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Latin America Business Etiquette & Culture


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Latin America Introduction

Latin America is comprised of Central and South America. An important trade partner, United States trade with Latin America is approximately $134.5 billion in exports (20% of total exports). Business etiquette for the following Latin American countries are represented in this site:

Even though there are important and distinct differences within this major region of the world, there are some common habits and similarities within the Latin American culture:

All speak Spanish, except in Brazil where the national language is Portuguese

In all Latin countries, the attitude toward time is less rigid than among North Americans and a 30 minute delay should not be a surprise. In fact, among close associates, it is recommended that, when setting times for appointments, ask "la hora inglesa, o la hora espanol?" This means "the English hour" (meaning "Promptly at the time specified?")or "the Latin hour" (meaning "If I say 7 o’clock, don’t be surprised if I don’t show up until 7:30 or even later").

Latinos will usually stand closer together during conversations, so be prepared for that plus casual touching and, of course, the abrazo, or embrace, among good friends. You may even be startled to have a Latin businessman hold your elbow while conversing, or walk down the street arm-in-arm.

Latinos are very warm and friendly people and enjoy social conversation before getting down to business. This is a calculated process aimed at getting to know you personally. Latinos tend to be more interested in you, the person, than you as a representative of some faceless corporation.

The main meal of the day is usually taken at midday throughout all Latin American countries. However, this should not deter you from also hosting your business guests over dinner in the evening. Most Latin business people know about American dining customs and in their own country will entertain in the evening at a restaurant for special occasions. When toasting, the host customarily is expected to make the first toast with the guest then probably responding.


South America Business Etiquette & Culture 

Argentina   Brazil   Chile    Colombia    Ecuador    Venezuela

Central America Business Etiquette & Culture 

Costa Rica    El Salvador     Guatemala    Panama 

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Page authored by: Joni Nicol

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