Filipino Culture


Primary Author
Chara Scroope,


  • Communication Style: Filipinos will try to express their opinions and ideas diplomatically and with humility to avoid appearing arrogant. The tone of voice varies widely by language, dialect and region.
  • Indirect Communication: Filipinos often communicate indirectly in order to prevent a loss of face and evoking hiya on either side of an exchange. They tend to avoid interrupting others and are more attentive to posture, expression and tone of voice to draw meaning. Speech is often ambiguous and Filipinos may speak in the passive voice rather than the active to avoid being perceived as speaking harshly. To find the underlying meaning, it is common to check for clarification several times.
  • Refusals: Since many Filipinos try to save face and avoid hiya in their interactions, many will be overly polite and seldom give a flat ‘no’ or negative response. When conversing with your Filipino counterpart, try to focus on hints of hesitation. Listen to what they say and also pay close attention to what they don’t say.
  • Respect: When speaking to those who are older or of higher status, Filipinos tend to use the polite forms of speech. At the end of phrases, sentences or questions, they will say ‘po’ to demonstrate this respect for . For example, when conversing with an elder or someone of higher status, one will say ‘salamat po’ (‘thank you po’).


  • Physical Contact: Among relatives or friends of the same gender, it is common for Filipinos to walk hand in hand or arm in arm. This is generally done so as a sign of affection, friendship or if they are shy and would like someone to accompany them. Filipinos tend to be modest and conservative in their interactions with their significant other, and public displays of affection among couples (such as kissing or hugging) is quite uncommon.
  • Personal Space: When interacting with people they are familiar with, Filipinos tend to prefer standing at an arm's length from one another. Around strangers this distance is farther. However, in public areas like a market or subway, personal space is often limited and pushing is common.
  • Laughter: While Filipinos often laugh in conversations, the meaning of laughter tends to depend on the situation. At times, laughing may indicate happiness or pleasure, while other times it may be used to relieve tension. In some circumstances, laughter is used as an attempt to cover embarrassment.
  • Pointing: Filipinos may point to objects by puckering their lips and moving their mouths in the direction they are pointing to. Pointing with the index finger is often understood as an expression of anger.
  • Gestures: Putting one’s hands on their hips is a sign of anger.
  • Beckoning: The common way to beckon someone is by gesturing with the hand facing downwards and waving fingers towards oneself, the same gesture that would represent ‘shooing’ in Australia. If a Filipino wants someone’s attention, it is common for them to make a sound like ‘pssst’.

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