Doing Business in Argentina

Expats moving to Argentina will have to adjust to the business culture
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 121st out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2016, marking a slight drop from its 2015 ranking of 117th. The country performed reasonably well in the categories of enforcing contracts (38) and protecting minority investors (49).
 

Fast facts

 

Language of business

Spanish is Argentina’s official language, but it is 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.
 

Greeting

A simple handshake with eye contact is the preferred business greeting in Argentina, with the oldest or most senior associate greeted first. 
 

Business hours

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 dress

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

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.
 

Gender equality

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.
 

Relationships

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 Argentine 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. 
 

Communications

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. 
 

Business meetings

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 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

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