Latin America business etiquette and cultural differences

Latin America consists of 26 countries among which are the economic powerhouses Brazil and Mexico and also smaller economies like Uruguay, Ecuador and El Salvador, and some countries in the Caribbean like Cuba and Dominican Republic.

How do people greet and meet in Latin America?

  • On initial contact, a firm handshake, eye contact and a warm smile work well.
  • Closer friends hug, pat each other on the back or shoulder or kiss one another on the alternating cheek three times.
  • Depending on the time of the day, you may include a formal ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Evening’ in the relevant language.
  • Use titles if known or ‘Señor’ or ‘Señora’ can be used in most Latin countries. Check for the correct title pertaining to the country you are visiting.

What role do women play in the Latin American business industry?

  • Though Latin Americans are open to interacting with business women from other countries, in their own culture, one doesn’t see many women yet in high positions.
  • As a woman interacting with a Latin American, be prepared for compliments and a little more (harmless) physical contact than you may be used to.

What is the right gift-giving etiquette in Latin America?

  • If invited over for dinner, a good wine, chocolate or pastries are well appreciated.
  • If gifting flowers, stick to roses and avoid lilies, marigold or any purple or black flowers or gifts.
  • Do not gift sharp objects such as knives, scissors or swords as that’s considered a sign of cutting ties instead of merging.
  • Gifts may be opened as soon as they are received.

What is the correct dining etiquette in Latin America?

  • If invited to a Latin American home for dinner, arrive around 30 to 40 minutes late.
  • Dress sharp for all social occasions especially dinner to show respect to your host and to feel accepted.
  • On arrival, wait for the hostess to tell you where you are to be seated.
  • Meals are in the Continental style – with a knife in the right hand and a fork in the other.
  • Wait to be signaled before eating and await a toast before you begin drinking.
  • In most Latin American circles, it’s considered polite to leave a little food on the plate at the end.

Latin Americans are social people and tend to host lengthy social events. If invited to one, it’s a good opportunity to gain trust and get to know your host.

Apart from reading up on the above tips, it may help you to utilize the services of professionals, to assist you with the local cultural nuances of the Latin American country of your choice.

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