The Philippines has emerged as a strong global competitor in many industries, including technology, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. Doing business in the Philippines can be a cost efficient way to procure or produce high quality goods and services.
Filipino Body Language and Etiquette
Body language in the Philippines is an important part of communication, and can be confusing at first to international businesspeople. Eye contact, for instance, should not be maintained throughout a conversation, but should periodically be directed away from the person speaking, because maintaining direct eye contact can be seen as a provocation. A filipino may raise his eyebrows during a conversation to imply that he has understood or concurs with a statement, rather than as the sign of suspicion that is in many western cultures.
When pointing or attempting to get a filipino’s attention, the international traveler must remember to use his entire hand, palm down, rather than pointing or raising a finger. Also, a polite way of pointing to someone or something while in conversation is to pout one’s lips towards the person or object. As in many asian cultures, a smile or a nod is not necessarily a sign of happiness or agreement; it can also indicate embarrassment or reluctance to disagree.
Business and social culture in the Philippines is very non-confrontational, and heated arguments and debates are rarely seen as constructive. While a western businessperson may be accustomed to open discussions and debate in business meetings, it is important to never to point out flaws or imply incompetence in their filipino counterparts. The concept of ‘saving face’ is highly important in social relations in the Philippines, and a savvy business traveler must take care never to embarrass or publicly put down their filipino counterparts.
Filipino Business Attire
Filipinos view a businessperson’s attire as a statement of their social status and rank within their organization. Men will find themselves treated with more respect and professionalism by wearing a fashionable suit with a white shirt, with or without a tie. Women should avoid wearing slacks, choosing conservative yet fashionable business attire with a knee-length skirt instead.
Business Meetings in the Philippines
Business meetings in the Philippines include a strict, rank-based seating order. According to “International Business Etiquette”, international businesspeople should take note of the seating arrangements of their filipino counterparts to ascertain their seniority and rank, and should always wait to be directed to their own assigned seat by the host of the meeting.
Punctuality is not of the utmost importance in the Philippines, and neither is the concept of an RSVP. Business travelers should not count on their filipino partners to show up at a meeting that was scheduled several weeks or months in advance; it is always wise to call a day or two ahead of the scheduled meeting to confirm attendance. Do not expect filipinos to show up early or on time to business meetings or social events either; it is custom in the Philippines to arrive ten to twenty minutes after the agreed upon start time.
Small talk is appreciated before and after business meetings, and is a great way for attendees to become better acquainted.
According to apmforum, manager/employee relations in the Philippines derive a strong cultural influence from the Spanish ‘compradzago’ family system, which involves an extensive web of relations, related or unrelated by blood, who act as a large family unit. This hierarchical ‘family’ structure can be seen throughout organizations in the Philippines, creating a top-down decision-making structure and an intricate system of political ‘gate-keepers’ that must be navigated to obtain access to top management. Because of this influence, a modern, relatively flat organizational structure may not be highly suited to an international organization’s operations in the Philippines.