Chile Worldview

Group Orientation
Familyis the first and most important consideration in Chileand may often take priority over business commitments.

Emphasis on working together and maintaining harmony and “face.” . At the same time individual initiative is valued as long as harmony is preserved.

Relationship Orientation 
Relationships are key to successful business and social interaction. Pitutos — connections — are key to social and business success.

Structured hierarchy is accepted within families and the workplace. Traditional supervisors are autocratic and paternalistic — demanding respect but offering concern and assistance in return, often beyond the workplace

Need for Certainty 
Taking risks, even to seize business opportunities, is often viewed negatively. Losing face through personal failure is a strong deterrent. All business negotiations must be legally documented.

Not all of the rules apply to everyone all of the time.. Depends on relationship and place in the hierarchy.

Fluid Time 
Business meetings and social functions often begin and end late. Family and other relationship obligations cause frequent re-prioritization. Punctuality is seen more in modern business than in social situations. Outsiders are expected to be punctual.

Cultural Notes:

  • Chile’s populations is about 17.1 million; about 5 million live in the Capital City of Santiago.
  • 95% of Chile’s population is Mestizo—mixed European and native Indian.
  • Chile is proud of its literacy achievements and has had two Nobel Prize winning poets: Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.

Cultural Assumptions

  • Family is the most important social unit
  • Respect and loyalty to family, colleagues and “pitutos” (connections)
  • Years of human rights abuses under previous dictatorships has led to a strong sense of social justice
  • About 70% of citizens are Roman Catholic and adhere to its rules and traditions
  • Great pride in Chilean literature, music and dance and the culture of Chile (and appreciative of outsiders’ recognition of the country’s accomplishments)
  • Formality, kindness, style and manners balanced with a bit of cynical or self-deprecating humor
  • Long-term commitment to personal and professional relationships
  • Pride in European heritage

Guidelines for Communicating with Chileans

  • Business relationships are based on trust and familiarity. Be prepared to spend time developing relationships by discussing topics not related to work.
  • Demonstrate a genuine interest in the country and its history, and in people’s lives outside of the workplace.
  • Ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer as people may give the answer they believe you would like in order to be friendly and maintain harmony Carry a lot of business cards because they are exchanged frequently. Place them in a card case, not your pocket, to show respect.
  • Conversation should always remain friendly and enable both parties to maintain face. Direct confrontation should be avoided, especially in groups Use titles and other formalities until invited to address someone by first name.
  • Self-deprecating humor about themselves and their country is common, but not an invitation for you to join in the criticism!. Be prepared to mix business and personal conversation topics. The Spanish of Chile is called Castellaño. Try to learn some Spanish and consider having an interpreter for important meetings.
  • Always identify the most senior person in the room, and try to establish a relationship with that person as they will likely be the key decision maker

Non-Verbal Dynamics

Eye contact and formal posture (no hands in pockets) are important because they send a message about respect for oneself and others. People hand rather than toss items to one another. Beckoning someone with the palm up and moving one or all finger toward yourself invites a fight (rather than simply asking someone to come toward you).

When entering a meeting, party or other group of people it is important to shake hands with each person. Close friends and colleagues use the “abrazo” — a handshake and hug often followed by a kiss or air kiss to the right cheek. Woman often air kiss both men and women, but most men will hand shake and possibly hug, but only kiss with close friends and family.

Space between individuals is relatively close. It is considered rude to pull back from someone, because it may be perceived that you find it offensive to be near them. Most living spaces are small and may include extended family. Chileans are also generally comfortable with being close in public spaces.

Business Practices

PROBLEM SOLVING Difficult to identify problems directly as no one wants to raise problematic issues. Problems are addressed as group issue. Mandates come from above. Process structured, detailed and complex.
MOTIVATING PEOPLE Pleasant, friendly work environment and feeling like a valued part of the team. Also, financial rewards, increased status and loyalty from employer. Recognition very important, individuals, relationships, and performance are important.
APPRAISING PERFORMANCE Based on job performance, but also takes into account ability to fit into the team.
PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS Respectful of company hierarchy. Follow through on given tasks and work harmoniously with the team.
NEGOTIATING/PERSUADING Important to have a negotiating team, since Chilean side will likely have a team. Hard sell is not effective; instead win-win benefits of working together is emphasized. Follow up, as “yes” may not be final.
DECISION MAKING Decisions are made from the top. Pre-meetings and less formal discussions may enable subordinates to express views. However, decisions themselves are made by superiors.
PARTICIPATION IN MEETINGS May appear to be somewhat relaxed, friendly and informal. However, rules of hierarchy apply, and it is important to be aware that only what is said by those with authority will translate into decisions and results.
Deference to those in authority in exchange for loyalty and care from superiors.
HIRING / DISMISSAL Hiring is based on qualifications, but with a heavy emphasis on connections and who the applicant knows and the relationship to others inside or outside of the organization. Dismissal must take into account the impact on the company’s reputation and group morale.
CUSTOMER RELATIONS Development of long-term relationships. Relationships may be more important than price of the product. Expect to socialize as part of business.