Your guide to expat life in Philippines

Working 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.

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Doing business

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. This is where most local and international organisations have their Filipino headquarters. 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.

Starting a business is particularly difficult, and you can expect some challenges as you settle into your new work environment.

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Business culture

Although geographically part of Southeast Asia, the Philippines has strong European and American ties that influence its business culture.

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Family values

Family is important in Filipino culture and many businesses are family owned, with a number of 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.

Management style

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

Communication style

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.

Saving face

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.

Fast facts

Business language

Filipino and English are the main languages, but Spanish, Arabic and Chinese are occasionally used.

Business hours

Usually from 8am to 5pm, 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.


A firm handshake accompanied by a warm smile is the standard business greeting. 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.

Gender equality

The Philippines is a world leader when it comes to gender equality.

Expat salaries

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.

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

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All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in October 2020. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information 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 are 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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