It surprises business people to discover a number of unique cross-cultural aspects of the Philippines, otherwise known as the Pearl of the Orient Seas. First, this nation has the third largest English-speaking population in the world after the U.S. and India according to Second, this unique archipelago is Asia’s largest Catholic country, has the highest birth rate in Asia, and one-third of its population is under 35. Finally, it is known as the text capital of the world and now is known as the selfie capital of the planet.

Business confidence remains high in the Philippines, and its growth outlook is robust. President Benigno C. Aquino III’s administration is focused on five areas for job generation and economic development: outsourcing, tourism, infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries, and semiconductors and electronics. The national budget is aligned to provide massive support.

When receiving visitors from the Philippines, or traveling there to conduct business, consider these international protocol suggestions:

  • A handshake is the most common greeting – bowing is not appropriate in the Philippines
  • Inter-gender handshaking is acceptable because men & women are considered business equals.
  • Men greet with a pat on the back; however, avoid touching beyond a handshake until a relationship is established.
  • Moderate eye contact is acceptable.
  • Mano po is a sign of respect to elders by bringing the back of their hand to your forehead.
  • Due to the focus on hierarchy and group-oriented thinking, meetings usually involve little problem solving or decision making, unless you are with the top decision maker.
  • The pace of business negotiations is slower than in the West.
  • Negotiations are formal with a high value on precision, respect, and harmony.

Sharon Schweitzer, JD is a cross-cultural consultant, international etiquette expert, and the international award-winning author of Access to Asia. Her work and travels have taken her to over 60 countries on seven continents; she speaks French and some Czech. Sharon provides organizations with practical techniques to improve global competence, cross-cultural communication and increase revenue. Investors Business Daily, New York Times, Fortune, Bangkok Post, and numerous international media outlets have quoted her. Sharon was a 2009 Honoree of a City of Austin program that celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of Austin women. In 2012 she was part of the team that conducted a series of business preparedness workshops in anticipation of Austin welcoming thousands of international visitors to Formula 1’s launch at the COTA, and she was a Finalist in the 2015 Austin International Business Awards.