Located at the very edge of Southeast Asia, the Philippines is composed of 7,641 islands making it one of the largest archipelagos in the world. People who live and are from the Philippines call themselves Filipinos, or Pinoys. From Chinese, to American, to Spanish and Japanese, the Filipino identity is a melting pot of cultures around the world.
If you’ve met a bunch of Pinoys in the past, you may notice some interesting ways we connect and network with other people such as the way we speak, our body language, and even our decision-making. We Filipinos are famous for our hospitality toward other nationalities.
But to build a connection with us, whether for business or long-lasting friendships, it helps to learn our unique and sometimes confusing ways of networking. Otherwise, you may end up losing clients or business opportunities.
The Business Scene in the Philippines
The Philippines has a turbulent history and the country has been under various types of occupation and government. It is still certainly a developing nation, but there is a lot of hope. The business scene in the Philippines has been making great strides economically during the 21st century.
In 2016, and 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded GDP growth of 6.88%, and 6.69%, respectively, making the Philippines one of the fastest growing countries in Asia in the past 10 years, even surpassing China at one point. Countries around the world recognize this growth. In fact, foreign direct investments in the Philippines grew by around 20.5% from $US8.3 billion in 2016 to $US10 billion in 2017. So, if you’re thinking about investing or setting up a business in the Philippines, this seems a good time to do it.
How We Connect & Network in the Philippines
The median age of Filipinos, according to a 2017 CIA census, is just 23.5 years. More than half (52.55%) of Filipinos are under 24.
Young and tech-savvy
Because the majority of us Filipinos are young, we’re very fond of using the latest technology, at least of what is available within our means. Although not as common as back in the days, many business-oriented Filipinos still also use business cards with their contact information. It adds a touch of class.
This disparity on how younger and older Filipinos interact can be bridged using apps. For example, business card scanners and contact management apps like Eight help everyone keep track of their contacts. Yet they still rely on business cards as the first contact, and this is highly accurate data. These help us stay in touch as well.
We Filipinos are very family-oriented people in almost all things in life, even in our businesses. We may have learned this trait due to our strict religious beliefs and historically community-based approach in life. There is a saying in our country, “Kung gusto mong manligaw, unahin mong ligawan ang pamilya niya.” This proverb means that if you wish to get a woman’s heart, make sure to court the family first.
You can apply the same thing when trying to network with a Filipino. Not that you have to literally go to his or her house and buy flowers for the family, but rather your approach should be community-based. A community-based approach means that you should consider the people around them as well.
For every decision, or message that you convey, think about how this would affect the person’s friends, and most especially their family. For example, you have a business idea that help boost your Filipino client’s wealth. But to do it, they may have to risk some trust from their family, or some time with them. No matter how well you present or explain this idea to them, there will always be a great chance they’ll reject you. That’s because family comes before business.
Another thing to keep in mind when dealing with a Filipino is food. Filipinos, like me, regard food as one of the most important parts of a country’s culture. We believe that it is part of our identity, and that the same thing goes for other countries. If you’ve ever wondered why we’re so hyped up when we hear a famous person (cough) Drew Barrymore and Zac Efron (cough) love adobo, then this is the answer.
When you’re planning a business meeting with a Juan Dela Cruz (a catch all name for Filipinos), then make sure to look up great places to eat to beforehand. Bonus points if you find a great Filipino restaurant. Why? Because we love to talk and brag about our food. Once you get us talking about it, it is almost impossible to make us stop; and if we see that you’re earnestly listening, you bet that we’d be more open to any business proposals you have. Also, make sure to search for some quick trivia about our food. That way, we’ll know that you’re really interested in our culture, and not just sealing a deal with us.
Tips for Doing Business with People from the Philippines
Considering all this stuff about family and food, maybe you can see how business is rarely the real the first thing in our mind when we interact with people. As much as possible, we delay it until we’ve finished enjoying each other’s company. In other words, business is a secondary objective.
So how do you incorporate this when dealing with a Filipino? The answer is simple; don’t make our meeting all about business. Make sure to plan some enjoyable activities before and after we seal the deal.
A simple dinner would be great; a trip to the local pub would even be greater (Make sure that the other person drinks too, however, or this might go terribly bad). If you’re up to it, take your Filipino client to a nice karaoke bar. You don’t have to worry about your singing skills as this isn’t really the point of going. Rather, it’s a way of showing that you can enjoy a good time just like us.
Yup, we got that from Japan.
Organizing such activities may seem hard if you’re new in the Philippines. Luckily, there are a lot of apps and online services that can show you cool places for these. Some good examples of these services include Trip Advisor, and Spot.ph. You can also ask for help from front desk of the hotel you’re staying in. Most of them are willing to help foreigners because of our internalized hospitality. Tipping them would be very welcomed, but not mandatory.
You should also know our tendency to seek compromise. Many of our traditions and cultures are rooted in community building. So, we’re often less assertive in getting what we want compared with countries. Most of the time, we wish to come up with something that pleases both parties. But, be careful on misinterpreting this as us being easy to trick. We can easily spot unfair deals, but we’re always willing to give you a chance to have an equal footing with us.
If you’re lucky or good enough to strike a deal with a Filipino, don’t expect us to sign a formal contract paper right there and then. Some Filipinos may find this insulting and interpret it as you not trusting them. Just shake hands and ask them when they are free again to make the arrangement more formal and written.
These tips and ideas are often applicable to both Filipinos (men) and Filipinas (women). The reason for this is that the
Filipino culture is very gender neutral. The Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum found that the Philippines is the top Asian country with regards to gender equality, or #8 worldwide.
Although there are more than 180 ethnicities in the Philippines, the nature of doing business is quite homogenous across the country. The only noticeable difference would be the language we speak. We would be flattered if you try to speak Filipino towards people in the Luzon (northern) area of our country. Filipinos in the Visayas (central) and Mindanao (southern) group of islands however, are more fluent in English than Filipino.
How We Stay in Touch in the Philippines
The majority of Filipinos use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to communicate each other. If you wish to keep in touch with a Filipino, ask us if we are willing to share our social handles with you. Most of the time, we’ll agree to give it. Otherwise you can ask for our email address or mobile number.
Almost a quarter of Filipinos use Viber. So, for strictly business affairs, it would be a great platform for you. You can also ask for our business cards; but make sure to save it on your Eight app to avoid losing it.
Conclusion: it’s about the F’s
To wrap it all up, when networking with a Filipino, you only need to remember 5 F’s; Family, Food, Fun, Fairness, and Facebook. Family, as in, keep in mind their family and friends; Food, because there is no easier way to make us more comfortable than food; Fun, because we believe that not everything should be taken seriously; Fairness, because for us, the community is more important than individual gains; and, lastly, Facebook, as you can reach most of us through social media.
If you keep these five in mind, you can bet that your networking skills with Filipinos will greatly improve. Oh, before I forget, always say “Salamat” or “Thank you” in Filipino. Salamat!