.
- The person who invites pays the bill.
- Filipinos are some of the smartest dressers
in Asia. Dress well for most occasions.
- Men should wear a jacket and tie for
- Women should wear western dresses, skirts
- Gifts are not expected, but are appreciated.
You may want to bring a small gift to your first meeting.
- Gifts are not opened in the giver’s
presence. Thank the giver and set it aside.
- Speak softly and control your emotions
in public. Make requests, not demands.
- Don’t be offended by personal
questions. These are asked to show interest. Feel free
to ask the same questions in return, especially about
- Verbal assault is a crime for which
you can be charged.
- Never bring shame to a person. This
reflects on his family. Personal goals are sacrificed
for the good of the family.
- Never directly criticize anyone, especially
in public. Never offer insincere comments or compliments.
Especially for Women
- Foreign women will have little problem
How to Do Business in the Philippines.
- Men may make comments about women walking
on the street. These should be ignored.
- A foreign woman should not pay a bill
for a Filipino businessman. It would embarrass him and
might harm the business relationship.
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St. Paul, MN 55116
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