Business etiquette in Latin America

With over 20 countries, 643 million inhabitants and five official languages, Latin America is full of business opportunities.  There is a diverse range of culture across the region, which translates into business as well as leisure environments. Making the effort to learn about business etiquette before attending a meeting in a Latin American country may give you the competitive edge you need. 

By Alison Gardner, account executive and international PR specialist. 

Each Latin American nation has its own cultural traditions and nuances, so you should do your research on local customs before getting on the plane. However, these countries also share some opinions about business etiquette that might come in handy.

Dress to impress

If you look the part during a business meeting, people will treat you with respect. You should dress smartly and conservatively, with men in suits and ties and women in business dresses.

Top tip: You can wear your favourite watch but remember to take it off when the meeting starts. It shows other people that the meeting is the most important part of your day.

Get personal

Business owners in Latin America will usually want to trust you before they can work with you. Be prepared to talk about your education, family and interests before you get down to business. The more they get to know you the more likely it is that they will find you simpatico (that you have their interests at heart).

Top tip: Don’t forget to pack pictures of your family! This is often one of the first topics of conversation at a business meeting.

Body language

Remember that international countries may react differently to certain gestures. In some countries in Latin America, pulling on the earlobe is a sign of interest and pulling down the lower eyelid is a sign of distrust. As well as watching for their gestures, be wary of your own. Find out what gestures are considered polite or rude depending on where you are visiting.

Top tip: Hand signals that you use daily may not mean the same thing in Latin America, so do your research. For example, the thumb to forefinger OK sign is a rude gesture in Brazil.

No one expects you to arrive in a country knowing everything about its culture, tradition and language. However, taking the time to educate yourself about some local customs and general etiquette can help you build relationships in an international business meeting.

At Stone Junction, we have the cultural expertise you need to impress when working abroad. To find out more about how we can help you on an international scale, call me on +44 (0)1785 225 416 or e-mail me at

Alison Gardner

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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