Background to Business in the Philippines

The Philippines represents a cultural puzzle. Situated in the heart of South East Asia but heavily influenced by such non-Asian forces as Spain (and Mexico), the United States and the Catholic Church.

These various factors have been brought together to form what is, truly, a unique Asian country.

The Philippines has a large population of around 102 million inhabitants, the majority of whom are of ethnic Malay stock but, unlike neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, the influence of Islam has been limited. Many western values have been assimilated through the auspices of the predominant Roman Catholic Church and, combined with the legacy of US colonial rule, produce an approach to business which is influenced by Asian values but not dominated by them.

Thus, issues such as loss of face and group orientation are still very influential, but exist alongside a fierce sense of personal pride and dignity such as can be found in many Central and South American countries. Society as a whole tends to be hierarchically structured as in most Asian countries but is accompanied by a far more informal approach to interpersonal dealings than would be found in countries such as Japan or Korea.

Truly, the Philippines is neither completely of the East nor of the West but a culture unto itself. Business visitors travelling to the country for the first time are advised to do as much cultural homework as possible.

The Philippines has become a major exporter of electrical and electronic equipment and is also, increasingly, a favoured destination for Business Process Outsourcing projects (due in no small part to the excellent levels of English to be found throughout the country.)

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in the Philippines

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in the Philippines. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in the Philippines and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips