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Guatemala Business Etiquette, Culture, & Manners

Guatemalan etiquette and manners, culture, gift giving, protocol, appearance, communication, behavior          Guatemala etiquette and manners

Guatemala Introduction

With a population of 10 Million, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America (excluding Mexico, which is considered part of North America). The ethnic composition consists of 45 percent Ladina (mestizo, which is Indian and European mixed), 45 percent Indian, 5 percent white, 2 percent black, with the remaining 3 percent to include a substantial Chinese population. The Republic of Guatemala has a unicameral legislative house, called the Congress of the Republic. The president is both chief of state and head of the government. Voting is compulsory for all literate persons over the age of eighteen. The economy is primarily agricultural with main crops (which are exported) are sugarcane, corn, bananas, coffee, beans, and livestock.

Spanish is the official language. Over 40 percent of the population speaks one of 23 Indian dialects used in the country’s interior. English is understood in tourist places. There is no official religion. Around 75% of Guatemalans are Roman Catholic, with 25% Protestant. Televangelists have become popular.

 

Guatemala Fun Fact

Expect Guatemalan business people to believe in the "prosperity theology" of some Neopentecostal sects. These sects preach that God wants people to be wealthy, and that peasants are poor because they lack faith. The majority of Guatemalan maquiladoras (manufacturing plants) are Asian-owned, which are primarily owned and managed by South Koreans.


Geert Hofstede Analysis for Guatemala

The Hofstede analysis for Guatemala is similar to it’s Latin American neighbors. Uncertainty avoidance ranks highest which indicates a high concern for rules, regulations, controls and issues with career security – typically, a society that does not readily accept change and is risk adverse. Guatemala also has a high power distance ranking which indicates that inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within society. Individualism ranks extremely low which signifies a society of a more collectivist nature and strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.

Guatemala is similar to many Latin American countries when analyzing Hofstede's Dimensions (see Latin America Hofstede Graph below).

Guatemala has the highest Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) Hofstede Dimension ranking of all Latin countries at 101, indicating the society’s extremely low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

Guatemala also is tied with Panama for the highest Power Distance (PDI) ranking among Latin countries with a 95, compared to an average of 70. This is indicative of a high level of inequality of power and wealth within the society. This condition is not necessarily subverted upon the population, but rather accepted by the culture as a whole.

Guatemala has the lowest Individualism (IDV) ranking at 6, compared to other Latin countries (average 21). The score on this Dimension indicates the society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.

Of special note is that Guatemala has the largest divergence of Power Distance (PDI) to Individualism (IDV) of any country surveyed in the world, with a difference of 89 (PDI-95 minus IDV-6 = 89). Panama is next with 84 and Malaysia third with 78.

In many of the Latin American countries, including Guatemala, the population is predominantly Catholic (see Religions Graph below). The combination of Catholicism and the cultural dimensions, shown in the Hofstede Graphs above, reinforce a philosophy predicated in the belief that there is an absolute ‘Truth”. As Geert Hofstede explains about peoples with a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, their attitude is, “There can only be one Truth and we have it.”

In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines.

Based on our studies and data, the large majority of predominantly Catholic countries (those with Uncertainty Avoidance as their highest ranking Dimension) have a low tolerance for ambiguity. This creates a highly rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty within the population. More Details

Written by Stephen Taylor - the Sigma Two Group

 

Religion in Guatemala


* WORLD FACTBOOK 2011

In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines. (See accompanying Article)

 

Guatemala Appearance

International Business Dress and Appearance   For business, a lightweight suit is appropriate for men; women should wear a dress or skirt and blouse. Military clothing is illegal; it can neither be worn nor brought into the country

International Business Dress and Appearance   Guatemalans wave good-bye using a gesture that looks like someone fanning themselves: hand raised, palm toward the body, and a wave of the fingers back and forth, with the fingers together as if encased in a mitten

International Business Dress and Appearance   The "fig" gesture (thumb-tip protruding from between the fingers of a closed fist) and the "O.K." sign (thumb and forefinger forming a circle) are both considered obscene

 

Guatemala Behavior 

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Business people usually punctual

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Male guests sit to the right of the host; women to the left

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Business breakfasts or lunches are preferred to dinners

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  The main meal of the day is taken at noon, and will probably include black beans, tortillas or meat, and fruit and vegetables

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Gifts are given in a business setting, but not necessarily on the initial visit. Easily breakable gifts may not be the best choice; Guatemala is in a tectonically active zone, with frequent earthquakes and occasional volcanoes

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Don’t give white flowers; they are reserved for funerals

 

Guatemala Communications 

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Shaking hands and saying "mucho gusto" is very proper

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Handshake may seem limp, which is customary

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Close friends embrace and pat each other’s back

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Titles, especially among the elderly, are very important. Address a person directly by using his or her title only. A Ph.D or a physician is called Doctor. Teachers prefer the title Profesor, engineers go by Ingeniero, architects are Arquitecto, and lawyers are Abogado. Persons who do not have professional titles should be addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, plus their surnames. In Spanish these are:

      • Mr. = Senor
      • Mrs. = Senora
      • Miss = Senorita

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Most Hispanics have two surnames: one from their father, which is listed first, followed by one from their mother. Only the father’s surname is used when addressing someone

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Speaking softly considered the polite thing to do

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Social conversation before business is the custom

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Good conversation topics: Guatemalan geography, history, culture

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Bad conversation topics: politics or "the violence" since 1978

 

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