Doing Business in ChileBy Terri Morrison
© Copyright 2004, All Rights Reserved
Even the smallest of US businesses competes in a shrinking
global village, where understanding subtle cultural contexts can make or break
sales and marketing efforts. This excerpt from the book Kiss, Bow, or Shake
Hands: How to Do Business in Sixty Countries, offers insight into doing
business in Chile.
- The official language of Chile is Spanish, although English is spoken by
well-educated business people and in tourist centers.
- Be punctual at meetings. Do not be offended, however, if your counterpart
is up to thirty minutes late. On the other hand, everyone is expected to arrive
at social functions late. Be about fifteen minutes late to a dinner, and thirty
minutes late to a party.
- Make appointments about two weeks in advance of your arrival, and reconfirm
them when you get there. A popular time for vacations is January and February
(summer holidays). This is not the time to try to do business in Chile.
- Personal relationships are paramount in business relations. Chileans are
straightforward and take negotiating quite seriously. A hard-sell approach,
however, will not work.
- Present cards, printed with English on one side and Spanish on the other,
to everyone in a meeting except secretaries.
- It is not customary to send a thank-you gift or note following an
invitation to a Chilean home, but flowers or candy sent to the hostess in
advance are appreciated. If you wish to convey your thanks, do so by telephone.
- Men will shake hands when greeting someone. Women will often pat each other
on the right forearm or shoulder instead of shaking hands. If they are close,
women may hug or kiss each other on the cheek. At a party, greet and shake
hands with each person individually. Do not ask a person his or her occupation
directly, but wait for the information to be volunteered.
- The Chilean people converse at a closer distance than US and Canadian
citizens are used to - often with a hand on the other person's lapel or
shoulder. Restrain yourself from trying to back away; a Chilean will probably
step forward and close the distance.
- Many North American gestures have completely different meanings in other
countries. In Chile, slapping your right fist into your left open palm is
obscene, and an open palm with the fingers separated means "stupid."
- Gifts are not expected in business until the relationship is a close one.
When visiting a Chilean home, send flowers in advance (avoid yellow roses,
which signify contempt) or bring wine or liquor.
- Give gold jewelry to a girl on her fifteenth birthday. This birthday
(called the quinceanos; the party is called a quinceanera) is a
very important celebration in Chile; to be invited to one is a privilege.
- Business: Dress is generally more conservative than in the United States.
Men may wear a dark blue or gray suit, a light shirt, and a conservative tie.
Bright colors and flashy fashions are not suitable, nor is wearing anything on
the lapel. Women should wear a suit and heels.