Business Practices in the Philippines

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The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Do not be taken in by the veneer of western culture on the Philippine way of life: in spite of the mixture of cultural influences and its usual tolerance, Philippine society remains very attached to traditional Asian values. The importance of the network system means that the person who exerts the most influence, the boss of the network, is not necessarily in charge of meetings, but rather prefers to let technical experts negotiate details. Sometimes you have to be prepared to deal with both levels. In general, businesswomen do not face more difficulties than their masculine counterparts. Women play a big role in government and in business, and foreign businesswomen are accepted straight away.
First Contact
It is essential to know the right people; personal relations and contacts often play a more important role in company decisions than economic criteria.
Standard greetings are an exchange of handshakes and a smile. In formal situations, the oldest or the most important person is greeted first. Women who know each other well may embrace or give each other a kiss.
How to Present Yourself
Bargaining is part of the Filipinos' way of life, and it has become natural for the region's businessmen to negotiate and bargain in order to obtain better commercial conditions. Do not get angry and avoid shouting or imposing unreasonable deadlines for decision making.
Business Relations
Entertainment in the business world takes place in restaurants, bars and hotel lounge bars, at home and sometimes in night-clubs. Karaoke is popular and if you are invited to a karaoke bar, you must expect to be invited to sing. In general, in restaurants, the person who issues the invitation is the one who pays.
Imported brandy and whisky are prized gifts, even if the recipient does not drink alcolhol. If you are given a small gift, accept it amiably, but do not open it in front of other guests or only do so after you have left.
Business Communication
Although the Filipinos are naturally aimiable and hospitable, they attach great importance to not losing face and sometimes have very strong reactions when they are contradicted or reprimanded in public. They avoid openly expressing their disagreement and rarely raise their voices, as this would be considered impolite. Never signal to someone with your finger pointing upwards, as this sign is considered an insult; rather signal with your hand, palm downwards. Raising your thumbs means something is OK. Do not use the Canadian way of saying OK, i.e. by forming a circle with your fingers, as this is the symbol for money, and could insinuate that you are offering a bribe.
Dress Code
After centuries of Spanish influence and the presence of the Americans after the War, the Philippines are a country relatively more westernized than its neighbours and consequently, there is no particular dress code to be observed.
Visiting Cards
It is advisable to present your visiting card with both hands, and to take that of your contacts with both hands also, to show a certain sort of consideration for the person. In addition, never slip the visiting card into your pocket, or your wallet; put it with the papers you are using during negotiations.
For Further Information
Guide to doing business
Canada's International Contracting Agency
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

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