Venezuela Business Etiquette

Venezuela.jpg

¡Bienvenido a Venezuela! (‘‘Welcome to Venezuela!” in Spanish)

                 Bolivar in his military uniform.  

                 Bolivar in his military uniform.

 

Venezuela, official called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a South American country nestled between Colombia, Brazil, and Guyana. Venezuela was dubbed “Bolivarian” because it is the birth country of Simón Bolivar, the military leader who helped free South America from European rule. Venezuelans are extremely proud of this fact and are a very patriotic people.

Venezuela is one of the more urbanized and industrialized countries in South America. Some of its top industries are petroleum and agriculture. Venezuela is also extremely bio-diverse; in fact, it is considered to be one of the top 17 most mega-diverse countries in the world.   

Before you take a business trip to Venezuela, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Venezuelan business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital of Venezuela is Caracas, which is also its largest city.
  • Although there are over 40 languages spoken in the country, the official language of Venezuela is Spanish.
  • Venezuela is a federal presidential constitutional republic.
  • Venezuela is about 96% Catholic.
  • Fun fact: Venezuela is a little more than twice the size of California.

Dressing Sharp

  • Conservative business attire is the standard in the business setting.
  • Men should wear: quality, dark business suits. It is wise to invest in a lightweight wool suit as the temperatures in Venezuela can be quite high.
  • Women should wear: quality, dark business suits, skirts, or dresses. A polished and elegant presentation is expected of all women.

Make or Break Meetings

  • Meetings should be scheduled well in advance – at least a few weeks. Meetings should also be confirmed by phone or email.
  • Be punctual for all meetings with the Venezuelan party.
  • Business cards should be exchanged at the first meeting. It is wise to print one side of your card in English and the other side in Spanish, out of respect for the Venezuelan party.
  • The first meeting will be formal, and subsequent meetings will be used to discuss ideas.

Dining Decorum

  • Lunches are usually reserved for business conversation, whereas dinners are reserved for socializing.
  • Arrive 15-30 minutes later than the arranged time. Arriving on time is considered distasteful.
  • Do not sit down or begin eating until the host indicates to do so, as there may be arranged seating.
  • Wait until each dinner guest is served until beginning to eat. The host may begin the meal with “buen provecho” (enjoy the meal).
  • Table manners are Continental.
  • Keep you napkin in your lap when eating.
  • When you finish the meal, place your utensils atop your plate.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Acceptable gifts include: a good quality pen, or a bouquet or orchids. (The orchid is the national flower of Venezuela).
  • Do not give a handkerchief as a gift, as this is seen as an unlucky item.
  • If you receive a gift, it is polite to send a "Thank You" card the following day.
  • Gifts are typically opened upon receipt.

Down to Business

  • There will probably not be much small talk before negotiations – Venezuelans like to get down to business.
  • Venezuelans like to make sure that business connections are trustworthy, so there will be several meetings before a decision is reached.
  • The negotiation process will likely be lengthy, so have patience and do not appear overly anxious or hurried.
  • Because companies are hierarchical, decisions will be made by executives.

Now that you're well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Venezuela, don't forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!  

¡Ádios! ("Goodbye!" in Spanish) 

Venezuela flag.gif