Time can be very elastic in the Philippines and some western business people can feel frustrated with the pace of progress in meetings and in negotiations generally.
It is certainly not unusual for meetings to start late – and the more senior the person you are going to meet the more likely it is that the meeting start time will be delayed. It is important, however, that that you arrive punctually in order to show the right amount of respect.
Meetings will usually start with quite a lot of small talk. This small talk is part of the relationship-building process and will probably precede meetings at all stages of a project. Be prepared to engage in this process – it is important.
The concept of pakikisama or getting along smoothly with everybody is very strong and, therefore, Filipinos tend to be extremely non-confrontational (unless their strong sense of personal dignity seems to be under attack.) Negativity of all kinds is frowned upon and it is rare for people to be openly contradicted. This can mean that a meeting seems to be progressing very well, even when no progress at all is being made. Do not be overly influenced by any apparent quick wins – it could be a long time before any concrete action follows.
Gifts should be given to new business contacts at an early stage of the relationship as well as on the satisfactory conclusion of negotiations.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Philippines only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.