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Doing Business in Latin America

When we do business, it is essential to know the market in which we are entering, both nationally and internationally, and in the second case, we must be even more careful because, in addition to political and trade barriers, there is a risk of cultural clashes.

Before we consider the logistics, documentation and suitable packaging, we must pass through the stages of introduction and negotiations and it is in them that occurs the majority of cultural clashes.

Even within Latin America itself, where there are so many cultural similarities, there is also a risk of happening some mistakes when choosing the best approach to conduct a business meeting.

As we are in constant contact, both personally and professionally, with people from different countries we noticed certain aspects in which Latin American cultures differ from each other.

Our purpose is to collaborate with those who intend to build a long-term commercial partnership, so we gathered some information and aspects that might go unnoticed. We also recommend everyone to do their own research, focused on the characteristics of their target, to seek partnerships with companies such as Syntony Trade, which has experience in foreign trade, and to take into account both the philosophy of the partner company and the individual characteristics of its designated representatives.

Key differences among Latin American countries

  • Language:

Most Latin American countries speak Spanish, with the exception of Brazil where Portuguese is spoken, and even among these Spanish-speaking countries, although not as blatant, there are some small differences caused by local dialects and the manner of talking from each region.

If you are not fluent in the language of the country where you intend to do business we recommend to use an interpreter in formal situations such as meetings with manufacturers and customers.

  • Formality:

Every culture has its own particularities and formality is an important aspect to be considered, especially during the first impression. If you use in excess you can be perceived as coldhearted by many of these cultures and the lack of it can give the impression of little professionalism.

We must adapt to the situation, considering the degree of intimacy we have with the business partner, their individual characteristics and the culture of their country.

In many Spanish-speaking countries there is a greater formality, there using academic titles such as Doctor, Engineer, and Teacher before the name when approaching a person, especially in the first meeting, is a demonstration of respect and recognition of status. On the other hand, the Brazilians, who are naturally very welcoming and friendly, which contributes to the formation of bonds and the generation of empathy, tend to be a little more informal, which can cause a small cultural shock and, in extreme cases, pass a mistaken idea of an unprofessional attitude.

  • Conducting a business meeting:

In situations like international business rounds the details like the environment, the time for and of each meeting, etc. are usually coordinated by formal entities such as the Federation of Industries, the International Business Center, among others. On the other hand, there are also situations in which business partners are visiting our country and the coordination of this meeting is our responsibility... in those situations, knowledge and common sense are our allies.

The first step is to choose the ideal venue for these meetings and it varies according to the culture of each country, with some preferring to do it in the professional setting of an office while others prefer restaurants or cafes.

In some Latin American cultures the meetings are started with a brief personal conversation, in which both parties take the opportunity to get to know each other a little more, establishing a relationship of trust. However, in other countries, within Latin America itself, business is addressed first and you must go straight to the point, having little room for conversations not related to it. That is why both our common sense and the knowledge of our partner's culture are so important.

What do these cultures have in common?

In spite of the differences, all the cultures mentioned value mutual trust in a commercial partnership, being the personal contact of a visit essential to build this relationship of trust and commitment to the goal of mutual growth.

With these tips we wish you all good business!

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