How to Interact with Filipinos through Your Business
If your business has Filipino customers or Filipino business contacts (meaning people from the Philippines), knowing some Filipino cultural norms can keep your business culturally sensitive.
Common 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 soft. Men should wait for women to extend their hand. Friends may greet each other by raising their eyebrows.
Personal space: Just a bit farther than in the United States at 2 1/2 to 3 feet. Friends will stand much closer in casual conversation.
Eye contact: Direct during the greeting and indirect after that. Strong eye contact between men can be interpreted as aggressive.
Approach to time: Punctuality is expected.
Language: Filipino and English are the official languages of the Philippines. Because English is widely used for educational, governmental, and commercial purposes, Filipinos are generally very comfortable speaking English.
Communication: Filipinos are casual, fun-loving, sensitive, and hospitable people. Laughter may convey pleasure or embarrassment; it’s commonly used to relieve tension. Filipinos may point by puckering their lips in the direction they are referring to.
Communication is indirect, truth is diplomatically presented, and Filipinos find it difficult to say no, disagree, reject, or be confrontational. As a result, they may give an ambiguous or indirect answer — not to be deceptive, but rather to avoid confrontation.
Topics for building rapport: Filipino food, customs, and language.
Negotiations: Casual conversation may precede business discussions during meetings. Negotiations and business deals move slowly. They often have a take it or leave it attitude when it comes to price. They also may place less stress on the absolute selling price and more emphasis on percentages, unit cost, or rounded figures.
Don’t allow meetings to go too long — many Filipinos love to eat, and their enthusiasm wanes when they’re hungry.
Actions to avoid: Standing with your hands on your hips means you’re angry. Pointing at a Filipino with your finger is disrespectful.
Tips for businesswomen: Women are generally treated similar to men in the Philippines and have been rulers of the country, so as long as you make the culturally appropriate adjustments discussed in this list, you should be safe.