Chile is a country that is developing at a fast pace, modernizing and developing, while still conserving its traditional values and traditions. When people first visit Chile, they are often confronted with both its traditions and progress, which can often be conflicting. If you are considering visiting Chile, or conducting business there, here are the key things you may need to know.
One of the first things visitors to Chile notice is that Chilean people tend to look more ‘European’ compared to their neighbours in Bolivia and Peru. There is a large German community, some British descendants as well as Basques, Italians and French. A small Jewish community has also been established in the region. After the economic struggle in Argentina, many Argentinians moved to the country and in recent years, there has been an increase in Asian immigration.
When it comes to religion, around 70% of those 14 and over are Catholic, while 15% identify as Protestant. The final 15% are a mixture of different religions and other types of Christianity such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Chile has some strict laws, especially if you plan to work or study in the country. To get permission to do this, you will need to complete many legal and administrative tasks including sending documents for approval. This process can be lengthy. In recent years, however, the process has been simplified and many tasks can now be completed online. Any documents that are requested generally need to be notarized.
Socializing in Chile
One thing that many visitors to Chile notice is that Chileans generally have a smaller personal space and are more likely to stand or sit close to you. This is normal but does take some getting used to. The Chilean people are both welcoming and warm and focus on making personal connections whether in their home or when conducting business. Chilean people will appreciate if you take an interest in their family, culture and country.
Visiting A Chilean Home
Chileans will often invite you to their homes to express their hospitality in order to make you feel welcome. Generally, dinner is served later in the evening between 9 and 10.30pm. When you arrive, ensure you are around 15 minutes early and dressed smartly. It is custom to bring a small gift such as chocolate, flowers or wine for the hostess. Once the dinner has finished, state that you are leaving around 15 minutes before you plan to.
Manners, Greetings and Customs
As well as bringing gifts for the hostess, there are a number ofother customs and rules to follow when spending time in Chile. When it comes to manners, it is important to cover your mouth when yawning, and chewing gum should not happen in a workplace. Do not wear hats inside and do not walk barefoot inside someone’s home as this is seen as extremely rude.
When greeting others, women traditionally kiss on the cheek, while men will shake hands in format settings but hug close friends.
Business in Chile
Out of all the countries in Latin America, Chile has the highest percentage of GDP that gets the highest level of foreign investment. Countries such as the UK, USA, Canada, Finland and Japan are the highest investors however, businesses from around the world work in Chile.
Chile is attractive to businesses due to its low operational costs, high educational standards and great infrastructure. Some of the most popular sectors to work in is mining, energy, telecoms and forestry.
Business meetings are generally held in the office in Chile, rather than over lunch. Chileans are one of the countries with the highest number of working hours every year – sitting at around 2000 hours in this time period. Their productivity levels, however, remain about the same as many other nations.
Chileans value their time, so it is important that you are punctual and greet the person with a professional handshake. If you are meeting with a close associate, then you may have a more casual greeting.
When sitting down to discuss business, do not simple dive in to complex matters. Instead, begin with some friendly chat – asking how their family is or discuss common grounds of interest. This helps form those personal relationships that are important within Chilean business. Asking about the country allows a person to know that you are interested in taking the time to learn and gives your business partner some time to show off their knowledge. Ideally, speaking Spanish is a great advantage, and shows that you are serious about conducting business in the region. While most Chileans with an education will have learned English, they may not be fluent so knowing the language will be an asset.
When it comes to business cards, leaflets and paperwork the style should be plain and understated as many Chileans believe that it being fancy is not tasteful. During your discussions, be very clear about what you are agreeing on, with no implications of bribery or bargaining as this is considered a serious crime.
If you are working on a joint project with a Chilean company, generally one or two staff members will become the leaders of the task, taking on the responsibility for deadlines and communicating with others. This means that if issues arise, the one or two leaders are the ones to deal with it and if you have any questions about the project, you should go to them. This will mean you get an accurate answer from those who are most involved.
Finally, it is important to consider dress code in the Chilean business world. Generally, compared to other countries, office wear in Chile will be smarter than usual in a professional environment. Due to the heat in the summer, however short sleeved shirts are commonplace. For business, a jacket and tie are worn often with navy being the most common color. Women dress more conservatively in dresses or skirts mainly or have a uniform to follow.