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Country Profile Philippines

by: David Morley & Erika Visser - Associate Partners Hofstede Insights


In this profile our experts have compiled the most important information for you to start doing business in the Philippines. The country profiles are meant as general introduction and are linked to other documents from the platform that go much more into the details of each culture.


Currency: Philippine peso  (PHP)                                       
Capital: Manilla                                            
Time Zone: UTC +08:00
Official Languages: Filipino, English
Religion: Christianity (92%), 5.57% (Islam), 2.43% (Others)
Ethnic Groups: 33.8% Visayan, 27.7% Tagalog, 9.8% Ilocano, 5.1% Moro, 3.1% Kapampangan, 1.7% Igorot, 1.4% Pangasinense, 1.2% Chinese, 1.1% Zamboangueno, 6.8% Other.




The Philippines is sovereign island country located in the Western Pacific and made up of over 7,000 islands. With a growing population, with over 100 million people and considered to be an emerging market. It was part of the Spanish Empire for over 300 years and thus has a strong connection with Roman Catholic values. The Philippines is an active member in foreign relationships, being a founding member of the United Nations and membership of the Security Council and actively participating in international peacekeeping missions. The Philippines is a rich and diverse culture with Chinese, Islamic, Spanish and American culture leaving its marks.


Some cornerstones of Filipino culture


Family is a central part of Filipino society. Family structures are hierarchical and provide emotional and financial support and each family member contributes. In Filipino culture elders should always be respected.


When in the Philippines


Good to know


  • Building trust is key!
  • It is impolite to refuse food from your Filipino host
  • Never lose your temper in public, it will cause your Filipino host to lose face
  • It is always good to have connections. Kinship is important and will help you to be accepted more easily if you already have a Filipino connection elsewhere
  • Never point using your forefinger. Rather use your eyes to glance in the direction you want to point. Pointing is an insulting gesture
  • Filipino people do not usually form neat lines but rather crowds of people with each person out for him or herself


Body Language


Eye contact and raising and lowering of their eyebrows are used for communication by Filipinos. Raised eyebrows could be a sign of agreement or recognition. An eyebrow flash ‘quickly raising your eyebrows’ is a Filipino greeting. An elder’s hand is traditionally placed on their forehead as a sign of respect. Standing with your hands on your hips can be seen as an aggressive posture. Never beckon with your palm up using your forefinger, rather hold your hand out palm down and do a scooping motion. Filipinos will open their mouth if they do not fully understand what you are asking. Laughter is a good way to relieve tension and  is used to show embarrassment or to relieve tension.


Dress Code


Casual dress is accepted due to the humidity and hot weather in the Philippines. For men, dark trousers with short white sleeves without a tie, and for women, long-sleeved blouses with a skirt or pantsuit. Even though it may seem simplistic, Filipinos are fashion conscious, clean and neat. It is not recommended to wear shorts or sandals in public except at the beach.


Key words to describe Filipino culture: Family / Religion / Harmony / Hierarchy / Relationships



The Expert's Recommendation


Building trust is one of the most important aspects of successful relations within collectivist or group cultures. Ways to build trust in the Philippines are 1) through mutual connections 2) through investing time in building strong relationships 3) by showing respect 4) by steering clear of situations where your Filipino counterpart could lose face 5) by spending time outside of work eating together and learning about FIlipino culture 6) and by being patient with your Filipino counterparts. Decision-making can be tedious as it requires consensus from the group and the final say is rarely expressed by one individual.


The Concept of Face


In Filipino culture, as a group culture, saving face is important to maintain a good position within the given hierarchy. In order to maintain face, Filipinos strive to build and maintain harmonious relationships as a long-term investment. Face can be lost by criticizing your Filipino counterpart in public, by challenging authority, through showing anger or by disagreeing in public.




As a high context indirect culture non-verbal communication is key. Body language could be used as a hint whether your Filipino counterpart has understood your question and if they mean ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If Filipinos do not fully understand what you are asking they will open their mouth. ‘Yes’ can be indicated with a jerk of the head upwards and ‘no’ with a jerk of the head downwards. The answer could be a yes but the body language ie a jerk of the head downwards could indicate that it really is a ‘no’. This gesture will allow the person making the request and the person turning down the request to save face and thus maintain the harmony in their relationship. Filipinos can use the passive voice rather than active to sound less harsh.


Meeting and Greeting


Your Filipino male counterparts expect a firm handshake at the first and all subsequent meetings. Foreign males should know that physical contact between men and women is not as normal as in many other countries, and so they should wait for the Filipino woman to initiate a handshake. For foreign business women  it is ok to shake hands with either her male or female counterparts.


Introducing Yourself


Titles are very important and you will find that your Filipino counterpart always addresses colleagues with a title and surname. If there is no professional title the title will be ‘Miss / Mrs. / Mr. plus the surname. These titles are also reflected in emails. Most Filipinos will have western nicknames and once invited to use this, a foreign counterpart can address their Filipino counterpart by the given nickname. You should also then invite your Filipino counterpart to address you by your nickname (or just to address you without a title if there is no nickname). Verbal promotion or flattery is used in this society, for example a police officer can be called a ‘captain’ etc.



The Philippines in Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions


Power Distance


The Philippines scores (94) on this dimension and is a hierarchical society. This means that people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place. Hierarchy in an organisation reflects inequalities, centralization is popular, subordinates expect to be told what to do and the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. Don’t be upset if you have requested a piece of information from your Filipino colleague that they need to consult their manager for, and they haven’t supplied it.  It is not an easy thing in a hierarchical society for an employee to approach their manager and request information. In hierarchical societies information is a top-down. If the information needs to be sought from someone higher outside of their function or from a manager two ranks above, it may not happen at all. Use your manager to approach your Filipino colleague’s manager for the information.




The Philippines is considered a collectivistic society scoring (32) on this dimension. Collectivist societies have a long-term commitment to the group, thus the family, extended family or other extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and overrides most other societal rules and regulations. In collectivist societies offence leads to shame and loss of face, employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms (like a family link) and management is the management of groups. Language is indirect and high context in the Philippines so you may need to read between the lines, or find ways to confirm understanding and not just assume something has been understood. Filipinos highly regard harmony and saving face is important. So saying ‘yes’, even when they disagree, is a way of not offending you with an outright ‘no’.
The way in which ‘yes’ is said ie the tone or inflection will give you a clue as to how Filipinos really feel. Filipinos are constantly smiling. However, as with the Japanese, a smile is not always a given sign of pleasure, affection or amusement. Always try to speak in a quieter tone. Filipinos appreciate harmony and are noisier when they are excited.




The Philippines scores 64 on this dimension and is thus a Masculine society. In Masculine countries people “live in order to work”, managers are expected to be decisive and assertive, the emphasis is on equity, competition and performance and conflicts are resolved by fighting them out. A high score on this dimension indicates that the society is Masculine and that it will be driven by competition, achievement and success. Success being defined by the winner or best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.


Uncertainty Avoidance   


At (44) on this dimension Filipinos can tolerate a certain level of uncertainty and ambiguity, at the same time there is an appreciation for some structure and rigour to minimise risk. This shows a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles and deviance from the norm is more easily tolerated. In these societies, people believe there should be no more rules than are necessary and if they are ambiguous or do not work they should be abandoned or changed. Schedules are flexible, hard work is undertaken when necessary but not for its own sake, precision and punctuality do not come naturally, innovation is not seen as threatening. Time is flexible.  In the Philippines, foreign managers are expected to be punctual and Filipinos tend to be reasonably punctual.


Long-term Orientation


The Philippines is a short-term, normative society scoring (27) on this dimension.  In such societies people have a strong concern with establishing the absolute truth; they are normative in their thinking. They exhibit great respect for traditions and have a focus on achieving quick results. Filipinos enjoy conversing and are generally open to new information, but do not change their attitudes readily. Information is processed subjectively and associatively and context is very important when explaining new information and processes.




With a low score of (42) FIlipino culture is a culture of restraint rather than indulgence. Societies with a low score on this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to indulgent societies, restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.