We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.

In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:

A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Philippines

The culture of the Philippines is very diverse. There is the native Melanesian and Austronesian culture, which is most evident in language, ethnicity, native architecture, food and dances. There is also some influence from Japan, China, India, Arabia, and Borneo. On top of that there is a heavy colonial Hispanic influence from Mexico and Spain, such as in religion, food, dance, language, festivals, architecture and ethnicity. Later influence from the US can also be seen in the culture. Philippine laws and court decisions, with extremely rare exceptions, are written solely in English.

Philippines Culture photo

Photo by ~MVI~ (warped)

A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say “thank you”, and you’ll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as “salamat”, which means “thank you”. When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include po in your sentences such as salamat po, thought it also commonly used in formal situations between age peers and brings out the smiles.

For older persons call them also by Tito(Uncle), Tita(Aunt), Manong(Mr.) or Manang(Mrs./Ms.), Ate (older sister) or Kuya(older brother) (words used to address people older than the speaker but not old enough to be an aunt or uncle. Older speakers will tend to use “manong” and “manang” instead) with their name, it is mean to call older people with their names. If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect. In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners.

The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family’s practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don’t have to remove them. Although many Filipinos might not be able to afford tipping service workers, tipping is always accepted. Tips are customary, and in some instances, mandatory in the more high-end environments such as hotels and major restaurants.With this, you had the primer on key facts about Philippines, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Philippines food and drinks:

Local food you should try in Philippines and No miss drinks in Philippines.

Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Philippines? Please comment below.