How to Master Business Etiquette in Panama

Tourism is one of the major factors that have boosted the economy in Panama. The banking industry is another reason for the financial strength of the country. Business owners in Panama are used to dealing with foreign business people as other professionals come to the country on a consistent basis. It is important to fully comprehend the proper business etiquette when in the country of Panama. This article will provide you with the tools needed to do that.

Business Meetings

There is proper etiquette that foreign professionals should observe as it pertains to attending business meetings. It is important to arrive on time to any scheduled business meetings. However, you must realize that the actual business discussion will be held off until customary small talk takes place. In order to show respect to your Panamanian host, you should demonstrate a genuine attitude and be personable. Such actions will showcase your willingness to respect their culture. Similar to customs in America, you should keep the conversation to topics of family, culture or sports; but avoid politics and religion.


In Panama, the official language is Spanish. However, the United States has had extensive influence on the Panamanian culture so a majority of locals are bilingual. They speak both Spanish and English. 

Business Attire

Wearing the proper attire is just as important as following business meeting etiquette. Panamanians expect that their foreign counterparts dress conservatively when doing business with them. Pants suits are considered conservative attire for men and women. However, women should not wear any type of clothing that is overly form-fitting or revealing. Men holding executive roles are expected to wear business suits. Those who are not in such positions, are permitted to wear loose fitting shirts called camisillas which don’t need to be tucked into the slacks.

Business Cards

Etiquette in Panama does not require a specific method in how to distribute business cards. However, you should make certain that you hand out a card to each individual present in the room. This is not simply reserved for the senior executives in attendance. It is important to remember to have at least one side of your business card which is translated into Spanish. When you hand out the card, keep the Spanish side face up. Professional titles are important to the Panamanian business people. Men should be called “Don” and women should be referred to as “Dona.” In business settings, college graduates should be referred to as “Licensiado/a.” When you are handing out the business cards, be certain to utilize the appropriate titles.

Business Dining

When a deal is closed, the Panamanian host will generally treat their foreign guests to dinner. It is also important to abide by the rules of proper etiquette as it pertains to such dinner events. The host will be seated at one end of the table and the guest will sit at the other end. It is expected that foreign business women who attend the meeting, also bring their spouses along.

Giving Gifts

In some countries, there are customs regarding gift giving in the business environment. However, in Panama, it is not customary for business people to give or receive gifts. There is an exception to this etiquette rule. For example, foreign business people can present their Panamanian counterparts with gifts that display the company logo. Gift giving is not regarded as highly, as is the attention to the culture and customs of the country.

When doing business in another country, it is vital to learn how to master the specific business etiquette pertaining to that specific area. Panamanians highly regard respect and conservative and professional manners. If you follow the basic business etiquette discussed in this article, you will have greater success doing business in Panama.


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