Expats working in the Philippines will find themselves in an ethnically diverse and multicultural working environment that has been influenced by Spanish, American, Malay and Chinese cultures and traditions. The country has a highly skilled and educated work force, and a thriving economy. 

Seen as a gateway to the Southeast Asia region, many multinational corporations have regional head offices in Manila. Most of these are based in Makati City, which is the financial and business centre of the Philippines. Makati City is also the diplomatic centre of the Philippines. As such, it is within this district that many foreigners live and work.

The economic boom and presence of international corporations has made the Philippines a popular destination for expats seeking work opportunities abroad. The mining, construction and tourism industries offer the most opportunities for expats. Many also move to the Philippines to teach a foreign language, while call centres and other business outsourcing units are another booming sector.

Expats wanting to work in the Philippines will be required to obtain a valid work visa, which should be arranged prior to arrival in the country, and is usually organised by the employer. Most expats moving to the Philippines have pre-arranged employment and are moving as part of a corporate relocation within their company or are going to work for a multinational corporation. It is not recommended to move to the Philippines and then search for work, as hiring companies generally have to prove that the position cannot be filled by a Filipino.

English is widely spoken in the work place and most Western expats won’t struggle to communicate with their colleagues. Expats should familiarise themselves with the local business culture in the Philippines. In particular, expats working in the Philippines should be aware of the concept of “saving face”. Self-esteem is very important to Filipinos and expats must avoid publically criticising of arguing with Filipinos colleagues. Public displays of anger and disproving someone in front of others can cause “loss of face”, something that Filipinos avoid at all costs.

The working week in the Philippines is from Monday to Friday. Office hours are generally 8am to 5pm, with a one-hour lunch break. Few offices are open on weekends.

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