Argentina is a country with a rich culture influenced by its diverse population and proud heritage. This unique culture stems from Argentina’s strong European ties mixed with indigenous people of South America. Although the country has faced some political turmoil in recent years, Argentina has managed to overcome much of its strife and is now turning into one of South America’s most prosperous nations. As an emerging market, Argentina opens its arms to new business ventures and many international opportunities.
Lewis describes the Argentines in his book “When Cultures Collide” as the people who have high values such as: courtesy, family closeness and eloquence.
Argentinians are very status conscious, therefore it is very imortant that you know what kind of status has a person that you are trying to get in touch with. If you need to reach a decision maker, you must go through his or her personal assistant or secretary. In this case politeness is essential when dealing with these intermediaries as they determine the order in which visitors get access to their bosses.
Appointments usually need to be scheduled one or two weeks in advance. Decision-making positions may work non-stop from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with a short break for lunch at 1.00 pm. Punctuality is appreciated and expected from visitors to Argentina for all business related occasions. However, you may find your Argentine counterpart to be 15 minutes to an half an hour late. During the holidays it may be hard to do business. The fixed holidays are January 1, Easter, May 1, May 25, July 9 and December 25.
Business meetings Argentines prefer the spoken word over the written word and they prefer face-to-face meetings to telephone conversations. This means that by far the best way to develop good business relations in Argentina is to make an appointment. Meetings will usually start with a long pre-meeting chat which will cover topics as diverse as football, weekend activities and holidays but which is unlikely to include any mention of business.
You can also expect a fairly lengthy repetition of this type of conversation at the end of the meeting. It is important to engage as fully as possible in these discussions as they are seen as a vital part of the relationship building process. Do not expect that everybody will have done lots of in-depth analytical planning for the meeting – they may have done but you can’t be certain. Flexibility and spontaneity are both greatly prized in Argentina. Punctuality is much tighter than in certain other South American countries but agendas are very likely to be ignored.
Dress Code Appearances are very important in both business circles and society at large in Argentina. You will be partly judged on the way you look. If you are prosperous and successful you should look it. Business look is rather conservative with men favoring dark blue, grey and brown suits, white or light blue shirts and conservative ties are the norm. Women prefer dresses in blue or pastel colors with black or brown shoes made of leather.
Wearing light colors is not recommended as this is not the tropical country some may assume it might be. Avoid eye-catching accessories, and wear only discreet jewelry. For dinner parties or restaurant outings, men wear suit and tie and women elegant, conservative dresses. You might dress more casually in the summer, when slacks and short sleeved shirts for men and more casual dresses for ladies are prevalent. Language, Conversation and Relations Although Spanish is the language of Argentina, many Argentines speak good English, having been educated internationally. In addition, many speak either Italian or German as a high proportion of Argentines have either Italian or German ancestry.
As mentioned before, meetings usually start with a long pre-meeting chat. Therefore it is important to know what the topics they like to talk about are. Argentines are well informed and proud of having the latest, most precise information. Moreover, it is imperative to know what is going on in politics and, especially, in sports for business negotiations. In general, Argentines are warm people and tend to get close and touch one another while speaking. When introducing one another, shaking hands is normal among men, women often exchange kisses on the cheek.
A great deal of respect is given to people who speak freely and express themselves forcefully. Show interest in what you hear, ask questions and let your companions elaborate on what they have to say about the topic at hand. It is possible to disagree with people and even criticize their opinions and yet remain on friendly terms. Indeed by remaining uninvolved and aloof, you may be viewed as disengaged and disinterested. Meetings can, therefore, appear to be quite noisy boisterous affairs with people frequently interrupting each other to add points or disagree with what is being said. Again this liveliness is viewed as a positive as it shows engagement and interest.
Argentines exhibit certain distinctive body language characteristics. Firstly, they stand in very close proximity to each other in comparison to many other cultures. Secondly they have very strong levels of eye contact and thirdly they are highly tactile in many situations. It is important that you try to accept these body language issues as it is unlikely that the locals will adapt to you. Argentines are rather vehement speakers, and frequently interrupt one another. Don’t take offense if you are interrupted – it is a sign of participation and interest.
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 referred to by their surnames rather than their first names in most business situations using the titles Seorita (Miss) followed by surnames.
An appropriate business gift should be a gift that will not be perceived as a form of bribery. It should be inexpensive but in good taste, ideally recognizing the receiver’s preferences and likings. Ensure the gift is properly wrapped and a card is enclosed. Business Practices Third party introductions are a necessary prelude to doing business in Argentina. Argentineans will appreciate effort you make to speak Spanish, therefore have your business card translated into Spanish on the reverse side. To exchange cards is very common. Smile and make eye contact when receiving cards and take a few moments to look at your counterpart’s business card after it is handed to you.
An initial visit should be made by an upper-level executive, accompanied by mid-level executives. Mid-level executives will attend subsequent visits to conduct negotiations that go into greater depth. Displaying kindness and respect towards other people is valued highly, and there is a tendency to avoid aggressive behavior. It’s important to be empathetic in your dealings. Moreover, you will find that expressing concern for the country’s welfare and the Argentines you deal with to be an appreciated gesture.
Aggressive tactics will not go over well. It is better to specify priorities, terms, and conditions. Proposing a strong financial package, with options such as nontraditional financing terms is another asset. Providing continued service to your client, despite the long distances involved, can be a welcome gesture of commitment. Argentine business culture is as bureaucratic as in other Latin American countries; however, higher-level executives have a reputation for efficiency. Usually, those in the highest positions of authority are entrusted with the final decision, so it’s important to remain patient. Moreover, it may be necessary to make several trips before the transaction can be concluded. Generally, contract agreements are followed rigidly, problems are resolved swiftly, and payments are made promptly, usually on deadline.
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