Business Etiquette

Introductions – If you’re the visitor, it’s customary to offer your business card first. Be aware, however, that you may not get one in return if your rank isn’t comparable to or higher than your Filipino recipient. As with other Asian cultures, business cards are presented face up with both hands. When you receive a card, take a thoughtful moment to study it before pocketing it. Always greet the oldest or highest-ranking person at the meeting first. Firm handshakes are standard protocol in the Filipino community and individuals are addressed by their titles and surnames until such time as familiarity has been established.

Communication – The strong emphasis in the Filipino culture on fostering warm relationships with others often leads them to be overly inquisitive when it comes to conversations with strangers. As travel experts Alfredo and Grace Roces point out in their book, “Culture Shock! Philippines: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette,” your Filipino colleagues and new acquaintances aren’t being aggressively nosy when they ask you about your family history, your marital status, or the names of your children and how they’re doing in school. They’re simply inquiring about the same things that occupy the centre of their own universe. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for business meetings to end with 15 to 20 minutes of social chatter about what’s new. “Losing face” is shameful in Filipino society; accordingly, they don’t like to show anger, raise their voices, engage in debates or get pushed to make hasty decisions.

Eating etiquette – Light refreshments are often served at business meetings; never offend your host by declining, even if you’ve just had a big breakfast or lunch before you arrived. In restaurants as well as private homes, always follow the lead of your host and wait to be instructed where to sit and — if it’s a buffet — when to start helping yourself to the food. Additionally, always follow up with a written thank-you for being invited.

Dress code – When there is intense heat and humidity, which is often, a suit isn’t necessary. For men, a long-sleeved shirt and tie (or even no tie) and dress pants will suffice. Women can dress similarly—a skirt or pants and long-sleeved dress shirt—or in a dress. Women and men can also wear the traditional white Filipino shirt known as a Barong Tagalog.

Gifting norms – If you’re going to give a gift to a Filipino colleague, keep in mind that a lot of weight is given to how beautifully it is packaged. This is a direct reflection of the amount of thought and time you have put into the gesture. Gifts such as books, small electronics and items unique to your own country are appropriate business gifts. If you’re invited to a colleague’s home, flowers (with the exception of lilies and chrysanthemums) are always appreciated. As far as edible gifts, stick to candy. To bring anything other than that will be construed as an insult that you think the household is poor


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