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Meetings and behavior in business context in Latin America

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




  1. Smile while greeting. 
  2. Start your conversations with small talks;
  3. Be careful to negative body language, so that you are not misinterpreted;
  4. Always confirm your appointments previously. Be punctual, but be prepared to wait 15 to 30 minutes;
  5. Business and professional titles are important, and you should call your partner by his or her family name. 


Short Introduction


Latin American culture embraces some particular aspects that may highly distinguish it from the reader’s culture. For this reason, the acknowledgement of its main aspects are important for the reader to be more comprehensible with the differences and specially dominate them, so that they do not become an obstacle for the business.



When in Latin America


  • Be formal when doing business. Brasil is an exception and you can act informal;
  • Invite or be prepared to be invited for meals; Dinners happen late in night;
  • If you are invited to someone’s house it is polite to bring a gift. The gift can be something like flowers, wine, chocolate, or something typical from your own country;
  • Start meetings with small talk on unrelated issues, such as the weather, football, family or travel;
  • Always smile; Body language is very important: be careful with negative and disagreement expressions.




  • Use titles such as «Mr.» or «Mrs.», or «Dr.»;
  • Greetings usually include a touch: even handshakes come along with a touch in the arm or a short hug. Hugs are welcome as well as kisses to opposite genders, only.
  • Give and accept business cards


Good to know


  • Request appointments previously, and confirm it as it come close to the event day;
  • Latin Americans are not known for punctuality . When you are invited to a home dinner, for example, never arrive on time. Rather arrive 15 – 30 min later. For business lunches, however, you should arrive on time but don’t expect the same from the others.
  • When you’re establishing business contact, try to aim for those in the highest position.
  • Profession, power and symbols of wealth determine one’s status.
  • The ability to form friendships and other interpersonal skills are also considered very important;
  • In order to build a relationship, it is especially good when you are introduced for a third person
  • Latin Americans are not task oriented and conversations tend to be non-linear. 


Dress code


  • For formal meetings you should wear a suit and a tie. This especially goes when visiting lawyers or or banks. Due to the warm weather in Brazil, many companies in Brazil are dropping suits and ties. It is recommended to check the dress code of your local partners;
  • Women should keep their legs covered. It is acceptable for women to wear pants;
  • Women should avoid wearing strong make-ups.



Short case study


Mr. Wolfgang Zimmer was able to arrange a meeting with Mr. Antonio Serrado, President of Café Serrado, Colombia's largest coffee exporter, at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Finally, he would meet him personally and be able to present his products and services and discuss the possibility of partnership in Colombia and Europe.
He arrived 30 minutes early in the imposing building, one of the largest in the capital, because he did not want to be late, and the traffic in this city can be very unpredictable. Going through the security of the building was not an easy task: queuing, documentation checking, meeting confirmation, visitor registration, digital photography. Everyone is smiling and very kind all the time. Finally, he was released to go to the top floor of the building. A security guard would accompany him through the private elevator.


Arriving on the floor, he was greeted by Mr. Serrado's executive assistant, a charming and smiling lady.
- Welcome, Mr. Zimmer. How was your travel? Please, join me. I will take you to the waiting room.
- Would you like some water and coffee from our special production?


While enjoying the excellent coffee - actually one of the best he had ever drunk in his life - Wolfgang could also enjoy the books and the pre-Columbian art collection that adorned the room.


At three o'clock sharp the lovely assistant came to tell him Mr. Serrado would be delayed "about little fifteen minutes", because his present meeting would go on for a little longer. She was sorry. Fifteen minutes later, a new notice of delay. Wolfgang began to be annoyed as he had a new appointment scheduled right after this meeting. He had made a very tight schedule to his day in the city.


When he counted 30 minutes late, Wolfgang got up to leave and went to the executive assistant, nervous, annoyed by the loss of his time when he was approached by Mr. Serrado in person. Smiling, charming, friendly, he embraced Wolfgang:
- A thousand excuses, my friend. You know how it is ... It seems like nothing works in the company if I do not have a word to say. Never mind, let's get going.
- Sarita, please, bring that special coffee to my friend, Mr. Wolfgang.
- How can I help you?




  1. What are the main values in the vision of the two characters: efficiency, patience, relationship, power, commitment, confidence, security, optimism, gentleness, communication, formalism?
  2. Are these values the same for both? How to reconcile?
  3. Are there any of these values and behaviors that are particularly pleasing or unpleasant to you? What would you do if you were in this situation yourself?
  4. What are the symbols of power you recognize in this story?
  5. What can and cannot be controlled when interacting with a culture like the above?
  6. What would have you done differently?


* The case described in this text is fictional. The names of the characters and organizations are merely illustrative. Any resemblance to real facts would have been mere coincidence.


Last updated: 29.11.2021 - 16:28
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