Business etiquette in the Philippines

Hello everybody,

As you know, professional habits may differ from one country to another. In order to help newly arrived expats better understand their new professional environment in the Philippines, we warmly encourage you to share information and insights about the do’s and don’ts in the workplace.

For instance, are there office manners? How do you greet your co-workers? Do you greet your management differently? Is there a dress code? Particular rules to observe? Maybe a professional body language?

On another level, what is key for a successful professional meeting? Are there any steps to follow? How do you a start a negotiation?

In other words, what are the most important things to know for a successful professional integration in the Philippines?

Thank you in advance for sharing your experience!


yes it is really good to know

I'd say being adaptive of your environment and being a versatile employee could help you succeed in your career and the hearts of your co-workers. Be observant of the workplace and how people interact with one another and work together.

Hello Julien,

your topic is REALLY important and helpful for expats, who want to adjust to the habits in the Philippines!

Unfortunately there is no real answer to your questions even after three weeks, which would help all foreigners.

Like you I try to adjust to the local habits - instead of being here and always falling into a bad mood (and behavior) when dealing with Filipinos/as -, but obviously no Locals want to give you (and many others - including me) helpful hints, how to optimize our behavior...

SO, PLEASE, FILIPINOS AND FILIPINAS: be free to help us foreigners to be respectful and to accept your rules here in the Philippines: PLEASE give us some hints, how to behave and how to work together with you successfully!

Please tell us even the apparently easy and simple rules of us dealing with local people and of behaving in official /business matters. Please go into details, when answering. I know by myself that I should respect others´ dignity, but there might be typical mistakes of foreigners, which we should avoid.

And of course there are obvious differences:
I noticed e.g. that Filipinos are using the internet totally different compared to Europeans and U.S.-Americans: in these countries shops are using the internet to give detailed information about products for sale including telling the exact price. Here in the Philippines most companies show some pictures of their products, but hesitate to give detailed information or even a fixed compatible price for their products or services.

In other countries people use the internet to exchange helpful hints about product qualities, service qualities and the best places where to get various products or services for the best price - here in the Philippines these benefits or values are rarely shared in the internet - why?

And I am sure there is much more for expats/foreigners to know or obey: just give us some helpful hints, please!

To all responders: Thank you for your help!



Sorry Thomas, as most business owners here in the Philippines have yet to utilize the internet such as having their own company website with eCommerce capabilities (sell stuff online, showcase products and price, etc.) much less putting up their own social media accounts. The ones who have those are either the online retail distributors/resellers like Lazada and the fastfood chains allowing customers to order for delivery, targeting mostly corporate offices whose employees would find this a convenience, getting cheap and filling food in a jiffy. It would probably take a perspective shift for this to take off for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs especially for retailers.

Like most Asians, Filipinos are big on relationships and most likely people they've been in good dealings with for some time will remain to be a strong partner in future engagements. We are not difficult to please at all, and consider workplaces as one family. Some tips:

- Careful in being upfront when citing negative things such as mistakes, as we are a passionate brood (read: sensitive and emotional). We mostly avoid conflict, we want to save face and not humiliate ourselves or others especially foreigners. We also avoid saying anything disdainful at the risk of ruining relationships (and potential business). To be honest the sandwich method still does the trick (positive-negative-positive)

- When you ask questions no one might respond, so encourage participation through reinforcement, to make us feel comfortable sharing our thoughts. We appear shy but the real reason we keep our mouths shut is mostly because we hate complications and prolonging issues, plus we may not be able to articulate it well in the manner we want; just giving a smile and laughing being the usual escape. But once we are comfortable with you, we'll be trusting enough to be chatty... sometimes too chatty

- Coming to a meeting late is not a huge deal; just giving a heads up even 15 mins. before the scheduled time is acceptable. To remedy this we tend to declare the scheduled time an hour ahead knowing that people will come late - by the time they arrive it's the exact time (LOL)... it happens even in weddings and parties

- Win over people with food (it always works, trust me). We like gatherings a lot, and there will always be food and drinks.  You'll be loved for bringing even simple snacks ("it's the thought that counts"). Marketing people are good at this: they will know everything about their client from birthdays to anniversaries to funerals (yes they will send a Catholic Mass Card and flowers) giving gifts and making their clients feel special.

Will think of other things that might help but hope the above suffices for now.

I agree with kpcmnl.

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