Traditional Peruvian Worldview

Group Orientation 

Emphasis on family and group affiliation. Individuals are responsible for their own decisions, but the best interest of the family or group heavily influences behavior.

Working together, maintaining harmony and “face” to protect the feelings of the individuals and feeling of well-being of the group.

Relationship Orientation 
Relationships are key to successful business and social interaction.

Structured hierarchy is accepted and adhered to. Sense of “place” based on ethnic origin, age, socio-economic status and position within a company form the framework for relationships.

Need for Certainty 
Rules and regulations ensure that expectations are not ambiguous. Flexibility and need for change are accepted within a well-managed framework.

Rules do not apply to all individuals 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.

Cultural Notes:

  • Peru’s population is ethnically diverse: approximately 45% descendants of the Inca Empire; 37% is of mixed indigenous and European heritage (Mestizos) and 15% is of purely European descent (mostly Spanish).
  • The official languages are Spanish and Quechua. Aymara is also officially recognized. Spanish is the language of business and government. Approximately 40 languages are spoken in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Traditionally there has been tension between Peru’s indigenous and European populations.

Cultural Assumptions

  • Family is the most important social unit
  • Informal, personal style — the “llano” approach — is the best way to get to know people and establish relationships
  • Time is fluid and cannot be strictly managed
  • Everyone has a proper place within the group
  • Pride in their rich cultural history
  • Aesthetics are important to quality of life
  • Friendliness and hospitality

Traditional Peruvian Communication Style

While conversation may feel direct at times because of Peruvians’ willingness to dis-cuss personal topics, care is taken to maintain harmony and avoid topics of disagree-ment or conflict.

High Context / Low Context 
Because of the diverse ethnic make-up of Peru, communication is lower context than in some of the other Latin American cultures. However, within ethnic groups, commu-nication remains high context and the message is not always found in words alone.

Friendliness and warmth are expected, but extreme expression of emotion, especially anger, is seen as immature and unprofessional.

Interactions are in many ways relaxed and friendly as Peruvians work to establish rela-tionships. At the same time, following the patterns of hierarchy requires use of formal titles and respectful communication.


Guidelines for Communicating with Peruvians

  • Business relationships are based on trust and familiarity. Be prepared to spend time developing relationships.
  • Ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer as Peruvians may give the answer they believe you would like in order to be friendly and maintain harmony
  • Business is typically conducted in Spanish. Although Peruvian colleagues may communicate with you in English, it is important to check for understanding since English may be their third language (after Quechua and Spanish)
  • Impromptu business visits or attempts to set appointments quickly are not usually welcomed.
  • Conversation should always remain friendly and enable both parties to maintain face. Direct confrontation should be avoided.
  • Use titles and other formalities until invited to address someone by first name.
  • Demonstrate a genuine interest in the country and its history, but avoid discussion of politics and racial divisions.
  • Be prepared to mix business and personal conversation topics.

Non-Verbal Dynamics

Lightly tapping the head signals “I’m thinking.” The US American “okay” gesture of the thumb and index finger forming a circle is considered rude in Peru. Maintaining eye contact is important and seen as a sign of trust. Peruvians tend to be animated and use a lot of hand gesturing as they speak.

Men and women shake hands in greeting and parting. Men embrace close friends or pat them on the back. Women kiss one another on the cheek. Members of the same sex often walk arm in arm. People who know each other well may touch lightly on the arm or shoulder when speaking.

Space between individuals is relatively close. It is considered rude to pull back from someone, signifying you find it offensive to be near them. Most living spaces are small and may include extended family. Peruvians 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 may be slow.
MOTIVATING PEOPLE Job security, superior’s interest in personal well-being, and limiting risk through clear direction
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 Long and often drawn out. Several meetings may be required before striking a deal. Relationships are key and who you know may play as important a role as what you are offering or requesting.
DECISION MAKING PROCESS Decisions are made from the top. Pre-meetings and less formal discussions may enable subordinates to express views. But 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.
Respect for authority in return for patriarchal attention to subordinates.
HIRING Hiring is based on qualifications, but with a heavy emphasis on connections and who the applicant knows and the relationship to others inside of 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.