Working in Buenos Aires?
Doing Business in Buenos Aires
Basic Business Etiquette
If you are to do business in Buenos Aires successfully, it is essential to familiarize yourself with basic Argentine etiquette. Generally speaking, metropolitan business people are more informal and direct than their counterparts in Argentina’s provinces. Of course, every encounter and interaction is different, but getting acquainted with some general dos and don’ts is a good way of starting out in Buenos Aires.
When meeting and greeting your new Argentine colleagues or business contacts, a handshake is a perfectly acceptable way to introduce yourself. In most cases, giving business people of the opposite sex a light air-kiss on both cheeks is also considered a friendly greeting. You will quickly find yourself on a first-name basis with your colleagues, but hierarchical and formal relationships do remain important. If you are unsure of how to address a contact or superior, you should, at first, use their title followed by their full name, just to be safe.
Small Talk and Socializing
When it comes to small talk, unobtrusive compliments on things you like about Argentina or questions about the national passion, futból (i.e. football/soccer), serve as great ice-breakers. You’d best avoid controversial topics such as politics unless you are among very good friends. Many Argentines are quite well aware of their country’s complicated and troubled past, but debating it with foreigners may be considered airing dirty laundry in public.
During conversations and negotiations, you will quickly notice that a lot of Argentine business people tend to be warm, outgoing, and outspoken. You shouldn’t take it personally if you are interrupted when you are speaking. In most cases, this is not a sign of deliberate rudeness, but rather of involvement in the matter at hand.
Socializing in the workplace and cordial relations within a team, and with other business partners, matter quite a lot in Buenos Aires. As such, you should take the time to establish business relations over coffee in one of Buenos Aires’ lovely cafés or go out with your coworkers for a round of after-work drinks. Even if much of your expatriate life is busy and rushed in the beginning, this approach will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.
Dress to Impress
As for dress code, different companies naturally have different views. In general, however, many porteños usually dress to impress, and to them, appearances do matter to an extent. Of course, flashy clothing and pretentious accessories should be avoided, but it’s hard to go wrong with a fashionable and trendy business outfit.
As far as business values are concerned, Argentines mostly lean towards the conservative side. Many hold loyalty, stability, and consistency in high esteem. Aggressive negotiation tactics or sales pitches are generally not well received. Additionally, a certain amount of bureaucracy and, some would feel, inefficiency is often inevitable when doing business in Argentina.
Rioplatense Spanish – the Language of Business
Many business people in Gran Buenos Aires speak English, but the Argentine variety of Spanish is usually the main language in business contexts. While relying on an interpreter should be adequate for the occasional, shorter business trip, expats working in Buenos Aires fulltime would be wise to acquire at least a decent knowledge of Spanish. This would also increase your chances of finding a job in Buenos Aires as a traveling spouse or a visiting expatriate.
The University of Buenos Aires offers Spanish classes to foreigners who wish to acquire or improve their Spanish language skills. Even if you speak some form of European Spanish, a course in Rioplatense Spanish would be helpful to become acquainted with the markedly distinct local tongue of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It differs from Castilian Spanish in both grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, which may complicate working in Buenos Aires for the non-native speaker at first.
Rather than going to the University of Buenos Aires, expat business people who’d like to brush up on their Spanish may want to look into the city’s many commercial language schools. If you are looking for one-on-one instruction or a language tandem partner in your spare time, try advertising in the Buenos Aires Herald.
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