Business relationships & dining—Latin America
Latin Americans scored high in Uncertainty Avoidance on the Hofstede scale. Cultures high in this dimension shy away from ambiguity and ambivalence. This means that there are more social rules and regulations in place to reduce the amount of anxiety associated with risky or unknown situations. Nevertheless, Latin Americans are rather relaxed in their communication style and do not have rigid behavioral rules for networking. They are very extroverted and prefer warm, personal relationships with colleagues as opposed to direct, strictly business-driven affiliations. Working with those you do not know on a deep, intimate level can be risky and uncertain. To lower the hazard, Latin Americans choose to learn as much as possible about each other before they begin any transaction. It is this connection that is vital to working in this part of the world. In an effort to reduce uncertainty, Latin Americans require a sense of loyalty before making decisions. Without trust, there is no confidence, and no deal can be made. Friendship is essential to building trust, a critical element of loyalty.
Latin America was also classified as Collectivist by Hofstede, meaning that group goals and accomplishments are valued over individual ones. People function as parts of a whole, rather than as separate entities. Tight-knit circles of friends and colleagues are a common characteristic of this region. The family is the most important social unit, and usually takes priority over all other engagements and affiliations. This is evident in the workplace. Latin Americans work to live and take their personal lives with them to the office. To truly establish a connection with your Latin hosts, you need to recognize this and show that you respect it.
Entertainment is the standard way of getting to know somebody and is commonplace in business. Most of your communications will be done over lunch, dinner, and other social events involving food and drink. The largest meal is usually eaten midday, and a lighter meal is prepared at night. Conversations start casually and involve the sharing of a lot of personal information. Latin Americans are very affectionate and see no problem with little personal space and a lot of physical contact. Hugs, kisses on cheeks, and touching of arms and backs are all very common. Be prepared to dance and enjoy local foods and activities during your stay. Most Latin Americans prefer restaurants as the prime location for eating and entertaining; however, they sometimes take pleasure in inviting guests over for dinner.
If invited into a home, show great appreciation and be sure to bring a gift for the host or hostess, as well as candy or chocolates for the children. It is a good idea to send flowers or a thank-you card the next day as a token of your appreciation.
Reciprocity is expected. Latin Americans are very generous and expect to be treated the same way. Always express your gratitude and thank your hosts whenever possible. You should respond to all hugs and displays of friendly affection. Moving away from a customary exchange of cheek kisses can be misinterpreted as coldness and displeasure. As a sign of appreciation, invite your host to dinner and offer to pay for the meal. Tipping is around 10% in Brazil and Chile and varies, but is usually around 5%, in other countries.