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Doing Business in the Philippines

More and more expats start working in the Philippines to benefit from the booming economy of the archipelago! Want to join them? Our guide to working in the Philippines offers info on the nation’s economy, etiquette, and everything else you need to know about the country's business world.
Makati is one of Manila's major business districts.

Foreign business people who are used to a rather egalitarian business customs may be surprised by the hierarchies prevalent in Filipino companies. This strong sense of hierarchy may even be reflected in seating arrangements in meetings.

The different working relationships and the roles of individual employees often resemble the structure of a Filipino family. The boss plays a paternalistic role and heads a hierarchical management. In this type of business world, which is prevalent in most Southeast Asian countries, a high status, mutual respect, and a good reputation are essential to success. Therefore, age and status demand high levels of respect.

Business Values and Customs in the Philippines

In the Philippines, doing business is a highly personal endeavor. If you plan to close a deal in the Philippines or are even preparing to invest, expect proceedings to take more time than you may be used to. In the Philippines, patience is indeed a virtue. A personal introduction through a friend or business associate is essential to establishing a relationship with your business partners-to-be. Keep in mind that, in the Philippines, successful business relationships are based on personal interaction and trust.

As mentioned before, Filipinos are very status-conscious, and the use of formal titles is an important way of showing respect to your business partners and colleagues. Unlike in other Asian countries, however, the exchange of business cards is not overly formalized, albeit still of some importance. You should present and receive business cards with both hands. Include your title and position on the card to make clear the influence and status you may have.

Know Your Local Business Etiquette

When working in the Philippines, you ought to follow a few guidelines in order to avoid alienating your colleagues and business partners. In general, it takes time to establish strong business relationships. Try to be patient while you stick to these tips on business etiquette:

  • Try to avoid direct or continuous eye contact as staring is considered rather rude and confrontational.
  • Converse with your Filipino colleagues before and after meetings and try to establish personal relationships with them. Prepare to be asked a lot of (harmless) personal questions.
  • Both men and women should always dress appropriately and conservatively at work and during meetings. Dressing well is a vital part of earning respect in the Philippines.
  • Don’t be surprised when business negotiations take longer than expected as the pace of doing business is quite slow in the Philippines, especially compared to Western countries.
  • Make sure not to underestimate the influence of the family unit and the effect it has on business.
  • Don’t raise your voice or interrupt your business partners, as this is regarded as terribly disrespectful.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Jacques Paillard

"All expatriates in my company joined InterNations because it really helped me get accustomed to my new life in Manila. "

Adriana Rodrigues Zon

"The idea of getting to know other expats in Manila was very appealing to me, and I've greatly expanded my network in the Philippines. "

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