Doing business in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is made up of Latin culture influenced by its close association with the USA. This results in a blend of Latin American characteristics and North American drive. Expats should be aware of cross-cultural sensitivity, and maintain an awareness of etiquette and customs. 

Puerto Ricans are hierarchical, and therefore prefer to do business with family (or familia). This can also include extended family and friends. 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. 

Puerto Rico ranks 57th out of 189 on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey for 2016. Sectors in which the country thrived include getting credit (7th) and resolving insolvency (7th). On the other hand, areas that were lacking significantly include registering property (164th) and dealing with construction permits (135th). 


Fast facts

Business hours 

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

Business language

Both Spanish and English are used. 

Dress

The dress code is relatively formal, depending on the sector. However because of the heat, strict dress codes are generally not enforced.

Gifts

It is not common to bring gifts to an initial business meeting, although they will be welcome. It is best to avoid anything to 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, the spirit of machismo is still prevalent on the island. However, Puerto Rican men are used to seeing women in positions of power and authority. 

Deadlines

Deadlines can be fluid in Puerto Ricans, and therefore 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.


Business culture in Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, as in other hierarchical societies, the managers tend to take on a paternalistic attitude to their employees. This can result in managers going beyond their duties at work to help in with outside factors like family, health and housing. Expats should see this as a sign of acceptance. 

When meeting people in a workplace environment for the first time, it is best to address them by their professional title or by Señor or Señora (Mr and Mrs) or Señorita (Miss) followed by their surname. Shaking hands is common for both men and women. Older people are usually introduced first, and it is common for friends to kiss each other on the cheek. Expats should note that Puerto Ricans are demonstrative people, often smiling, standing close and touching. Puerto Ricans tend to be direct, and avoid skirting around an issue in order to do so. 


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

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

  • Don't sit or stand with your arms crossed as this is considered challenging or aggressive.

  • Do be aware that Puerto Ricans consider their country to be part of the United States, so refrain from saying anything offensive about the U.S.

  • Don't expect business meetings to start on time

  • Don’t offer your best deal upfront, as negotiations usually begin with small talk and can end with a hard sell.

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

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

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