Jun 19

Filipino Work Culture vs. Western Work Culture: Seven Key Differences

If you’re a foreigner and are doing business in the Philippines, you’ve probably been flummoxed by how we tend to do things around here. As with any culture you didn’t grow up in, the Filipino style of management can indeed be puzzling.

Let’s count the ways, shall we?

1. Time Management.

1-Time Management

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Western: If you have a meeting at 10 AM, you should aim to get there at least a few minutes before. More often than not, you can expect it to start on time.

Filipino: 10 AM? More like 10:30 AM, or possibly even 11. Ish. And if there’s a high-ranking person attending the meeting, they’ll probably just drop in somewhere towards the end. Posturing is real.

2. (In)directness.


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Western: Not a fan of your graphic designer’s initial layout? By all means, tell them. They’re not likely to take it personally.

Filipino: Saving face is important in these parts, so if you really must reprimand someone, do it behind closed doors. You may want to use the kiss-kick-kiss technique to soften the blow as well.

3. Business Meetings.

3-Business Meetings

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Western: The host will probably dive right into the business of things after some brief pleasantries as well. If you all set an agenda beforehand, that will determine the course of the meeting.

Filipino: Before we get down to business, let’s talk about your weekend. Did you play golf? How are the kids?

Also, what was our agenda again? Really? Hmm, well, you can always talk about that next time. In some cases, the first business meetings are simply opportunities for each party to take each other’s measure. The actual deals can be done in more informal settings, such as over dinner or even a round of golf.

4. “Small Talk.”

4-Small Talk

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Western: “So, how’s the weather over there?”

Filipino: “Are you married? Why not?” “Got kids?” “How are you related to *so-and-so*?”

Such questions might sound intrusive, but most Filipinos ask them to show interest in the other person’s life. Typically, they may also expect you to ask them about the same things.

5. Honorifics.


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Western: Unless you call your boss Mr. or Ms. *insert last name here,* there aren’t really a lot of uses for honorifics in a Western workplace. It’s even perfectly acceptable in most offices to call your boss by their first name.

Filipino: Here, we address people by their titles, whether that’s “Chairman,” “President,” “Attorney,” or “Doctor.” If you’re not sure, “ma’am” or “sir” will suffice. Never, ever call a superior by their first name.

6. Socialising at Work.

6-Socialising at Work

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Western: Apart from the odd lunch or dinner out, you’ve also got the annual staff Christmas party. Plus, there are daily chats at the water cooler or coffee machine.

Filipino: Camaraderie between the staff is crucial for many Filipino companies. Hence, apart from the daily interactions and occasional lunches out, they also facilitate team-building activities. This often entails the entire team or department going on an out-of-town trip (that’s usually fully funded by the company too) and participating in various games. Company heads and bosses usually join in too.

7. Dress Code.

7-Dress Code

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Western: While more and more workplaces are adopting a more casual approach, most people show up to business meetings in some version of the three-piece suit. A button-down shirt, blazer, and a pair of slacks or a sleek skirt often comprise this.

Filipino: It’s hot and humid in the Philippines, so you’d stick out like a sore thumb if you show up in a full suit. Instead, people here typically wear cotton collared shirts, dress pants, or a skirt. Ties are optional, and are often done away with too.

Running a business in the Pearl of the Orient or partnering with Filipino companies can be very rewarding, however. The exchange rate, for instance, would almost always be in your favor. In addition, Filipino employees can be a godsend for business owners in need of talent, grit, and loyalty.

Intrigued? Contact Remote Staff today and let us make the introductions for you.

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