WORKING ABROAD / SEP. 07, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Uruguay

For the past decade or so, Uruguay has maintained an export economy, a well-educated and hardworking labor force and adequate social spending. In a continent embroiled in poverty, Uruguay enjoys a high standard of living, and has a poverty rate of less than 18 percent.

Overall, Uruguay has a 6.5 percent unemployment rate, a $60 billion gross domestic product and various successful industries, including agriculture (rice, wheat, fish), textiles, petroleum and electrical machinery. Uruguay is quickly partnering with other regional trading countries, which means heightened business opportunities.

In order to take proper advantage of these business opportunities foreigners need to observe the rules of Uruguay’s unique business etiquette.

Communication

Spanish is the official language of Uruguay and is the most dominant. Portunol and Brazilero (a mix of Portuguese and Spanish of the Brazilian frontier) are the two other popular languages spoken within the borders of Uruguay.

During conversations, a variety of things can be expected, including directness, closeness and touching. In fact, if someone were to stand back by more than a foot or two then it would be considered quite rude. Both genders tend to place their hands on each other’s shoulders, arms and hands – men kiss, too, as they get to know each other better.

In addition to their directness, they also maintain undeviating eye contact. By continuing with direct eye contact throughout a conversation, others view it as a sign of respect, kindness and interest in what the other person has to say. Also, as you speak, you must persist with eye contact otherwise people will think you’re being dishonest.

Dress Code

With dressing conservatively and well comes a level of respect and appreciation. In all sorts of business and social situations, men and women will sport formal wear: men will wear conservative colored suits, while women will wear business suits or dresses that are considered feminine and elegant.

Greetings

Men will shake hands with other men. But it must be remembered that firmness represents honesty and strength. As time goes by and men become close with one other then a hug and a few slaps on the back will suffice and be expected.

Women, meanwhile, take part in a light handshake, but once they become more acquainted then they will kiss on the cheek.

During first-time meetings between both genders, a regular handshake will be fine. Friends and acquaintances will share a kiss on the cheek with either an arm on the shoulder or a small hug.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

Like the clothing you wear, how you address someone is crucial to how others perceive you. It’s imperative to directly address someone by their professional title, such as doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. However, if they disapprove of this then identify them by Mr. and Mrs. followed by their last name.

Although there are no specific measures to take in regards to giving and receiving business cards, it’s important to remember that it’s expected of you to have them on you at all times. Also, be sure to have one side of the card translated into Spanish.

Punctuality

Time isn’t important to Uruguayans. Instead, they tend to feel that their relationships with others far outweigh set schedules and agendas. In fact, during social gatherings, it’s expected that others will be late. For instance, if your party is scheduled for 9 p.m. then individuals will likely arrive at 10 p.m.

Uruguay combines the elements of conservatism and an easy going nature. The country’s people want everyone to be kind and respectful, but also not feel that there are rigid practices to adhere to. Common courtesy, cultural understandings and honesty are the most vital attributes for Uruguay. But as long as you adhere to the majority of the points above you should have a fruitful business experience in Uruguay.

Have you previously conducted business in Uruguay? Let us know in the comment section.

 

Photo by Vince Alongi via Flickr.

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