WORKING ABROAD / SEP. 13, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Venezuela

Since entering office more than a decade ago, then-President Hugo Chavez attempted to revamp the Venezuelan economy with a more socialist approach. The government failed, and the ex-president’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, hasn’t much improved things – in fact, he has made things a lot worse.

Despite government clamping down on market forces, the Venezuelan people have tried to introduce new secretive business opportunities in order to combat the widespread poverty that has engulfed much of the nation. It’s quite difficult to conduct business in Venezuela, but if you do then most would say two words: be careful.

Here are five things to know about business etiquette in Venezuela:

Communication

The government of Venezuela has proclaimed Spanish to be the official language of the land. There are also other indigenous dialects spoken across the Latin American nation that date back centuries.

Venezuelans tend to be rather direct when they engage in conversation. Furthermore, throughout discussions, a Venezuelan person will stand close to you – an average of one to two feet is the norm in the country. When people stand aback it is considered to be a rude gesture. Even though there is an abundance of touching between members of the same gender; members of the opposite sex touch very little.

Akin to standing close to one another, it is also very important to maintain direct eye contact throughout the entire length of a conversation. It is considered rude and bad form to avoid consistent eye contact. Remember, regular eye contact is maintained rather than erratic.

Dress Code

Despite a significant percentage of the country confined to poverty, Venezuelans still believe being well dressed and nicely groomed is virtuous. Most people are under the notion that everyone should simply dress to impress. Men will often wear dark conservative suits, while women will sport feminine stylish dresses or business suits – when trying to gain an important client, females will often wear classy accessories.

Overall, it is best to avoid wearing business casual, jeans or sneakers.

Greetings

The greetings that take place in formal settings are pretty simple.

Upon an initial meeting, men address other men with a firm handshake and maintain direct eye contact – sometimes a slight touch on the arms or elbows will enhance the experience. When women meet other women, they will perform a slight handshake with a nod and warm smile. A regular handshake will suffice for meetings between men and women.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

Like their clothing, addressing others as Mr., Miss and Mrs. followed by their last name are believed to be good manners. Not identifying someone in this formal way will be considered uncouth.

Business cards are another important element in the business world. It is imperative to have as many business cards as possible and to always treat every received card with the utmost respect and dignity (avoid writing, folding or losing it).

Although it is not required, it would be prudent to translate one side of your business card in Spanish – be sure to present your business card with the side consisting of a Spanish translation.

Punctuality

Venezuela tends to be a relaxed place so it wouldn’t be surprising to find that Venezuelans favor their personal lives and relationships than rigid schedules. It is rather common to arrive at a personal gathering one to two hours late – this may not be as true in a business setting.

Venezuela has all of the opportunities to transform into a dynamic, affluent country. Unfortunately, due to the oppressive nature of its government, Venezuela has been relegated to an impecunious state without enjoying any of the riches of its natural resources that other nations have relished in. Although these factors can make it difficult to conduct business in Venezuela, as long as you follow the rules above you have more chance of having a successful business trip.

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

 

Photo by Márcio Cabral de Moura via Flickr.

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