Filipino Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • It is important to be punctual. You can expect a Filipino to be on time when the appointment is business-related.
  • Expect people to defer decision making to those in higher ranking positions.
  • Negotiations often progress slowly as Filipinos like to check in on how everyone feels about a matter.
  • The end of a meeting usually consists of social conversation, and it is important that everyone remains and engages in it.


Relationship Oriented

Personal relationships play a large role in Filipino business culture. Finding a third-party introduction is a helpful strategy as Filipinos prefer to work with those that they know and trust. For this reason among others, nepotism is common. It is also favoured that face-to-face meetings are held when possible as they consider over-the-phone business to be impersonal.


Keep in mind that networking is not done idly in Filipino culture. Personal contacts can be crucial to success, and therefore Filipinos invest much time and effort into their relationships. They seek to develop a friendship between individuals, not companies. Therefore, if during negotiations your company changes the representative who is in contact with them, you may have to start over in order to cultivate a new relationship and deal.


Filipinos will often be eager to know you and may ask many questions about your family and personal life. Sometimes this can come across as direct and overly personal, but it is not intended that way; in fact, they will expect you to do the same to them. They may expect you to grant privileges for them on the basis of your friendship and vice versa, which usually entail favours for their family. Try to be flexible in receiving and extending these favours as they will help you generously in return.


In order to deepen a relationship, be talkative and personable as possible. Avoid appearing stiff and cold but maintain modesty. The impression you have on a Filipino will largely influence the decisions they make to the point that their view of you may even override certain business objectives. For example, price can become secondary to Filipinos if they like their business partner.


Considerations

  • Filipino business culture is hierarchical, with the person of highest status approving all final decisions but group consensus is still necessary for all decisions before it reaches this person.
  • Verbal agreements are adhered to on the basis of trust. If you break them, you will jeopardise your business relationships.
  • Because they can be preoccupied with avoiding hiya (shame or embarrassment), a Filipino is unlikely to directly refuse a proposal or reject something you say, even when they do not agree with it. Therefore, focus on hints of hesitation. Listen to what they say, but also pay close attention to what they don’t say (and might implicitly mean) and double check your understanding.
  • To avoid directly saying ‘no’, a Filipino may respond with a statement to the effect of ‘bahala na’, which generally means that it is up to God’s will or fate.
  • Appealing to emotion and making exaggerations or promises that sound too good to be true are likely to make Filipinos hesitant or suspicious of doing business with you.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), the Philippines ranks 111th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 34 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.
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