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Helpful Tips on Business Gift Giving Etiquette in Latin America


Being prepared for an international business meeting requires information and knowledge of what will be discussed or presented at this meeting. A nice social gesture when meeting an international company for the first time, usually, is giving a gift. Take the time to research local customs before making a purchase, though, as some countries find it insulting to receive a gift. Knowing what to do before you go will not only show that you cared enough to learn about your destination’s etiquette, but may also open up all kinds of new doors and opportunities for you and your company.

Many multi-national businesses and their governments have very strict policies when it comes to business associates accepting gifts. Many Asian countries are concerned about corporate corruption and see gift giving as a bribe, so holding off on gift giving until you get to know the company and its policies may be a good idea. You should know that in Malaysia, most businesses require you establish a working relationship with them before giving a gift. Even here in the United States, our government sets a $25 spending limit on how much a business gift can cost.

An important fact to know about Latin American culture is that it is predominantly patriarchal, and very rigid divisions between work and home exist. Men are in business, and women are at home. If you happen to be visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, Nicaragua, or Peru make sure you familiarize yourself with the current affairs and political dealings that are going on within those countries and avoid any discussions about these subjects for it most certainly will destroy any business dealings you hope establish with any companies therein.

When first meeting prospective business clients, handshakes are important so be firm but brief, and always make sure you keep constant eye contact throughout the handshake. When shaking hands with a woman, remember to be courteous and allow her to extend her hand first. Expect the person you’re speaking with to stand close to you and look you in the eyes, don’t move back or break eye contact because you could offend the person talking to you.


Below are some social taboos you should be aware of since using any of the following gestures can cause problems.

1. The “OK” sign made with your forefinger and thumb is an offensive gesture in Brazil.

2. Placing your hands on your hips in Argentina means you’re signaling a challenge.

3. Raising your fist to your head in Chile is a sign of Communism.

Latin America enjoys the business lunch and they are usually pretty long, at least two hours or longer. Dinners are considered purely social events and start late at night, usually around 10:00 or 11:00 pm. When at a social dinner, remember to keep your hands above the table at all times when eating and always pass food with your right hand



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