Etiquette & Customs


Meeting Etiquette


  • Initial greetings are formal and follow a set protocol of greeting the eldest or most important person first.
  • A handshake, with a welcoming smile, is the standard greeting.
  • Close female friends may hug and kiss when they meet.
  • Use academic, professional, or honorific titles and the person's surname until you are invited to use their first name, or even more frequently, their nickname.


Gift Giving Etiquette


  • If you are invited to a Filipino home for dinner bring sweets or flowers to the hosts.
  • If you give flowers, avoid chrysanthemums and white lilies.
  • You may send a fruit basket after the event as a thank you but not before or at the event, as it  could be interpreted as meaning you do not think that the host will provide sufficient hospitality.
  • Wrap gifts elegantly as presentation is important. There are no colour restrictions as to wrapping paper.
  • Gifts are not opened when received.


Dining Etiquette


If you are invited to a Filipino's house:


  • It is best to arrive 15 to 30 minutes later than invited for a large party.
  • Never refer to your host's wife as the hostess. This has a different meaning in the Philippines.
  • Dress well. Appearances matter and you will be judged on how you dress.
  • Compliment the hostess on the house.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note to the hosts in the week following the dinner or party. It shows you have class.


Table manners


  • Wait to be asked several times before moving into the dining room or helping yourself to food.
  • Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
  • Do not start eating until the host invites you to do so.
  • Meals are often served family- style or are buffets where you serve yourself.
  • A fork and spoon are the typical eating utensils.
  • Hold the fork in the left hand and use it to guide food to the spoon in your right hand.
  • Whether you should leave some food on your plate or finish everything is a matter of personal preference rather than culture-driven.

Business Etiquette & Protocol

Relationships & Communication

  • Filipinos thrive on interpersonal relationships, so it is advisable to be introduced by a third party.
  • It is crucial to network and build up a cadre of business associates you can call upon for assistance in the future.
  • Business relationships are personal relationships, which mean you may be asked to do favors for colleagues, and they will fully expect you to ask them for favors in return.
  • Once a relationship has been developed it is with you personally, not necessarily with the company you represent.
  • Therefore, if you leave the company, your replacement will need to build their own relationship.
  • Presenting the proper image will facilitate building business relationships. Dress conservatively and well at all times.


Business Meeting Etiquette


  • Appointments are required and should be made 3 to 4 weeks in advance.
  • It is a good idea to reconfirm a few days prior to the meeting, as situations may change.
  • Avoid scheduling meetings the week before Easter.
  • Punctuality is expected. For the most part your Filipino colleagues will be punctual as well.
  • Face-to-face meetings are preferred to other, more impersonal methods such as the telephone, fax, letter or email.
  • Send an agenda and informational materials in advance of the meeting so your colleagues may prepare for the discussion.
  • The actual decision maker may not be at the meeting.
  • Avoid making exaggerated claims.
  • Always accept any offer of food or drink. If you turn down offers of hospitality, your colleagues lose face.
  • It is important to remain for the period of social conversation at the end of the meeting.


Business Negotiation


  • You may never actually meet with the decision maker or it may take several visits to do so.
  • Decisions are made at the top of the company.
  • Filipinos avoid confrontation if at all possible. It is difficult for them to say 'no'. Likewise, their 'yes' may merely mean 'perhaps'.
  • At each stage of the negotiation, try to get agreements in writing to avoid confusion or misinterpretation.
  • If you raise your voice or lose your temper, you lose face.
  • Filipinos do business with people more than companies. If you change representatives during negotiations, you may have to start over. . Negotiations may be relatively slow. Most processes take a long time because group consensus is necessary.
  • Decisions are often reached on the basis of feelings rather than facts, which is why it is imperative to develop a broad network of personal relationships.
  • Do not remove your suit jacket unless the most important Filipino does.


Dress Etiquette


  • Business attire is conservative.
  • Men should wear a dark colored, conservative business suit, at least for the initial meeting.
  • Women should wear a conservative suit, a skirt and blouse, or a dress.
  • Women's clothing may be brightly colored as long as it is of good quality and well tailored.
  • Appearances matter and visitors should dress well.


Business Cards


  • You should offer your business card first.
  • Make sure your business card includes your title.
  • Present and receive business cards with two hands so that it is readable to the recipient.
  • Examine the card briefly before putting it in your business card case.
  • Some senior level executives only give business cards to those of similar