Doing business in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican business culture is a unique blend of Latin American characteristics and North American drive. Expats doing business in Puerto Rico should be aware of cross-cultural sensitivity, and maintain an awareness of etiquette and customs. 

Puerto Rico ranked 64th out of 190 on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for 2019. The country did well in subcategories such as getting credit (3rd) and resolving insolvency (10th). On the other hand, areas that were lacking significantly include dealing with construction permits (141st) and paying taxes (162nd). 


Fast facts

Business hours 

9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Some businesses are open on Saturdays for a half-day. 

Business language

Both Spanish and English are used. 

Dress

Varies depending on the industry. Businesspeople tend to dress in dark suits while workwear in other sectors is often much more casual.

Gifts

Gifts aren't expected but will be welcomed if given. It is best to avoid anything too expensive. If invited to a Puerto Rican home, gifts like a bottle of wine, flowers or chocolates are safe choices. They are usually opened when received.

Gender equality

Although Puerto Ricans value equality, machismo is still prevalent on the island and women are underrepresented in leadership positions.


Business culture in Puerto Rico

Hierarchy

Puerto Ricans value the concept of family highly, and this extends into business. Puerto Ricans therefore prefer to do business with those they know and trust. This can also include extended family and friends.

In addition, there is a tendency for Puerto Ricans to treat their business colleagues as family, which requires getting to know colleagues well. This can result in long lunches and dinners that go beyond normal working hours. These informal meetings allow expats to build up credibility and establish trust. 

Communication

When meeting people in a workplace environment for the first time, it is best to address them by their professional title or by Señor (Mr), Señora (Mrs) or Señorita (Miss) followed by their surname. Shaking hands is common for both men and women.

Puerto Ricans tend to be direct and won't skirt around an issue. They are demonstrative people, often smiling, standing close and touching.

Time

Deadlines can be fluid in Puerto Rico, and expats should be prepared for this. Even if deadlines are set well in advance, expats should be aware that these are regarded as flexible. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross-culture management.


Do's and don'ts of business in Puerto Rico

  • Do be formal at first and don’t use first names unless invited to do so

  • Don't expect business meetings to start on time

  • Don’t talk about Puerto Rico’s status as a US territory as this is a sensitive and controversial topic

  • Do broach small talk conversations with topics like sports and travel

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