Going to the Philippines? You'll definitely want to read this. Here's our survival guide for understanding body language in the Philippines. Each culture has its own peculiarities when it comes to body language. If you’re planning on visiting the Pearl of the Orient, here’s a few you need to know in order to understand how, we, Filipinos or the "Pinoys," communicate with our body to avoid an awkward situation.

body language philippines
Image Source: Talent Smart
We point with our lips. What may look like puckering up to you is actually a Pinoy simply pointing, similar to the way you would with your finger. It’s not an invitation to a kiss---at least not always.

The “okay” sign with the three fingers up can mean two things. It can mean “okay” just like how the rest of the world understands it but here, it can also pertain to money, usually in a negative context, where you have to pay more than necessary to get something done.

We scratch our heads when embarrassed. Head-scratching does not indicate lice (not all the time anyway) but a feeling of embarrassment, self-consciousness, or being at a loss in what to say. 

We stick out our tongue "a la Venom" when laughing or feeling awkward. For some Pinoys, it is a mannerism when they are enjoying a funny joke or a laughable situation but for others, it’s because they are feeling embarrassed or awkward.

We make a rectangular gesture with our hands at a restaurant to ask for the bill. You can always say, “Bill, please” or “chit” but when in Rome….

We wag our index finger at someone to convey doom. This means that someone is in trouble, serious or not.

We turn down the corner of our lips with the lower lip sticking out. This could mean different things depending on the situation. It can be that I am commiserating with your plight; it can be me saying, “I don’t know”; or it can be me putting on a mean face at you.

A smile is not always a smile.  Filipinos are generally a smiling people but sometimes a smile can connote a feeling of embarrassment, shyness, or being tongue-tied especially when we feel self-conscious about our English skills which we call a “nosebleed” moment. But give us a smile to make us feel at ease and you will receive that famous real warm Pinoy smile.

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