Business Etiquette in the Philippines

The word etiquette can come off as pretentious and stiff. To most, it implies a set of rules that seems to threaten our sense of freedom or individuality. But in business, manners and courtesy are still essential.

Even in today’s technology-driven arena, business etiquette remains to be relevant. The tools and venues may change, but the fact of the matter is that professional and respectful behavior will never go out of style.
Doing business in other countries can be a little tricky because of cultural factors. Even with the best intentions, if you don’t prepare yourself ahead of time, you may come off as disrespectful. So when you’re setting up shop here in the Philippines or in other locations, it’s best that you stock up on local knowledge so that you’ll be able to ensure basic social comforts to those you do business with.
The saying When in Rome, do as the Romans do certainly applies when you’re transacting business in the Philippines. Here are some of the key things to remember:

  1. Introductions
    As a visitor, it is customary to present your business card first. Business cards are presented face up with both hands, as with other Asian cultures. Take a moment to study a card upon receiving one before pocketing it.

    When meeting a group, greet the oldest or highest-ranking individual first; a firm handshake and a warm smile will suffice. Until a certain level of familiarity has been established, address individuals by their titles and surnames.
  2. Conversations
    Because of the warm nature of Filipinos, expect inquiries about your family, your marital status, and the like. Not that your Filipino colleagues are being nosy; they are just asking about the same things that concern them. This type of social chatter typically takes up the last ten to fifteen minutes of your meetings.

    Filipinos are also not the type to raise their voices or engage in heated debates. Nice topics are discussed in public, while unpleasant subjects are discussed in private.
  3. Business meetings
    When it comes to scheduling meetings, always confirm the date with your local associates a few days before. It is also recommended that you provide copies of the necessary materials to enhance the objectives of your meeting. Punctuality is normal courtesy as well.
  4. Social events
    Hospitality is a very big part of Filipino culture. Business partners tend to be treated warmly, like extended members of the family. 

    When it comes to eating, it is slightly offensive to turn down food offered by your host. Whether you are eating out or dining in private homes, it is best to follow your host’s lead on where to sit and when to start eating. Filipinos don’t really mind if you finish every last bite on your plate. Send a message of thanks to your host for the invitation. 
  5. Gifts  
    While there is no rule as to the color or material used, Filipinos appreciate attractive packaging because this reflects how much thought you’ve put into the gift. Outside of family, gift-giving is a private affair, mainly because Filipinos consider the feelings of those present who are not receiving anything.