Venezuelan Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • It is important to arrive on time. Venezuelans are generally punctual when it comes to business engagements. Punctuality conveys respect for the person’s time and attention. However, meetings may start or end later than planned. A five-minute delay is forgivable.
  • It is often difficult to schedule meetings in the two weeks before and after Christmas and Carnaval, and three weeks before and after Easter.
  • A standard professional greeting is a handshake. If initiated by them, kiss business acquaintances on the cheek once when greeting.
  • Address people with their appropriate titles and wait for the other party to initiate a transition to first-name basis.
  • It is common to exchange business cards in first meetings.
  • Allow some time for small talk to precede any serious discussion of business. If it is the first time parties have met, this initial acquaintance may absorb the whole meeting.
  • Negotiation can be slow in Venezuelan culture, and it is not uncommon for several meetings to take place without any decisions being made. Be patient with your colleagues, and respect that ideas expressed freely in these meetings are a valuable part of the business process.
  • While they may be indirect in certain communication settings, Venezuelans can become very animated in meetings. Avoid interpreting this to indicate that the meeting is going poorly.


Relationship Building

As with many Latin cultures, Venezuelans are risk averse, which makes it important that they know and trust the people with whom they do business. They are very relationship-oriented in business. Meetings may begin with discussion of common interests in order to foster closer relationships between business partners. It is common and appropriate to socialise with business colleagues outside of work, as a friendship or a close social relationship is likely to improve the quality of a business relationship.


Considerations

  • Use the formal version of the second person singular pronoun (usted) rather than the more casual pronoun () when conducting business or speaking to an older person.
  • Be aware that people may only be able to make short-term promises, as the current instability in Venezuela makes it difficult for businesses to plan far in advance.
  • Venezuelans tend to prefer to be open and honest in business dealings to minimise the possibility of uncertain situations.
  • People usually prefer face-to-face communication. If this option is not available, they generally are more likely to discuss issues over the phone rather than by email. To mediate this balance, try and call as frequently as possible whilst following up conversations with emails summarising the main points.
  • Venezuelans are sensitive about their reputation for corruption, and though it does occur throughout the business and public sectors, it is important to start with the assumption of integrity when conducting business with Venezuelans. However, nepotism is a common and accepted practice, as Venezuelans prefer to conduct business with those they trust.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2017), Venezuela is ranked 169th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 18 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is highly corrupt.
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