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Business Culture

Philippines - Business Culture

Business in the Philippines is built on personal relationships. You should ideally arrange introductions through a third party, and allow plenty of time for socializing to build rapport and familiarity.

Arrange appointments in advance, and telephone shortly before to confirm. Normal office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. English is the main business language.

It is acceptable to be up to 15 minutes late for meetings but you should try to be punctual.

Normal business attire is a formal suit and tie, or the local-style long-sleeved shirt for men, and a modest suit or dress for women, which may be brightly coloured.

People should be addressed by their professional title if they have one (e.g. Dr., Architect), or by Mr, Mrs or Ms along with their family name. It is common to move quickly to first name terms, or the nicknames often used by Filipinos.

The normal greeting is a handshake with a smile. Eye contact should not be too intense. Business cards are exchanged following initial greetings, and should be inspected respectfully.

Initial meetings are mainly for getting to know one another rather than formal negotiations. Some small talk is expected, and you may be asked about personal details such as income or marital status - you can politely side-step these questions if you wish.

Communication styles are courteous, reserved and often indirect; Filipinos will try to avoid a direct refusal or confrontation as this could cause someone to "lose face", which is unacceptable. It is also inappropriate to raise your voice or show impatience in this culture, or to interrupt anyone.

The business culture is hierarchical but also consensual, with decisions being made at the top of the organization with input from others. Decision-makers may not be present at meetings but will be briefed afterwards. Negotiations are often held outside the office, in social venues or on the golf course. The decision-making process can be lengthy, as Filipinos like to take their time, and to consult various people as necessary.

Gift-giving is an important part of Filipino business culture and expected before business deals are finalized. Gifts should be of good quality, but inexpensive, and nicely wrapped. They will be opened later in private.

If you are invited to dine at a Filipino home you should take a small gift of sweets or flowers, but avoid chrysanthemums or white lilies. Business visitors are often invited to social events and expected to participate in singing and dancing.

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