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Country Information: Argentina


● The Argentine Mindset
● Characteristics of Society
● Lifestyle & Aspirations
● The Essentials (10 Key Tips)
● Working with the Argentines
● Making a Good Impression
● Business Etiquette
● Business Meeting Culture
● Motivating Others
● Effective Presentations
● Managing Relationships

The Argentine Mindset

Argentines are proud, educated and sophisticated and they identify very strongly with
European traditions. Many Argentines believe Buenos Aires to be the cultural counterpart of
Paris. They are proud of the size and beauty of their country and like visitors to appreciate it.
History and traditions are highly valued.

The most honoured group in Argentine culture is the extended family from which the
individual gains his or her self-identity. The family's status power and welfare comes first.

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Protecting one's honour is of critical importance.

Argentine stereotypes tend to be based on the Porteño, or native of Buenos Aires, and
include perceived preoccupations with football, politics and fast living. The images of sultry
tango dancers and riders on prancing horses are further stereotypes but are less justified. If
Argentines had a choice they would want their stereotype to be of a gaucho, the near-
mythical plainsman who is independent and brave, athletic, a bold warrior, loyal and
generous. The gaucho is the idealised version of a complex historical figure who has become
etched into the Argentine consciousness. Modern Argentines believe that they have
incorporated the values associated with the gaucho into their own system.

The Church and state are officially separate, but about 90% of the population considers itself
Roman Catholic. Jews and Protestants account for about 2% each. There tends to be a
conflict among the forces of feeling, faith and facts. Argentines often look at problems from a
subjective perspective but these feelings are usually influenced by faith in an ideology
(primarily the Catholic Church, or that of a political party).

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Characteristics of Society

When the Spanish were in control of Argentina immigration was restricted to Spaniards. Once
Argentina became an independent nation immigrants from all over Europe, including; the
Spanish, Italian, English, Irish, German, Polish, Jewish and Ukranian were encouraged to
come to Argentina. Immigrants today are more likely to be from the Pacific Rim. Britain has
strong historical ties with Argentina. English is widely spoken and British customs, habits and
fashions are appreciated. Many families have curiously English or Irish-sounding surnames,
like O'Brien.

About 85% of Argentines are of European descent,


primarily Spanish or Italian. Indians, mestizos
(people of mixed Indian and Spanish ancestry), and
black people together make up only 15% of
Argentina's population.

Buenos Aires has the largest number of Jews in Latin America; they are commonly referred
to as los rusos (the Russians) because most of the early Jewish settlers emigrated from
Czarist Russia.

Argentina is a huge country with great stretches of wilderness. About 90% of the population

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lives in urban areas with much of the remaining 10% involved in farming or ranching. The
population of Buenos Aires is 12 million of whom 85% are of European descent. In the
countryside, about 150,000 gauchos (Argentine cowboys) tend 55 million cattle, 30 million
sheep and two million horses.

Families are not especially large nowadays (2.19 children on average) but family ties are
strong and children will often live at home well into adulthood and until they get married. The
elderly are treated with respect and cared for as part of the family unit.

Despite a strong recovery the economic and political crisis of 2001/02 has left its mark in
Argentina, particularly in the form of increased inequality and poverty. With around 35% of
the population living below the poverty line there are occasional outbreaks of social unrest
and demonstrations which at times, turn violent.

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Lifestyle & Aspirations

In Buenos Aires, life revolves around café society, late nights, opera, football, and for many,
dancing. Evenings become active very late; dinner may not start until 9.30pm, followed by a
club. For those with money, the social scene in the city is stylish and sophisticated with a very
European feel.

Family ties are very important and weekends and holidays


are often spent in large family groups.

Domestic tourism has benefited recently as previously


wealthy Argentines can no longer afford trips to their
traditional holiday destinations of Miami, Brazil and the
Dominican Republic. There are therefore, numerous
opportunities to relax in resorts, as well as pursue sports
like riding, mountaineering and hiking. Although
Argentines are primarily city dwellers there is a growing
industry in outdoors and adventure tourism, and many
people are only just beginning to discover their own
country.

Top leisure activities include:

● Football (futbol), both watching and playing.


● Polo - Argentina produces some of the best polo players and ponies in the world.
● Horse racing, rugby and tennis.
● Tango - although this may seem something of a cliché, Buenos Aires is the tango
capital of the world and many Argentines enjoy dancing.
● Jazz.
● Opera.

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● Eating at restaurants and socialising in cafes.

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The Essentials (10 Key Tips)

1. Take time to establish relationships and mutual trust. Be patient, it might take several
trips to complete a deal. Approach business meetings and negotiations as a partner.
If you change the representative of your company, be prepared to start relationship
building again.
2. Remember that at first, greetings might be
quite formal - handshake and nod of the
head. When a relationship has been built,
hugs, slaps on the back, and kisses can be
expected.
3. Greet most people in your business
dealings with their title and surname. Titles
can include Doctor (Ph.D or physician),
Profesor (teacher), Ingeniero (engineer) or
Abrogado (lawyer).
4. Be prepared for a lengthy decision making
process involving several organisational
layers.
5. Dress conservatively - dark suits and ties for men; white blouses and dark suits or
skirts for women.
6. Don't be surprised if your business meeting is at 8 pm. Argentine executives often put
in very long days. Be on time, but be prepared to wait 30 minutes for your counterpart.
7. Be prepared to present a serious, intelligent, articulate argument combined with a
friendly approach.
8. Make appointments through a third party - an enchufado - who has contacts within an
industry. Prior appointments are necessary.
9. Take time for small talk and business entertaining. Argentines are tough negotiators
who do not make concessions quickly or easily. Good relations will shorten
negotiations.
10. Be prepared for lengthy and detailed contracts rather than verbal agreements.

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Working with the Argentines

Despite the past incidences of corruption at high levels, Argentines are considered to be
charming, honourable and rewarding to work with. They are intelligent, well spoken and well-
mannered, with pride and honour being two of the most valued personality traits. In Buenos
Aires, with about 85% of European descent, people have a distinctly European outlook.

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There is a national inclination towards soul-


searching coupled with a melancholic aura, which
adds to the general Argentine charm.

Personal relationships are very important in


business and it is essential to build a network of
contacts. Information is not readily shared thus
networking is the best way to learn about the local
scene. Business entertaining is a way of life in
Buenos Aires. Expect late nights and lavish meals.

Businesses have a strong vertical hierarchy with decision-making from the top, so it is
important to be dealing with the right person. Bosses tend to be autocratic and paternalistic
and Argentine managers, anxious to hold onto what power they have are not inclined to
delegate. Negotiations can therefore be slow and protracted. Meetings are often used as a
forum for debate with different ideas being aired.

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Making a Good Impression

Even if your counterpart speaks Spanish as his or her first language, be aware that the
person may have a mixture of cultural influences - Italian, German, English, French, Russian.
The ancestors of Argentina's former president - Carlos Saul Menem - were from Syria. Give
some consideration to learning some Spanish. A few phrases will be appreciated.

Always address an Argentine formally, using his or


her title and family name (next to last name). A Ph
D or a physician is called Doctor. Teachers prefer
the title Professor, engineers go by Ingeiero,
architects are Arquitecto, and lawyers are
Abogado. Maintain formality in dress, posture and
speech until your counterpart relaxes the
interaction. Your image is important in
communicating your own status. A very British
reserve, complete with formality of dress and
manner, is characteristic of many Argentines.

Try to avoid offering any political/religious opinions. Be especially cautious about praising
Argentina's neighbors (especially Chile). Argentina has fought wars with all of them. Do not
criticize the country's political and economic track record unless you really know your
counterpart well.

Most Argentines are anxious to put the Falkland Islands war behind them, so avoid bringing
the subject up. If it is discussed, however, refer to the islands by their Argentine name, the
Malvinas Islands.

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Argentines appreciate compliments about their children and the meal, and they like to talk
about the beauty of local parks and gardens and their country.

Talking about sports is always a good way to open a conversation. Soccer (called futbol) is
the most popular sport. American football is futbol americano. Horse racing, rugby, tennis,
and polo are also popular. The tango originated in Argentina, and many Argentines
appreciate American jazz.

Many Argentines love opera, so this is a good topic to discuss. Buenos Aires is on the world's
opera circuit and the Colon is one of the finest opera houses in the world. Restaurants and
sightseeing are also good topics.

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Business Etiquette

Business cards

There is no formal custom surrounding the exchange of business cards, but it is good idea to
have an ample supply. Have business cards translated into Spanish on the reverse side if
you have a complicated title.

Body language

Close male friends shake hands or embrace upon meeting;


men kiss close female friends. Close female friends usually kiss
each other. The full embrace (abrazo) may entail a hug, a
handshake and several thumps on the shoulder, ending with
another handshake.

Maintaining eye contact is very important, even when the


person is standing very close. Don't back away. Although many
Argentines demonstrate an almost British reserve they will hold
a conversation at a closer distance than British people or
Americans (often with a hand on the other person's lapel or
shoulder). A pat on the shoulder is a sign of friendship.

Communication style

The style of communication in Argentina is polite, assertive, formal, serious, and often
apparently argumentative. Personal relationships are important and discussion is better than
e-mail correspondence.

Argentines, especially those from Buenos Aires, have a reputation for seriousness and
melancholy. To call someone or something 'not serious' is a major insult. Maintain formality

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during initial meetings until your Argentine counterpart relaxes.

Even if your counterpart speaks Spanish as his or her first language, be aware that the
person may have a mixture of cultural influences - Italian, German, English, French or
Russian. The ancestors of the former Argentine president, Carlos Saul Menem, were from
Syria.

Written communication is implicit and rather stylised and wordy. You may have to learn to
read between the lines.

Gift giving

Gifts are usually exchanged once a relationship has been


established. Tasteful office accessories such as pens or
desktop items are good business gifts. Alternatively, the price of
imported liquor in Argentina makes this a very welcome gift.

Avoid gifts from other countries that are also produced locally,
such as wine. Avoid gifts with your company's logo. If invited to
an Argentine's home, flowers or chocolates for the host are an
acceptable gift.

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Business Meeting Culture

Planning a meeting

It is wise to make your first appointment in Argentina via an enchufado - an individual who
has high level contacts in your industry segment. Make an appointment by phone or email
and reconfirm it before you arrive. You could also take a chance - Argentines are used to
people dropping in without phoning first. If the person isn't in, a note can be left.

Although you may be meeting with people who speak English, give some consideration to
learning Spanish. A few phrases will be appreciated.

The first meeting is always to establish whether you like each other enough to take things
further, so do not expect instant results.

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During a meeting

Don't expect to get down to business straight away. Expect to begin and end with polite small
talk. You can insult Argentine executives by rushing off without chatting at the end of a
meeting.

Visitors are expected to be punctual but do not be


surprised if your Argentine counterpart is late. In
general, the more important a person is, the more
likely it is that they will be late. Subordinates may
arrive first at the meeting with the boss making an
entrance afterwards.

The use of facts and figures to persuade your Argentine counterparts will only be successful
if they do not contradict either feelings or faith. Either way, expect an animated exchange of
ideas often with everybody talking at once. Even during an argument, it is unlikely that a
subordinate will contradict their boss, or that a boss will disparage something prepared by a
subordinate.

Frequent interruptions are possible and people do not consider it rude to take calls on their
mobile phone during a meeting.

After a meeting

It is not unusual for a meeting to continue over lunch, during which your counterpart will
continue to assess you and quiz you on politics, culture and your family. They want to get a
complete picture of you before entering into negotiations.

Follow up meetings with a polite letter of thanks and summary of what was discussed.

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Motivating Others

Argentines are motivated by friendship, respect and family ties. There is a 'work to live',
rather than 'live to work' spirit in business. Quality of life is extremely important to an
Argentine and although many people work extremely hard, they will not be motivated by

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having pressure piled on to the extent that the work-life


balance is upset. Good relationships in the workplace are
another strong motivator; work becomes an extension of the
family and Argentines expect to have close ties to their co-
workers and superiors.

Cooperation in teams works well but Argentines also expect


to be rewarded individually for good performance. Honour
and pride are important values. Competition for good jobs is
tough and unemployment high, so it is important for an
individual's self-worth and personal pride that they are
recognized.

Money is an important motivator, as Argentines like to spend


it on enjoying life. Eating out, travelling and wearing good
clothes all matter, so cash bonuses are an important part of anybody's package. After the
recent economic crisis, a lot of people were forced to take on more than one job in order to
maintain their lifestyle (and sense of pride).

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Effective Presentations

Do not be afraid to display a passion for a product or an idea. Argentines are emotional
people and will respond to this. It is also acceptable to talk about possible downfalls in a
project. Argentines can be fatalistic and sometimes pessimistic and will view something with
suspicion if it appears too positive.

Remember that you are being judged as an


individual, not just a representative of your
company. Dress smartly and make sure any
handouts and visual aids are professional-looking
and pleasing to the eye. Be fully prepared, and
practice your speech so that you come across as
articulate and fluent.

Maintain eye contact with the audience and appear


friendly but professional. If there is someone in the room who is obviously senior make more
eye contact with them than with the other attendees.

Audience expectations

Argentines can become distracted and a speaker will have to be extremely charismatic to
hold the attention of an audience for a long time. In smaller, more informal presentations, the
audience expects to be allowed to interrupt and ask questions and will often go off at a
tangent as new ideas are explored.

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Managing Relationships

Argentine managers are inclined to be paternalistic, delegating power only where they see fit
and using subordinates to train other employees in certain tasks. It is important for a manager
not to be seen to be doing something menial.

Those lower down the hierarchy are often deprived


of information and will turn to their co-workers
rather than to a superior if a problem needs to be
solved. Asking a superior is an admission that they
have not understood something and could reflect
badly on the manager.

Delivering feedback is not an inherent part of


Argentine business culture. Positive feedback is
appreciated, but anything too effusive will be
regarded with suspicion. Negative feedback should be given with great care, i.e. indirectly
and being careful to avoid assigning blame; Argentines like to save face. If there is a
problem, the person whose problem it is should be given a chance to sort it out before
resorting to direct confrontation.

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