Argentinian business culture values trust, honour and familiarity. Indeed, the Argentinian culture is relationship-driven, so it is important to spend time building networks and cultivating friendship. Once a relationship has developed, the Argentines may be more loyal to you personally rather than to the company you represent. Flexibility and spontaneity are also qualities that are greatly prized.
Argentinian society in general is very status conscious and local business structures tend to be extremely hierarchical. Decisions are made at the top of the company and business moves slowly because decisions often require several layers of approval. It is imperative to show deference and respect to those in positions of authority. The purpose of meetings is more to discuss and exchange ideas rather than to make decisions. Argentinian companies are often what are usually referred to as "relationship-driven hierarchies". It is crucial to develop close, personal relationships before starting to do business with Argentines. Engaging in courtesy discussions and going for lunch or dinner with your business partner are great ways to socialise and build a strong relationship.
In Argentina, having an Argentinian contact is essential to wading through government bureaucracy. Appointments should be made through a high-level person at least two weeks in advance, by e-mail or telephone, and should be confirmed three days before the date. It is preferable to avoid setting appointments in January and February, which are vacation times; the middle weeks of July, which is when many go skiing; and during the two weeks before and after Christmas.
In Argentina, punctuality is more valued than in other South American countries, but there is often some degree of flexibility. Argentines may not be on time at meetings and agendas are very likely to be ignored. Nonetheless, you should arrive on time and inform your counterpart of any impediment or delay.
Greetings and Titles
When meeting someone for the first time, speaking in Spanish will be highly appreciated, but your interlocutor will quickly suggest switching to another language. Initial greetings are formal and follow a set protocol of greeting the oldest or most important person first. You should give a firm handshake with direct eye contact and a welcoming smile. Argentines usually keep close physical contact when speaking to someone. You should address your counterpart by his name preceded by “Mrs” or “Mr.”
In the context of business relationships, exchanging gifts is rare. Indeed, business gifts are not expected until a fairly close relationship has been formed. In that case, high-quality gifts will be appreciated.
The Argentinian dress code varies depending on the type of business meeting. Apart from finance and investment bank sectors, where suit and tie are expected, there is no particular dress code. For the first meeting, it is recommended to adopt a discreet and stylish, rather conservative style, adapted according to the type of meeting. Men wear classic, dark suits and women wear plain suits.
In Argentina, business cards are exchanged at the beginning of the first meeting without formal ritual. It is normal to read the information written on the card to ensure there is no doubt. You should have one side of your business card translated into Spanish and present it so the Spanish side faces the recipient.
Courtesy is very important in Argentinian business relations and it is advisable to start meetings with a period of small talk about sports or entertainments before getting into business discussions.
It is unlikely that people will have done huge amounts of pre-meeting preparation, so it is advised to come well prepared and to have all printed material available in both English and Spanish.
Argentines are direct communicators but know how to remain tactful and diplomatic. They usually do not hesitate to interrupt, argue or criticise if they feel it is needed. You should stay relaxed and flexible, debate and defend your point of view, and avoid a hard sell approach. Eye contact is helpful to show your sincerity and to build a sense of trust. At the end of the meeting, a very precise written contract will make the agreement official.
It is common to hold business dinners in restaurants. Meals are for socialising and you should avoid talking business unless your Argentinian colleague brings it up. Usually the person who sets the invitation pays the bill.