Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Social Customs of the Philippines


Family is a very important factory of Filipino society. People are often close with their nuclear and extended family, in which they seek support. In addition to blood relatives, children often have a few godparents. Nepotism is fairly common in the Philippines, and it is often expected of people to hire other members of their families.

Filipinos have a high concern for hiya, which is shame. Hiya contributes to many ways that people act on a personal level and in the social sphere. If one behaves poorly or against societal standards, then that reflects upon that individual and their family. People try to live up to high expectations, and may go out of their way to pay extra for certain things.


When people greet each other, it is expected to greet the oldest person first. The most common gesture is a handshake and smile. Before you use someone’s first name, you should address them by any honors they have, such as any academic or professional titles. Find out if the person has a nickname, because they may prefer to be addressed that way.

If you are invited to a Filipino house, you should bring along flowers or sweets. Try not to give chrysanthemums or white lilies. If you want to send food or a fruit basket, you should send it after you go to the house. The hosts may interpret that as you thinking they do not have adequate supplies to entertain. Be sure that your gift is wrapped in a presentational manner.

If you are invited to a party, it is common to show up 15-30 minutes after the indicated time of arrival. You should dress well, as that shows appreciation. Make sure you compliment the hosts on their house as well. You should wait to be invited to the dining room to start eating food, and you should also wait to be told where to sit. Food is usually arranged family-style, and a fork and spoon are the usual eating utensils. Forks are held with the left hand, to put the food into the spoon in the right hand. Do not start eating until you are invited by the host. It is considered polite to send a hand written thank-you letter about a week after the party.



One thought on “Learning the Social Customs of the Philippines

  1. This tradition is a sign of respect to fellow citizen. Also Filipinos are very kind and I think we must maintain these because it contributes to our personality and accomplishment as well.

    Raymond P. Cometa
    Contributor, http://www.OurHappySchool.com

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