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How to stay Cool in a Tropical Business Meeting

Here I am, my first business meeting in the Philippines. And although I’ve been in this country for some months now, I still sweat. I sweat a lot. It is embarrassing sometimes, well, most of the time actually.

One day I walked in the hairdressers and my hair was so wet she asked me if I just washed it. 

When you have a business meeting in the Philippines a sweaty face is not done. As a matter of fact: water dripping down your face when talking to a Filipino is not done.
They tolerate it but do not like it.

So I always keep handkerchiefs and facecloths with me while I’m on my way. Just to wipe my face.
And although the majority of the Filipinos seem not to perspire at all, I gloat when I see one that does. I feel we have a connection. Since they are selling cotton cloths on every street corner, I assume Filipinos do sweat. But not to the extent I do.

Walking over to my business meeting I thought: Ha nice breeze, I keep cool. Nice for a change. And since the meeting was in an air-conditioned area, I feared nothing. Man, how wrong I was. I could have filled a king-size hot tub after I sat down. I could feel the water running down my back (and my front) and mostly down my face dripping all over my documents.

JC from Holland busstation Bacolod

I almost could see the steam coming off my arms, so to speak

During the rainy season, it seems even worse.

Happily, I greeted the rainy season, since every Filipino pulls out warm jackets and long pants I expected it to be cool. Was I mistaken? I should have known better since I lived in Panama once. Humidity is making the sweaty experience even worse.

After warm pouring rain, the streets are damp, everything below the knee feels like walking in lukewarm water and your skin feels moist and damp.

The only moment it is getting really cold is when you’re on a motorbike, catching lots of wind while being wet. But then you probably end up with a cold.

Personal Advice

Keep it cool, man!

If you are not used to hot and humid climates, your body will try to adjust.
You can help your body do that.

Here are some tips:

  • The first is to drink fluids—water, juices, and fruit smoothies—to stay hydrated.
  • Try to avoid heavy and fatty foods and caffeine, which can often make you feel worse and even dehydrate you. In many Asian cultures, people believe that eating hot food keeps you cool, and while it’s worth a shot, it didn’t seem to help me at all, whatever I eat, I will sweat.
  • When outside wear a hat. Or, in the Philippines for women, it’s normal to carry an umbrella, which provides shade when there’s no tree cover.
  • Ladies with long hair: Put it up to keep your neck cool. And just accept you will not have many ‘good hair days’ in this climate.
  • Dress for the occasion, avoid heavy suits if you can. Ask local professionals if you can get away with wearing a button-down shirt and even shorts. For women, a cotton dress might be suitable. See what your local colleagues are wearing, and use this as a guide.
  • Try menthol cooling powder after a shower. It might do the trick. I haven’t used it since I’m not a fan of talcum powder, but it sells, so it might do the trick.
  • Shower often, it will cool you down, and keep you fresh
  • Stay away from air-con areas as much as possible. Your body needs to adjust to the heat and not the artificial polar climate created in malls and offices. So you help your body when you do not sit in front of the air-con all day. I never use air-con, I use only my precious fans.
  • Take a face cloth with you where ever you go. And wipe your face and neck. Before entering a meeting it might help to freshen up in the CR and wipe your face and neck with cool water.
  • Run cold water over your wrists, before your meeting starts to cool you down, and take a nice cold drink

I usually arrive early, so I can cool down before the actual meeting. I relax, take a cool drink and let my body sweat in solitude, instead of in a meeting. If you get to know your body you know how much time you need to cool down and attend a normal ‘business’ temperature. It also gives you time to prepare for the meeting.

Overall, Filipino’s are very friendly and forgiving people, they know we westerners struggle with acting cool in their climate. The lady at the hairdressers the other day kindly washed my hair, without even giving me the feeling I was not clean. After washing my hair she put me in front of a fan and did my hair.

What I’m trying to say is:
relax, it happens and when you get all worked up about it it will happen even more.