Business culture in Venezuela
Venezuela is a country, situated in the northern part of the South America. Historically, it had remained under Spanish rule for quite a long time, so the major language spoken is Spanish. Even though most citizens in the country speak English, it would be useful to know several phrases in Spanish: “Hello” – “Hola”, “Yes” – “Si”, “No” – “No”, “Good morning” – “Buenos dias”.
Although Venezuela is a part of Latin America, known for the practical absence of personal space in communication, it would be impolite to touch a business partner during the talk. The citizens of this country tend to stand close to one another and are expressive in terms of emotions, but they also use to distinguish between friendly communication and business issues, so the visit should not misunderstand their exaggerated friendliness and view it merely as a gesture of good manners. It is also inappropriate to avoid eye contact, as this aspect of non-verbal communication is particularly important to demonstrate the person’s integrity and honest intentions. The inhabitants of this state are risk averse, so trust in commerce is vital.
Speaking about verbal taboos, it is important to note that it is indecent to speak about sex, romantic relationships and joke on this basis with Venezuelans, as most of them are Roman Catholic, moreover – hard-line, so in business protocol it is necessary to avoid “romance cues”. It is also odd to speak about money in terms of another person’s income (unless directly requested by the business meeting) and to ask about the cost of another person’s property. There are no religious taboos in the country, except the necessity to observe the traditional Roman Catholic holidays, during which Venezuelans stay at home with their families and refuse to discuss their work.
Business etiquette in this country can be characterized as Continental, but there exist several critical issues to remember. “When meeting groups, always introduce yourself to the eldest person first; When leaving, say good-bye to each person individually; Since this is a formal culture, address people by their academic and professional title and their surname until invited to move to a first-name basis” (Kwintessential.co.uk, 2007).
The perception of time and the idea of punctuality is quite unusual in Venezuelans. While all attempts to arrive on time should be made, there is a little more freedom in Venezuela in terms of punctuality. Days of up to 30 minutes are acceptable, even in business meetings. Thus, when arranging meetings, it is important to include the aspect of tardiness. In the United States, individuals are used to firm schedules and appointments, which occur on time, so that everything works fast, whereas in Venezuela, citizens work with other people and need to fix several problems simultaneously, so there are no firm deadlines for completing a particular assignment. In addition, Venezuelans tend to “waste time” socializing before the meeting. They are more inclined to informal communication, so the development of business culture in this country is quite a slow and difficult process. During such talks, it is polite to demonstrate interest in the person’s family members, their health and so forth. Family in Venezuela is considered a central unit of the society, so individuals tend to act in the interests of their household rather than their own ambitions – thus, while meeting a father and daughter, who work for the same organization, it is possible to expect agreement between them.
It is also important to pay attention to gift-giving in Venezuela. Visitors are not supposed to bring gifts, but when invited to a party, for instance, it would be appropriate to send flowers before arriving. When receiving a gift, it is necessary to open it immediately. A “thank you” note should be sent to the gift-giver, as this gesture shows the person’s politeness. Handkerchiefs are considered unlucky and must not be given as gifts.
There are some other aspects of business protocol in Venezuela. For instance, “Venezuelans prefer face-to-face meetings to doing business by telephone or in writing, which are seen as too impersonal. It takes time to develop relationships; Appearances matter in Venezuela. Dress well and try to stay in a reputable hotel. Senior positions in business are predominantly held by the upper class, so it is important that you pay attention to the hierarchy and show appropriate deference and respect” (Kwintessential.co.uk, 2007). Of course, it is necessary to behave politely with all participants of the meeting, but those at senior positions expect special attention. When greeting them, it is vital to mention their position, as they are really proud of their career advancements (career development is a bit slower in Venezuela, so it takes time to grow to the position of an executive); furthermore, after the meeting, it would be useful to send “Thank you” cards to them.
Negotiation in Venezuela might consist if several stages or meetings. It is practically impossible to find consensus at the first or second meeting, as Venezuelans need to get to know their partner, especially the foreigner. It is also important to keep in mind that interpersonal relationships are more valuable in Venezuela than commerce and the related issues, so the efforts to split business partners, whose friendship counts years will meet a very cold response. When explaining one’s own position, it is vital to emphasize the long-term perspectives, so Venezuelans prefer long-term business collaboration.
To sum up, there is a number of business expectations in Venezuelans, not all of them are mandatory for a foreigner, but the common gestures of politeness are likely to enhance business communication and establish positive and productive relationship.
Kwintessential. Cross-cultural solutions. (2007). Venezuela – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. At http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/venezuela-country-profile.html