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Review: An Expat Perspective of Working with Filipinos

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There can often be clashes, poor communication and misunderstandings between co-workers, even if they come from the same country and have similar cultural backgrounds. The potential for these problems increases significantly when people who are working together come from vastly different backgrounds.

 

This is the situation expats will find themselves in when they first arrive in the Philippines. Having likely spent their entire life being surrounded by, socialising, studying and working with people from a similar culture, there will be a large adaptation process when coming to the Philippines. While in their home country an expat may have worked with a diverse range of people, it’s a different situation when you find yourself amongst a group of people all from the same culture, with you being the odd one out.

 

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While there are numerous subtleties between every company’s corporate culture, and a lot of Filipino subtleties you will soon understand, many cultural differences can be traced back to two key differences.

 

The first big issue to understand is in the difference between an individualistic society and a collectivist society. Countries such as Australia and the US emphasise individual freedom and achievement, whereas the Philippines places the focus on family, friends, co-workers and wider networks. They strive to find what is best for the group, rather than the individual. This affects how people negotiate, make decisions and set goals. Working alone on a project in an individualistic society may seem rewarding due to the freedom to prove your abilities and advance your career, whereas someone working alone in a collectivist society may feel as if they’re isolated, lacking needed support and companionship.

 

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The second issue is the difference between direct communication and indirect communication. In Australia and the US, getting to the point and speaking in an unambiguous way is seen as an effective form of communication. However, in the Philippines indirect communication is preferred, asking and answering questions in a more general way, before later narrowing down specific points. Talking to a Filipino in a direct manner may be seen as being rude and demanding, whereas someone from Australia would see it as more efficient and effective, by removing wasted time talking around the point.

 

Understanding your own culture, and the culture of the Philippines will ensure differences of perspective are more easily reconciled and mutually beneficial agreements are made. It is also vital to acknowledge that no culture is right or wrong, each culture is unique with their own merits in different circumstances.

 

 

Author: Derek Stewart

 

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Photo Sources:

Manila office – http://assets.hardwarezone.com/images/Photo_6.jpg

Skyview of Ayala Ave – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ayalatriangle.jpg

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