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About Peru

by: Almiro dos Reis Neto, Associate partner of Hofstede Insights

 

Currency: Peruvian Sol (PEN)    
Capital: Lima                                              
Time Zone: GMT – 5:00

 

Some cornerstones of Peruvian culture

 

  • More than half of Peru’s population are Amerindians or Mestizos  – natives of Peru and descendent of the Incan Empire, an extinguished civilization that has great historical and cultural influence in the country.
  • Most of the population speaks Spanish (84%)1 and a smaller portion speaks Quechua (13%) and an even smaller portion (2%) speaks another indigenous language, Aymara.
  • Although the indigenous population is the biggest ethnic group, white people occupy the most prestigious social positions and racism towards indigenous, blacks and Asians is a critical issue2.
  • Peruvian people are known for their friendly way on welcoming foreigners.
  • Peruvians value solid relationships, especially concerning family. As a result, business is extended on the behalf of the necessary relationship trust.
  • Personal contacts are therefore important and can make a difference in business partnership. 
  • Their approach towards time is flexible. There is a local expression “la hora peruana” (Peruvian time), which means not exactly the time scheduled. Regardless, be on time, since it is appreciated and be aware about the traffic at Lima.
  • It is worth observing holiday dates3, since they are numerous.

 

When in Peru

 

  • Few people speak English fluently and therefore it is recommended to find an interpreter if you do not speak Spanish yourself.
  • Praise their food and culture, since they are very proud of it. This is a good way to start a conversation.
  • Avoid complaints on their political issues or similarly polemic topics.
  • Use low tone voice when speaking, since the opposite may be considered impolite.
  • Keeping an eye contact is a demonstration of interest and enforces trust.
  • People usually stand fairly close to each other when talking to each other.

 

Greetings

 

  • Handshakes are the common greeting and are sometimes accompanied with a touch in the arm or a quick hug.
  • Especially among family members or acquintances of opposite gender kisses are quite common.
  • It is worth observing that indigenous Peruvian can be more reserved and avoid greeting and making visual contact.
  • Peruvians might call you “Usted”, a formal way of saying “you”. This is also the usual way of talking to an elder person.
  • Titles are important. This includes professional ones, such as “Ingeniero” (engineer) or Doctor for either physicians or for lawyers, but also non-professional ones, such as Señor (Mr.) or Señora (Mrs.). The title is usually followed by either the person’s first name or the first surname.
  • It is polite to greet everyone present individually.

 

Good to know

 

  • Peruvians are not direct in their communication: it may take a winding way for they to express something, especially if it is something negative.
  • Deadlines are not always respected or even clearly stated. For instance, “mañana” (literally meaning “tomorrow”), does not necessarily mean that something will be done by tomorrow. It can mean later in the future as well.
  • Lunch time are long (nearly 2 hours).
  • Discussing business on lunch times is very usual and a good occasion for meetings.
  • It is common to ask private life questions, such as about family members, career, hobbies, etc. If you are not comfortable whether you may ask something, let your business partner show what the limits through the conversation.
  • Although it is gradually changing, you may find conservative gender role positions and business environment still dominated by men. 
  • Position in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Rank (2017): Peru ranks 54 (out of 190 countries). 3rd position in Latin America

 

Body language

 

  • Peruvians tend to behave formally in business occasions.
  • In the workplace, it is not acceptable to show emotions. Peruvians rather keep silent, if they are unhappy with something or somebody.
  • Communication is not necessarily direct and  signals of agreement or disagreement can be conveyed through body language.
  • Avoid expressing negative gestures and expressions.
  • Smile.

 

Dress code

 

  • Peruvians are formal and conservative concerning dress code.
  • Men should wear a suit and a tie.
  • Women should wear a suit as well with trouser or discreet skirts.
  • Peruvians like using perfumes.

 

Key words to describe Peruvian culture:

 

Relationship / Trust / Catholic / Indigenous legacy / Syncretism/ Culture pride/ Formality in workplace / Relaxed approach to time
 
 

 

 

Successful business

Doing business in Peru can be challenging because of: 

 

  • Necessity of relationship-building and trust.
  • The bureaucracy and the complexity of the rules in the public sector.
  • Indirect communication.
  • Business is usually done in Spanish and English is not widely spoken.
  • Corruption among government activity.
  • Conflicts over natural resources with native population.
  • Not enough qualified technical workforce.

 

Experts Recommendation 

 

  • Bring your business cards and other materials also in Spanish.
  • Use appropriate titles when addressing your business partners.
  • Confirm meetings when the scheduled date is getting closer.
  • Legal advisory is recommended due to the complex legislation and bureaucracy.
  • Aim for talking to top-level managers.
  • Negotiations require a certain level of relationship-building and trust. Thus they may take time.
  • Try to find a third party you can be introduced with, such as an embassy representative, a common friend or business partner. This will provide legitimacy.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal communication such as body language, pauses, hesitations, tone of voice etc. Communication is not always direct.
  • Avoid polemic topics such as politics during conversations.
  • Small talks to start the conversation are highly recommended and good topics can be the food and culture from Peru, the traffic jam at Lima, telling about hobbies, family, etc..
  • Whenever possible, aim for face to face meetings for initial business proposal.
  • From time to time, write down what has been agreed and talked throughout the meetings. Be aware not to be rude or to show distrust. Express is as a way of organizing ideas.
  • Be transparent with both your intentions and planning. You may show some financial data of yours, but do not expect nor ask the same specially concerning family business.
  • Bring a small gift, such as sweets, wine, flowers or something typical from your country, when invited to a home dinner.
  • Avoid calling people towards you using your fingers nor let your hands on the lap while eating – it is polite to let your hand on the table.
     

 

 

Dimensions

 

Peru is a hierarchical country and that trait happens inside the companies. As a result, high position members are the ones who have the final word and who give instructions to subordinates. The hierarchy among the society is also associated with racism or sexism and white men usually have more advantages, although they are a minority. This hierarchical feature has its origin within the Incan Empire structure and from the colonial vertical structure with the Spanish conquer of power through violence.
Relationship is another significant element in the Peruvian culture, especially concerning the family. Thus, friends or close acquaintances may have advantage over strangers. The collectivistic trait added to the vertical structure of power result on typical paternalist situations both inside and outside family environment.
Religion and tradition display important role in Peruvian society as well. Catholics are major, but is commonly seen a mix of Christian beliefs with Incan (old indigenous civilization) symbols and traditions. Because of the religious importance, affection and family are both valued, spirituality is spread in the culture and traditions behavior. Due to this fact, work performance may have reduced importance over relationship. Another result is the ambiguity over indulgence or restraint aspects. On one hand, there is the importance of family, relationships and several celebration festivals and holidays. On the other hand, there is the typical Christian thought of life restraint on the behalf of spiritual gains.
In Peru there are about 3000 typical festivals that are celebrated every year. Most, to commemorate the day of the patron saint (a saint). Those saints were originally part of the Christian calendar in the colonial period, but they were always mixed with the magical religion of the Andean regions. A good example of this "cultural syncretism" is the Feast of Corpus Christi in Cusco. This religious day, originally introduced by the Spaniards, was accepted by the Peruvian inhabitants because for them this festivity had little to do with Catholicism and much more influence of the Inca rituals.
Especially in the traditional village high in the mountains or in the jungle, several traditional celebrations were held. These festivities were related to ancient myths or important dates for agriculture.
Since informality, need for trust and disobedience predominate in the day-by-day behavior, the way found to address uncertainty and risk is by imposing rules over rules. Even so, the rules are often disregarded. Another way to address uncertainty is religious superstition and the short-term approach to decision making and planning.
    

 

Interesting Links

 

  1. PWC report on doing business in Peru concerning financial and strategic areas: https://www.pwc.pe/es/publicaciones/doing-business/index-en.html
  2. Examples of local vs foreigner perspective over cultural Peruvian issues made by the Canadian government: https://www.international.gc.ca/cil-cai/country_insights-apercus_pays/ci...
  3. Official Peruvian website for tourism: http://www.peru.travel 
  4. Official website for the promotion of Peru: http://www.promperu.gob.pe
  5. Travel guide video for Peru: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF8cW6dpn4g
  6. Official government video for promoting business in Peru: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqZxBvtYlUw
  7. Official government video Peru’s History and Culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvxpFUs364M
  8. National Geographic documentary on Macchu Picchu history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daibulat2iw

 

References: 

 

  1. http://www.countryreports.org/country/Peru/population.htm
  2. http://www.bbc.com/news/10205171
  3. https://build.export.gov/peru/doingbusinessinperu/businessinformation/eg...