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For an international business person or business traveller, doing business in a foreign country can be a challenge. Understanding a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette is important in establishing good business relationships and getting things off on the right foot.
This guide to doing business in Argentina offers some introductory points for readers. It is not intended to summarise all tips nor is it meant to stereotype. It simply gives some basic pointers for people unfamiliar with the country.
Unlike America, in Argentina the dates are written with the day first, then the month and then the year, for example January 1st 2005 is 1/1/2005. It is important to make appointments to see prospective clients through a third party, an enchufado. The enchufado acts as a middle man with contacts within an industry. Doing business in Argentina involves building up a relationship and establishing trust so it is unwise to consider it acceptable to approach companies directly.
Meeting & Greeting
The most common form of greeting between business personnel is a handshake and slight nod of the head. This is applicable to both men and women. Once a relationship has been built to the point of friendship hugs, kisses and slapped backs will become the norm.
Most people you meet in a business capacity should be greeted with their title followed by the surname. If you do not know of their professional titles then use Mr, Mrs or Miss - Senor, Senora or Senorita. Common professional titles are Doctor, teacher, engineer or lawyer - Doctor, professor, Ingeniero or abogado.
Meetings & Negotiations
Establishing trust and mutual benefit oils the wheels when doing business in Argentina. Patience is key to ensuring success as it can often take several trips to the country to finalise any deal. Business is slow due to the several layers of decision making combined with masses of red-tape.
You should approach business meetings and negotiations as both a potential business partner and a friend. Always engage in small talk until the topic of conversation changes to business. Do not be put off if phone calls are taken during a meeting - this is not meant to be rude. Avoid any high pressure sales tactics.
If your company suddenly changes the representative dealing with Argentina, then expect to go back to square one, as a new relationship will have to be established.
Body language conveys a lot in Argentina. Try and maintain eye contact even if it feels uncomfortable. Avoid placing your hands on your hips when speaking - this usually means you are angry. It is good etiquette to cover your mouth when yawning or coughing. If you see someone tapping their middle finger against the thumb this means 'hurry up'.
Some useful web resources include:
Argentina Etiquette & Culture - a thorough overview of the culture and both social and business etiquette.
Executive Planet - a business focused group of articles.