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
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 their hand.
- 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 "no."
- 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
- Never curl your index finger back and forth (to beckon). This
is an insult.
- To indicate two of something, raise your ring and pinkie
- 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
- 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 much smoother.
- 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
- 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 avoid confrontation.
- 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
- 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
- Getting drunk is considered greedy and rude.
- Toasts are common in the Philippines, especially at business
meetings. Usually the host or lead of the visiting party initiates
- It is polite to decline the first offer of seating, food,
drink, etc. Accept the second offer.
- Keep your hands above the table during dinner.
- 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 initial meetings.
- Women should wear western dresses, skirts and blouses.
- 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 family.
- 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 doing business in the
- 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