Exploring The Difference Between Philippines and US Work Culture

US flag and the Phillipines flagEvery country has its own traditions, and this affects how we interact at work and in medical practice. As a result, you may find it strange to work with a medical virtual assistant from a different culture at first. Many virtual workers come from the Philippines. People from this area are sought-after because they have English as one of their native languages. By making an initial effort to understand the difference between the Philippines and US work culture, you can reap the benefits of a professional who has your back 100% and who will do their best to help your healthcare practice thrive.

Is There A Difference Between the Philippines and US Work Culture?

Although there are many similarities between people living in the US and those in the Philippines, speaking the same language does not mean that no differences exist. People in the Philippines, for example, steer away from confrontation, make use of titles at work, have a strong family bond, see their colleagues as their work family, and have many more holidays. And never expect a straightforward answer to a question, either. Or expect them to come straight out and say something. It is not that they beat around the bush, but rather, that they do not want to give offense.

But by learning about the difference between the Philippines and US work culture and finding ways to make compromises and deal with the differences, you can speedily incorporate your virtual assistant into your daily workflow with the knowledge that these professionals know what they are doing.

Addressing The Difference Between The Philippines and US Work Culture In Your Medical Practice

We will address various aspects regarding the difference between the Philippines and US work culture and how you can go about dealing with the issues.

Confrontation Misinterpretation

As Americans, we tend to be straightforward and enjoy a lively debate. We tend to voice our opinions and have no issue with giving or receiving criticism. We see this as a way of addressing issues and finding solutions.

People from the Philippines, however, could view such scenarios as confrontational. And because they come from a collective culture where the interest of the many is put before that of the individual, they find this type of emotional expression unsettling. They strive, above all else, to keep things peaceful.

One difference between the Philippines and US work culture is that they would express their thoughts and feelings more diplomatically or give subtle cues as to their feelings. They may also agree at first but later push back in an email or via a chat app. They may also ask another team member to carry over their feelings on a matter.

Although you may feel this is an inefficient way to go about doing things, someone from the Philippines may see it as a way to ensure continued harmony in the work environment.

To address this type of issue, you could do the following:

  • Be discreet in your dealing with your VA. Do not point out issues in front of other people. Rather, give constructive criticism in a private setting.
  • Keep it anonymous. Rather than asking your staff to give feedback directly, give them feedback forms that they can complete in their own time and without their name on it.
  • Instead of direct commands, ask questions. You could say something like ‘Could you complete this by the end of the week?”, or “How would you suggest we go about dealing with this issue?”

Dealing With Indirect Communication

When dealing with American employees, you expect a direct answer to a direct question. This cuts to the heart of the matter and things can swiftly move forward.

People from the Philippines, however, consider this type of directness impolite. They may give a non-committal response and even take a roundabout route when explaining something.

This is because the Philippine culture is nuanced. Many things play a role in a simple conversation. These include the person’s status, their voice tone, body language, and even facial expressions. This means they do not have to use explicit verbiage to communicate thoughts or feelings. It is implied in the non-verbal communication.

In the US, however, we tend to spell things out using our words. We may thus find this type of communication puzzling. Therefore, when dealing with your VA from the Philippines, you may find yourself missing these subtle clues when talking to them.

So, to help promote better communication, here are a few things you can do.

  • Be on the alert for their subtle, non-verbal clues. What body language do they employ? Do they hesitate before answering? What is their tone of voice?
  • Emphasize that they are allowed to give their opinions. State that they may ask questions and that you value their input.
  • Go out of your way to build up a good relationship with them. Once they understand your communication style, they will try to follow suit.

The Difference Between Philippines and US Work Culture For Philippine VAs

People doing remote work from the Philippines also need to understand a few things about the American work culture.

It Is Not Personal

Americans see direct criticism of work as feedback and consider it constructive. So, if criticized, see it as an opportunity for growth and not as someone questioning your authority, skills, or experience.

Voice Your Opinion

Do not hesitate to give insights if you think they can add value or to voice your opinion regarding a matter. If you believe that the deadlines given, for example, are too strict, or that by doing things differently you can increase efficiency, let them know. And do not hesitate to give solutions! The team will appreciate your contribution.

Meeting Expectations

If unsure about something, do not hesitate to ask questions. You could also verbally repeat the task set back to the employer to see if you understood correctly. By knowing exactly what is expected of a given task, you make it easier to meet expectations.

Different Understanding of Hierarchy

Americans have a more relaxed view of titles. As someone from the Philippines, you may, for example, be expected to call your superior by their first name. This vastly differs from the work situation in the Philippines where you would use professional terms like mister, sir, or ma’am. This also applies to people older than you in the US, whereas in the Philippines calling an older person elder brother or elder sister whether they were related or not is considered the norm.

The Use of Nicknames

People from the Philippines often give a superior an abbreviated title like OM for Operations Manager, as an example. While this is fine amongst different Philippine colleagues, Americans do not usually do this.


People from the Philippines tend to celebrate many more holidays than Americans – 18 versus the Americans eight. If you are American and want to hire a remote VA from the Philippines, you need to take this into account. Religious holidays, especially, are very important for people in the Philippines.

You, as the employer, would need to decide on the holidays your team will follow so that your VA can plan around it. By knowing the holidays that will be honored, it becomes easier to set out tasks so that the work does not fall behind.

Another thing to consider is a bonus 13th check Philippine employees usually receive around Christmas. While it is not expected that you pay this doing a virtual hire, it could be used as an incentive to keep your VA team members.

A Family-Centric Culture

It is common for children in the US to move out of their parents’ homes and strike out on their own once they have completed school or university and started working.

The same cannot be said about the Philippines.

In the Philippines, families tend to stick together. It is not uncommon for married children to stay home, often forming large family clans. Multigenerational households are thus very common.

Although your virtual assistant from the Philippines may still stay in their family home, it will not reflect on their quality of work. But do not be surprised if they ask questions about your family. It is not that they want to invade your privacy. Rather, they see talking about family as a neutral topic through which they can get to know you. It is very much like Americans talking about the weather or the last baseball game.

Another point to remember is that your medical virtual assistant from the Philippines may consider their work colleagues as their second family. This has benefits but also negative effects. Building a strong social bond with colleagues helps maintain loyalty to your practice. On the negative side, they may have to work much harder to establish the necessary boundaries between their work and home lives.

Ultimately, these remote workers put a high value on working together in an amicable environment.

To foster good inter-relationships, you could consider having onboarding meetings to introduce your new VA to the team. You could also introduce a group chat where different team members can share snippets like photos of a new baby or just to say hi. Also, remember to pay attention to birthdays and other important events in your working environment.

Regional Phrases

Although they speak impeccable English, many people from the Philippines make use of regional phrases. This is common in all English-speaking countries. Examples of these include "rubber shoes" for "sneakers", "soft drinks" for "soda", and "ref" for "refrigerator".

The different regional phrases may sound strange to your English-speaking patients. So, if your VA has any interaction with them, make sure to remind them that they should use American terms.

While most people from the Philippines are fluent in English and Tagalog, many can speak more than two languages. This is because the Philippines is a melting pot of different cultures resulting from colonialism.

Tiny Gender Gap

The disparity in the gender gap in the Philippines is much smaller than compared to the US. Women holding powerful positions in government, companies, and society is a common occurrence.

Why You Should Know The Difference Between Philippines and US Work Culture

Knowing the difference between the Philippines and US work culture can benefit you and your medical practice in various ways.

People from the Philippines understand the American work culture. However, knowing their work culture allows you to understand them better and fosters a more productive working environment. Also, when you create a working environment that takes all your team members’ backgrounds, cultures, and values into account, you create an environment that keeps your staff engaged and working as a team towards ensuring better results.

Learning about the difference between the Philippines and US work culture can also help prevent misunderstandings from cropping up. It allows for more effective communication without the risk of misinterpretation.

When all team members have the same goals in common, it becomes easier to delegate different tasks. This makes for a more effective workflow and work environment.

The Benefits of Hiring A Medical Virtual Assistant from the Philippines

While people from the US and other Western countries may, to a large extent, prioritize their work life, people from the Philippines tend to see their work environment as an extension of their family life. Work colleagues, therefore, may be seen as their extended family. Family, to people from this region, is very important.

Because of their values, work is seen as something you do to support your family. Although people from the Philippines may understand Western references, they have their own work culture with their own set of values and practices. Understanding these may make a world of difference.

As to your VA from the Philippines, these people have a high level of training in their field and constantly keep up with the latest developments. A Cool Blue VA hire from the Philippines, for example, is up to date with HIPPAA and understands the importance of patient confidentiality. They can seamlessly slot into your practice’s daily work environment if you take into account their few perceived peculiarities. They have an astounding work ethic and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Navigate The Difference Between Philippines and US Work Culture Easily With A Cool Blue VA Virtual Hire

At Cool Blue VA, we make sure to do in-depth background checks on all our virtual assistants. Most of them have some sort of medical background and have undergone extensive training. As a result, they can easily form part of your team without the added burden of seeing to training. They also have their own equipment and can work hours your in-house staff cannot.

If you have any questions about the difference between the Philippines and US work culture or about the various virtual assistant roles we can help you fill, please give us a call. You can contact us at 714-695-8000. We offer a wide range of virtual assistant services and look forward to helping you take your medical practice to the next level.

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