Doing Business in Argentina
Expats doing business in Argentina will quickly learn that this South American country values personal relationships, respects the senior members of the corporate world and identifies more with its European roots than the Latin American influence in the country.
In economic terms, Argentina is a force to be reckoned with. It is the second largest economy in South America, with its primary industries being agriculture, information and communication technology (ICT) and tourism.
Argentina is ranked 117th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018. The country performed reasonably well in the categories of protecting minority investors (43) and getting credit (77).
Language of business
Spanish is Argentina’s official language, but it is slightly different to the Spanish spoken in Spain. English is widely spoken in large cities like Buenos Aires, but less so in outlying areas. Business is conducted in Spanish and expats who do not have a good grasp of the language will need an interpreter.
A simple handshake with eye contact is the preferred business greeting in Argentina, with the oldest or most senior associate greeted first.
Business hours in Argentina are traditionally from 8am to 9pm, with a three- or four-hour siesta in the middle of the day. This schedule, however, is more common for shops in the provinces; the corporate world and shops in the cities tend to stick to the more conventional 8am to 5pm working day.
Business attire in Argentina is usually formal and conservative. Men should wear dark business suits and women should wear suits or tasteful dresses. It is important to look stylish and presentable, as appearance is important to Argentinians.
Gifts are not expected in a business setting until a close relationship is formed. Expats should not give expensive gifts, as they may be interpreted as bribes. It is inappropriate for a female to give a male colleague a gift, as it may be seen as a personal gesture. A bottle of imported spirits is a gift that is usually appreciated, as taxes on spirits in Argentina are high. Gifts should be opened immediately when they are received.
Women have equal rights in Argentina and it's not unusual to find women in high-ranking positions within both the political and business spheres.
Business culture in Argentina
Argentinians are generally family-orientated people, which translates into the way they conduct business. Close, personal relationships are valued, respect is given to older associates and more loyalty is shown to individual people than to companies as a whole.
It is extremely important for expats to network and build meaningful relationships if they want to succeed in the business world in Argentina. Interestingly, nepotism and name-dropping are not frowned upon and even though it might feel strange at first, expats should feel free to use both these tools to their advantage.
Honour is incredibly important in Argentina's culture. It is therefore frowned upon to publicly criticise or correct a business associate. Despite this, Argentinians can be quite direct and sometimes blunt, but they still manage to be tactful.
Expats will soon realise that Argentinians are passionate and use many gestures to bring their point across. Personal space is virtually non-existent and touching is not uncommon during a conversation. When greeting, a standard handshake is appropriate and eye contact is important. If possible, expats should greet the oldest or most important person in the room first, as a sign of respect.
When arranging a business meeting in Argentina, it is necessary to make an appointment one or two weeks before the intended meeting. This appointment should be made by email or telephone; however, the actual meeting should always be face to face, as telephonic meetings or written communication is seen as overly impersonal.
Expats should always be on time for meetings, even though your Argentinian colleagues might not show the same courtesy. It is common for meetings to begin with some small talk to break the ice and jumping right into discussing business may seem impolite.
It is a good idea to have any documents available in both English and Spanish; the same applies to business cards.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Argentina
Do have business cards printed in both Spanish and English
Don’t use one finger to point, but rather use the whole hand
Do make an effort to learn Spanish; it will go a long way with Argentine co-workers
Do arrive on time for meetings
Do use Señor or Señora to address colleagues if their exact title is not known
Don’t be afraid to socialise with colleagues; it is common for business associates to be friends outside of the workplace
Do respect those in positions of authority