Filipino Small Talk: Creating Big Relationships

Liezel Porras
February 26, 2021

Small talk is one of the most essential human interactions. What appears to be trivial and inane to some is one of the most natural ways people connect in their personal and professional lives.Essentially, this type of casual exchange has no real purpose or objective per se. However, it’s a relationship builder — something simple and unimpressive that can start a great conversation. It can be a simple chat about the weather, food, or anything that any person can relate to. Small talk is the structure some big relationships are built upon.

Small Talk in the Philippines
With over 100 dialects across the archipelago, the Philippines has a rich culture and history stemming from a number of inhabitants and a mixture of different customs and nationalities the country has had through the years. Some traits Filipinos are known for are kinship with friends & family, hospitable, and most all, they are cheerful.

Filipinos are friendly and accommodating by nature, and small talk serves a vital role in building a bond and kinship. And since they’re chatty, Filipinos’ small talk is not “small”. A simple “How are you?” often leads to a long chat that’s beyond the typical exchange of pleasantries. They can sustain a conversation for a long time. Suffice it to say, Filipinos are enthusiastic conversationalists.

Conversations Over Food

Filipinos love food, and food is more than being a physical sustenance. For them, it is an important feature of culture, community, and celebration. Food has a significant role in establishing and shaping social and kin relations.

The Philippines is one country where people normally greet each other with “have you eaten?”. Whether they bump into colleagues or invite people into their home, it’s customary for them to invite you to share food. More so with anyone willing to join in. The common courtesy “Let’s eat!” is the beginning of a bond.

Decoding the Filipino Ambiguity

Filipinos often communicate indirectly to evoke modesty in an exchange. They tend to be very polite, and they rarely give a firm negative answer. To avoid any form of disagreement, they seldom provide a flat “no or direct answers. When a Filipino says “yes”, it could mean “maybe”, “I’ll consider it”, or it’s even an absolute “no”.

Filipino speech can be ambiguous as well. Retaining cordial bonds is nece

ssary, so most comments are kept as positive as possible. To avoid being seen as arrogant, they try to convey their opinions and ideas civilly and with decorum.

Small Talk Leads to Big Relationships

For Filipinos, friendship is placed on a par with family. The concept of “pakikisama” or “getting along with others” is a central tool to maintain a harmonious interpersonal bond among Filipinos. That’s why striking up a conversation with a Filipino is fairly easy as they are very approachable and outgoing in nature.
They may stop at the corner of the street to talk to an acquaintance and catch up, only to end up walking on the same course or running their errands together. Needless to say, Filipino small talk is usually never small.

Acknowledging Cultural Differences

Technology, especially the internet, helped fashioned the world into a smaller place. Cultural differences stand out as one of the biggest challenges in this intricate world of instant communications. And language being one of the main communication barriers in cross-cultural relationships.

When talking with foreigners, Filipinos tend to be overly formal and polite. This is just how their hospitality manifests. Being chatty can also lead them to asking personal questions and an extensive exchange some cultures may find unusual or discomforting. The typical coded Filipino language, though intended to be polite, may lead to misunderstandings. But Filipinos are nonetheless good communicators, with genuine concern and hospitality evident in their tone and manner. It’s only a matter of raising awareness of the difference in communication styles and setting boundaries.

Our organization sees to it that all Xilium employees, the VMAs above all, receive training on American culture and health care systems. Cultural sensitivity facilitates understanding and adaptability, paving the way towards meaningful interaction and good working relationships with US clients, staff, and patients.


Liezel is a senior writer at Xillium, holding a degree in literature. Prior to joining the company, she spent six years mentoring foreign Asian students to improve their English communication skills in a web-based education. Her academic involvement included developing and revising instructional materials and content. Liezel's career in distance learning has honed her skills in communication, management, research, and technology.

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