Haiti is a Caribbean country with plenty of beautiful beaches and tourist attractions -- it's the perfect vacation spot if you need to escape for a few days. But while the country welcomes countless tourists each year, Haiti also receives business professionals from all over the world.
Whether you're relocating to the country for work, or in town for a few days on business, mastering the local business culture can help you make a good impression.
- Haitians prefer to schedule business meetings in advance. This gives everyone involved the opportunity to prepare. Schedule meetings between regular business hours - 8am to 4 pm.
- Arriving late to a meeting is not considered rude. In fact, when setting meeting times, Haitians rarely give exact times. Instead, a business person may set a meeting for "around 9am." Although lateness is acceptable, arriving too early is frown upon. If you're unable to make a meeting, call the receptionist to reschedule.
- Address colleagues by their professional title, or Mr, Mrs, or Miss, followed by their surname. Do not use first names unless given permission.
- Small talk is customary before starting a business meeting, and this part of the meeting might take considerable time. Be patient. It is acceptable to ask about a colleague's family, but you shouldn't discuss politics until a relationship has been established. Discuss light-hearted subjects. Humor and laughter are important to the culture.
- Haitians are indirect in their speech, so you'll need to be patient. Oftentimes, they'll tell stories or use parables to make a point.
- Some Haitian business professionals are dramatic in negotiations. After you make an offer, they may appear visibly upset or offended; but oftentimes, it's only an act. According to local business culture, the person who makes the biggest scene and attracts the most attention wins.
- Most Haitians speak French. If you speak another language, confirm whether your host speaks your language. If not, translate printed documents into the appropriate language, and bring a translator.
- A handshake is the appropriate greeting at business meetings. Also, it's important to respect personal space. Haitians prefer standing about arm's length from others.
As it is usually hot in Haiti, it's perfectly acceptable for business people to wear casual attire in rural areas. However, shorts and casual attire are not acceptable in business settings in urban areas. Appropriate business attire for males includes a shirt, tie and slacks. For women, appropriate attire includes a pant suit, dress, blazer or skirt.
Business Dining Etiquette
Haitians are hospitable and it's not uncommon for professionals to take their guests to lunch or dinner. This provides a relaxed atmosphere to engage in small talk or address business-related concerns. It's customary for international guests to return the favor. Therefore, plan to invite your host to your hotel or another restaurant for dinner.
There is no specific ritual regarding business cards. However, cards are typically exchanged at the beginning of meetings. Although not required, you can also translate one side of your card into French.
The business culture in Haiti might be laid-back and relaxed, but these professionals are respectful to others, and they expect the same respect from their international guests.
Photo credit [Flickr]