Chilean Culture

Business Culture


  • Punctuality is respected and expected in a business setting. However, it is not uncommon for Chileans to arrive 30 minutes after the designated time.
  • In a business setting, people are usually greeted with a firm handshake accompanied with a smile and eye contact.
  • When addressing someone, Chileans tend to use their counterpart’s title followed by their surname. First names are not used until invited to do so.
  • Business cards are often exchanged at the beginning of the initial meeting.
  • Meetings may not be rigidly structured or conform to an agenda. Multiple issues might be addressed at the same time or as they arise throughout the meeting.
  • During a meeting, people may interrupt one another. This is not considered disrespectful but rather a way of showing interest and enthusiasm.
  • Chileans have a flexible approach to time. Thus, meetings may not run on time by possibly starting late and having no established end time.
  • Decisions are generally not made during meetings. Provide all necessary information during the meeting to assist the head decision-maker.
  • The decision-making process is centralised, whereby most decisions are made by those higher up in the company. This will slowly trickle down the longer the two companies are engaged in business with one another.

Relationship Oriented

Chilean culture tends to be relationship-driven and this is reflected in Chilean business culture. Becoming familiar and developing a personal relationship with your business partner is important before undertaking any significant business dealings. Initial meetings are generally used to begin building a relationship and to establish trust with potential business partners. Time is often devoted to non-business discussions to help this process. Most meetings after that will contain light conversation before discussing business matters. Social activities outside the work environment such as dinner or sporting activities are seen as a good way to build rapport with business partners.


The belief that favourable results are produced according to whom one knows is closely related to Chileans’ tendency towards building relationships. The word ‘pitutos’ refers to contacts or connections one has in a business setting. Chileans may use pitutos to speed up procedures, to get introduced to a company or to gain favourable contractual terms. While professionalism and knowledge are highly valued, a ‘buen pituto’ (‘good connection’) often provides one extra protection and a way to speed up their career. For many, is positively received and is believed to guarantee trust. Many Chileans believe that these personal relationships are the key to creating opportunities.

Communication Approach

In a business setting, communication tends to be attuned to people's feelings and emotions. Chileans will often avoid confrontation or criticism to avoid jeopardising another's honour or dignity. At times, this requires one to read between the lines to fully make sense of their Chilean counterpart’s intentions. Many frown upon hard-sell approaches and aggressive behaviour. Although Chileans tend to be quite formal in a business setting, Chileans also appreciate a bit of humour when communicating with others.


  • Chileans tend to pride themselves on dressing well. Dress attire is similar to the English-speaking West’s expectations of dress in a business setting. It is advisable for men to wear conservative, dark-coloured suits. A suit or dress that is elegant is advisable for women.
  • While senior leaders often speak fluent English, Australian companies would benefit from having staff or partners that can speak Spanish. One reason is that at middle management levels, most communication is done in Spanish. This is also the level at which many negotiations are conducted.
  • Conducting business face-to-face rather than over the phone or email is highly valued.
  • Keep yours and your Chilean counterpart’s business cards in good condition. A poorly looked after card will reflect badly on you.
  • If possible, try to have one side of your business card translated into Spanish.
  • On the (2016), Chile ranks 26th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 67 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat clean from corruption.

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