The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos – A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z: PHILIPPINES
The article ‘Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for The Philippines is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for The Philippines, tips for communicating in The Philippines, and strategies for doing business with The Philippines to help with understanding the culture in The Philippines. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step!
Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this article and of the bestselling book, ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, available on Amazonas a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Education, and a distinguished ProfessionalKeynote Speaker. Contact Gayle to be a conference speaker for your events! She is a cross cultural expert that will entertain and inspire audiences of all sizes with her fresh, unique, and humorous approach to cross-cultural communication and social business etiquette. Gayle travels worldwide from business bases in Texas and Switzerland.
Cultural Tips for The Philippines – including some valuable business travel tips!
When doing business in the Philippines, understand that it represents a variety of cultures. It’s in the heart of South East Asia, however is heavily influenced by non-Asians from Spain, Mexico, and the United States. As a result, the Catholic Church is more influential than in other Asian cultures, making the Philippines a truly unique and diverse country.
The majority of inhabitants are of ethnic Malay stock, although unlike neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, the influence of Islam is more limited.
‘Small talk’ is an important part of establishing business relationships with Filipinos. You’ll find that they can be quite enthusiastic conversationalists.
Expect to be asked personal questions regarding your marital status, income, religion, and other sensitive subjects. If you don’t wish to answer, side-step these questions as graciously as possible.
Embarrassing someone, or reprimanding them in front of others, can cause them to “lose face” or loss of reputation and this has very negative consequences in this culture.
Maintaining cordial relationships is essential in the Philippines. Keep your comments as positive as possible, because negativity can inadvertently cause “loss of face”,
It’s best not to be too direct when communicating with Filipinos. They will usually be more receptive to a rather indirect approach.
Because of the years of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, most westernized gestures and communication styles are recognized and understood.
English is the language of most business transactions and nearly all government bodies in the Philippines.
Women are accepted in business circles, however should avoid acting in a domineering way with male colleagues.
Women managers are expected to be highly competent and assert their authority in a professional, restrained manner.
Business travelers are expected to be on time for all appointments, and although the Filipinos may not always arrive exactly on time, you probably won’t be subjected to an overly long wait.
Producing “instant results” is not a strong part of Filipino business culture. Consequently, you will have to adjust your expectations regarding deadlines and decision making when working with them.
In order to reach the decision-maker, you will likely have to meet with subordinates first and also adapt to the business protocol at the different levels of the organization.
When meeting a new customer, letters of introduction from friends and business associates can often be helpful in opening doors.
Although there are many social inequalities in the Philippines, Filipinos believe that everyone must be treated with respect. They are expected to behave with modesty and graciousness, especially in their dealings with the poor or less fortunate.
Businessmen should expect to shake hands firmly with other Filipino men both upon introduction and subsequent meetings however, it’s best to wait for a Filipino woman to offer her hand first.
Close female friends may greet each other with a hug and kiss. Similarly, close male friends may have close physical contact, such as holding hands or walking arm in arm around a friend’s shoulder.
Some Filipinos may greet each other by making eye contact, then raising and lowering their eyebrows. When someone raises their eyebrows at you, it is often a way of indicating that you have been understood.
Raising one’s voice is unacceptable in the Filipino business culture. It’s important to maintain a low, controlled tone of voice at all times.
Don’t assume that a smile is an indication of amusement or approval. At times, smiling is used to mask embarrassment, nervousness, and other feelings of discomfort.
Pointing at someone or something can be perceived as an insulting gesture. Filipinos typically point at objects using an open hand. For giving directions, they may use a glance with a slight nod, or purse their lips to signify which way.
To beckon someone, hold your hand out, palm downward, and make a scratching motion with the fingers. Beckoning someone with the palm up and wagging one finger can be interpreted as an insult.
Indicating ‘two’ with the fingers is done by holding up the ring and little finger, not the forefinger and middle finger. The thumb is not used to count numbers in the Philippines.
Don’t put your hands on your hips when conversing. This gesture can be misinterpreted as challenge to another person.
5 Key Conversation Topics or Gesture Tips
- Discussing the Filipino culture and customs is always appreciated
- Family is also a good topic in the Philippines
- Filipinos love fiestas, so asking about these occasions will create a lively conversation
- All types of sports, especially basketball
- Food and the local specialties is a great topic
5 Key Conversation Topics or Gesture Taboos
- Politics in general, unless they bring it up first
- Corruption, terrorism, or drug trafficking — even though it may be in the news
- Foreign aid and related policies
- Religion in general, unless they bring it up first
- Topics that could potentially cause embarrassment or “loss of face”
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To learn more about the Do’s & Taboos for The Philippines, doing business in The Philippines, and the communication and business styles of Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order my bestselling book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’available on Amazonas a Book, eBook, or Audio Book
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Check out the ARTICLE ARCHIVE ‘Cultural Clues Do’s and Taboos’ for countries you may have missed!
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Cross-cultural article: Cultural Clues, Do’s & Taboos for The PHILIPPINES
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