Metro Manila · A New Job in the Philippines: 7 Tips for a Good Start

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Your company is sending you to the Philippines as an expatriate? You want to enjoy the tropical weather as a call center agent for a year? You found your long-term dream job in Manila? Whatever brought you to the Megacity as a foreigner, here are seven tips on working in the Philippines that will make your start easier.

We tell you what paperwork awaits you, what you should wear in the office, and how to win the hearts of your co-workers. For everything else you need to know when moving to Manila, click here.

1. Beware of the Paperwork

Ideally, your company takes care of all or most of the paperwork and administration. That is definitely the case if your company sends you to the Philippines. It is similar with most outsourcing companies (BPO). It is different, however, if your work is project-based and temporary. In that case you will have to take care of visa, health insurance, social security, taxes, and a salary account by yourself. You can get some support from travel agencies (for the visa) and your human resources department, but in general this kind of contract is only recommended for people who are not afraid of bureaucracies.

A medical examination is also mandatory in most companies.

2. Suit up!

The majority of companies imposes the 'smart casual' dress code. That means jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers or flip-flops are a no-go, except on casual Friday. Then again, you do not have to show up in a fancy office attire with tie and suit jacket. Call centers are often still more casual, even if there is an official dress code. With leather shoes, dress pants and a neat dress or polo shirt you can never go wrong. Always bring a sweatshirt or jacket, as most Filipinos apparently like the office cold and the air-conditioning is usually on full blast, meaning 18 degree Celsius or less.

Despite the low-level dress codes, you should not miss the opportunity to have some fancy suit, dress, and shirts tailored. You can get a tailored suit or office attire for as low as 9,000 pesos (~200 US$, 170€). Keep one of those in your office all the time. You do not know who will come straight through your door all of sudden - better be prepared.

3. Check the Traffic

We cannot stress enough how bad the traffic situation in Manila is. If you work the regular day shift, make sure not to live too far from the office. Leave the house early on your first days of work until you can estimate how long the trip takes at most.

Decide whether you want to drive your own car or if you prefer public transport. Cabs are the first choice for commuting, but riding the jeepney, bus, or tricycle to work can be fun as well. However, you will have difficulties to find a map for public transport (especially tricycles), so you should better be asking your colleagues, neighbors and drivers if there exists a connection between your home and work.

If you end work late in the evening, check if there is a taxi stand nearby, as buses et cetera are not recommended at this time due to safety concerns. Uber and other taxi apps can help you avoid endless waiting at the street corner. Some companies also provide shuttle services.

4. Learn some Tagalog

English is the business language in the Philippines and even job interviews among Filipinos are usually held in English. Nevertheless, learning some basic Tagalog shows your employer and your colleagues that you are interested in the country and that you are open for new challenges and experiences.

5. Get a Nickname

If you do not have a cool nickname yet, now it is time to think of one. Nicknames are very common in Philippine offices and people are often encouraged to use it on their company badge. It can make inner-office communication easier, in particular in international teams. In call centers, employees are sometimes even required to have a 'phone name' which is easy to pronounce. You can find out more about the Philippine nickname culture here.

6. Befriend your Co-Workers

Making friends among co-workers and having an after-work beer or spending leisure time together is very common in the Philippines. That is good news for all those of you who come to Manila without knowing anybody.

Be prepared that sooner or later your team will drag you to a karaoke bar, so you better start practicing a song already, preferably some sentimental soft rock hit from the 1980. Almost all your Filipino colleagues will have a better singing voice than you, but do not be shy: they will not judge you, and singing with emotion is more important than always striking the right tone.

Many companies also promote good relations among colleagues with company-sponsored team-outings on the weekends, corporate sport teams, and work parties for Christmas, Halloween, and other occasions.

7. Bring Food

The easiest way to win the hearts of your team mates is with food. It is common to invite your team for pizza or so on your birthday, when you get promoted, before you leave the company, and on many other occasions. If there is a reason to celebrate, Filipinos will say "Libre!" when they expect you to pay for lunch or merienda, the traditional snack. If you go on vacation, even if it is only for a weekend, you should bring some pasalubong, sweet souvenirs or snacks that you get anywhere in the provinces, on airports and in provincial buses.

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