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Working in the Philippines

Your guide to expat life in the Philippines

Want to work in the Philippines?

Thanks to the government’s focus on encouraging foreign investment, the Philippines is attracting expats from across the globe, and the country is set to become another economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia. With a multicultural and ethnically diverse population, the Philippines has a vibrant and dynamic business environment. One of the largest markets in Southeast Asia, it’s also a gateway into the wider Asian region, and many multinational companies have offices here.

Makati City, which forms part of Metro Manila, is the financial and business centre of the Philippines. Most local and international organisations have their Filipino headquarters here, and the city also hosts numerous international embassies and is the country’s diplomatic centre.

The main industries in the Philippines are electronic components and machinery, food and drink, clothing, footwear, tobacco, petroleum products, metals and minerals. Business outsourcing services, such as call centres, are also booming.

Business in the Philippines

The Philippines has strong European and American ties that influence its business culture. Family is important in Filipino culture and many businesses are family owned, with several relatives working for the same company. Business relationships are also valued, so it’s important for you to network and build close connections with Filipino associates.

Business structures in the Philippines are hierarchical and most decisions are made by top-level executives, although a team’s input is important.

Filipinos are known for their friendliness and hospitality, so expect to engage in polite conversation before you get down to business. Don’t be surprised if local colleagues make frank comments on your appearance and ask personal questions about your age or salary.

As in many Asian countries, the concept of saving face is important to Filipinos. A public display of anger towards someone, trying to prove them wrong in front of others, or showing disrespect for their rank or position can all cause them to lose face. You should always try to contain your emotions and avoid confronting or embarrassing business associates in public. If you disagree with someone, take it up with them in private.

Practical details

Filipino and English are the main business languages, but Spanish, Arabic and Chinese are occasionally used. Business hours are usually from 08:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday.

Although businesspeople in the Philippines take the hot tropical weather into account when choosing their outfits, they still dress quite formally, with men in suits and women in lightweight but smart dresses. Some men wear the traditional barong tagalog, a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt worn without a tie.

The standard business greeting involves a firm handshake accompanied by a warm smile. Always greet the oldest or most senior associate first. Gift-giving is widely practised in Filipino business culture, especially to celebrate the signing of a contract. Gifts shouldn’t be extravagant – good options include flowers, sweets, perfume and spirits.

Expat salaries in the Philippines

Salaries aren’t as high as they are in other popular expat destinations, but you should earn well in an executive position or if you have specialist skills.

Top tips for working in the Philippines

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in the Philippines.

Research the culture well and ensure you have adequate local support from your employer.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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