by Work the World

The Philippines Iloilo, Destination Features

It’s easy to take the way we communicate for granted because it comes so naturally to most of us. But seeing and learning different ways, - not just languages but gestures, manners, and underlying beliefs - can be rewarding and help you make a good first impression among your friends and colleagues.

This blogpost will cover some of the basics for the Philippines with Nepal and Sri Lanka coming up in the following weeks. Of course, this is just a basic guide and there are links if you wish to explore further. Each of our programmes includes language tuition at your Work The World house, including relevant words to help you in the hospital.

In Asia you’ll often find that culture is initially formal, but becomes less so as relationships develop. Always be attentive and polite as you would at home. An open-minded and receptive traveller, listens, waits, and doesn’t make assumptions. Crossing the road and crossing the world aren’t so different after all!

The family were already calling my “manong” which is Filipino for older brother, and that kind of melted my heart

Filipinos are known for their warmth and hospitality and share a lot of customs with the rest of South-East Asia. For example, avoid showing or pointing the soles of your feet, which are considered unclean, or touching someone’s head, considered sacred. But the country’s Spanish and American historical influence means the language and greetings will be familiar to you. If you participate in our Village Healthcare programme you’ll encounter different customs than in the city.

  • Handshakes are common but they are soft handshakes. A strong handshake isn’t necessary to assert yourself.
  • Kissing as a greeting is inappropriate, as are pats on the back and touching the shoulder until you’ve developed a personal relationship.
  • Family is important and extended families live together. You can expect to see families in the hospital, curious about your patient and attentive.
  • Losing control, raising your voice or shouting at all is usually considered shameful to one’s family.
  • Filipino’s would rather avoid embarrassment and often do so through laughter.
  • In conversation, Filipino’s often say ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ rather than ‘no’. It’s all about keeping things positive and saving face, as in other countries in the region.
  • Don’t complain - keep a harmonious atmosphere. “Be like a sponge. Soak up as much of the experience as possible.” Rob Kidd, 2013
  • “Hello” is well understood and Mr and Mrs. are also appropriate at first. As you make friends the locals and our staff are sure to teach you comfortable alternatives in Hiligaynon, which is spoken in Iloilo. 
  • Thank you - Salamat (add ‘po’ for formality and when speaking to an elder i.e. salamat po)

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