Working in Buenos Aires
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Find out how to get a job and work in Buenos Aires
Are you excited about the prospect of working in Buenos Aires as an expatriate? In our City Guide, you can explore the metropolitan region’s economy and its career opportunities. We also offer a quick overview of Argentine business etiquette for foreign professionals working in Buenos Aires.
Employment in Buenos Aires
Argentina seems to have overcome the recent crises and job opportunities are improving. For Buenos Aires in particular, the service sector is especially strong.
In terms of business etiquette, avoid being brash or abrupt with colleagues or clients. The dress code for most businesses is smart, but anything too flashy will get you a few odd looks.
Although many business professionals in Buenos Aires speak English, it is advised to take a short course and to learn the basics of Rioplatense Spanish, even just to be polite.
For many expats, working in Buenos Aires has again become a viable career option, thanks to the gradual recovery of Argentina’s economy. You can read about the country’s recent financial crises in our article on working in Argentina. The nation’s economic situation seems to be improving, even though capital flight and inflation continue to worry experts. Skilled expats can no doubt profit from the capital’s part in current and future growth industries.
In 2011, Argentina’s economic growth rate was estimated at nearly 9%. Major sectors like agriculture, transport and shipping, food processing, as well as various manufacturing industries likely benefitted from this development. And, as unemployment figures seem to be at their lowest in 20 years according to the World Bank (about 7% as of 2012), these fields offer jobs to people working in Buenos Aires and the provinces.
Unfortunately, though, GDP growth hasn’t reached the same heights since, and is estimated to stand at just 0.7% at the end of 2016. The new drive for economic growth with social inclusion has helped the unemployment rate in Argentina, which stood at 7.5% in 2016.
Mechanical engineering, biotechnology, energy production, the mining industry, and IT/mobile communications are all sectors with potential to grow. Expatriates with professional experience in these fields could have a good chance of working in Buenos Aires.
It is not only trade relations with Brazil that could be of interest to job seekers from abroad. Argentina exports a great deal of goods to China, the EU (especially Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands), Chile, as well as the United States. Expertise in commerce between Argentina and one of these countries could also be a stepping stone to working in Buenos Aires.
Laying Down The Law
Working in Buenos Aires requires you to have a work permit and an employment visa for Argentina. Whether you can obtain these depends on your becoming part of an intra-company transfer to Buenos Aires or having a job offer from a company based there. You have to fulfill one of these conditions before you can take care of the administrative matters and start working in Buenos Aires.
The work permit is a special category of the permiso de ingreso (entry permit) from the National Immigration Office. Ask your employer in Buenos Aires or an Argentine immigration lawyer if they can help you handle the considerable paperwork involved. If you are a resident of a MERCOSUR member state, however, you do not need such a permit.
You can find further information on the permiso de ingreso in our article on moving to Argentina.
Industries and Service Sector
If you have managed to find employment that entails working in Buenos Aires, you will be moving to Argentina’s center of trade, commerce, and industry. The bustling harbor in the Puerto Nuevo neighborhood is the most important maritime port in the country, providing jobs for many in Buenos Aires’ shipping industries.
Most expats are working in Buenos Aires’ service industry. Overall, services account for over 62% of Argentina’s GDP output, and this number is naturally even higher for Buenos Aires. In addition to the growing tourism and hospitality sector, the creative industries and, most importantly, finance and real estate play important roles.
Buenos Aires’ central business district houses the country’s stock exchange, the national bank, as well as international banking firms such as Citibank. San Nicolás is also home to global players such as Microsoft and IBM, other potential employers for expatriates working in Buenos Aires.
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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.