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How to Do Business in Argentina

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The People

Argentines are very proud of their country and culture. They are well-educated and sophisticated and like to be viewed as cosmopolitan and progressive. Because 85% of Argentina’s population hails from Italy, Spain, Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, Poland and the Middle East, Argentines tend to identify with Europeans. It has been said that Argentines are a nation of Italians who speak Spanish and think they’re British living in Paris. Predominantly Catholic (93%), families are highly valued and hold conservative values.

Meeting and Greeting

  • A handshake and nod show respect when greeting someone.
  • An embrace and one kiss on the cheek is common between friends and acquaintances.

Body Language

  • Argentines are touchers and stand close to each other when speaking. Do not back away.
  • The “O.K.” and “thumbs up” gestures are considered vulgar.
  • Hitting the palm of the left hand with the right fist means “I don’t believe what you are saying” or “That’s stupid.”

Corporate Culture

  • Personal relationships are important and must be developed before business is done.
  • Argentines often need several meetings and extensive discussion to make deals.
  • Decisions are made at the top. Try to arrange meeting with high-level personnel.
  • Guests at a meeting are greeted and escorted to their chairs. The visiting senior executive is seated opposite the Argentine senior executive.
  • During business meetings, sustain a relaxed manner, maintain eye contact and restrict the use of gestures. Don’t take a hard sell approach.
  • Be prepared for a certain amount of small talk before getting down to business.
  • Argentines are tough negotiators. Concessions will not come quickly or easily. Good relationships with counterparts will shorten negotiations.
  • Contracts are lengthy and detailed. A contract is not final until all of its elements are signed. Any portion can be re-negotiated. Get everything in writing.
  • An Argentine contact is essential to wading through government bureaucracy.
  • Be punctual for business appointments, but prepare to wait thirty minutes for your counterpart, especially if you are meeting an important person.
  • The pace of business in Argentina is slower than in the United States. A meeting that is going well could last much longer than intended, even if it means postponing the next engagement.
  • Make appointments through a high-level person. Your Argentine contact can help with this.
  • Confirm meetings one week in advance.

Dining and Entertainment

  • Meals are for socializing. Refrain from “talking business” unless your Argentine colleague brings it up.
  • Business dinners are generally held in restaurants. When you are the host, arrange payment ahead of time. If this is not possible, insist on paying when the bill comes.
  • Don’t use toothpicks, blow your nose or clear your throat at the table.
  • To summon a waiter, raise your hand with your index finger extended.
  • Do not order imported liquor unless your host does. Taxes are exorbitant.
  • Avoid pouring wine, which is a complex ritual in Argentina.
  • For social events, arrive thirty to sixty minutes late. Arriving at a party on time is impolite.
  • Be on time for lunch appointments, the theater and soccer.


  • Argentines are extremely fashion conscious. Dress well if you want to make a good impression. Conservative, modest clothing is best.
  • Women are expected to dress with a flair that does not detract from professionalism.


  • Do not give personal items, including clothing.
  • When presented with a gift, open it at once and be appreciative.
  • Bring flowers, candy, pastries, chocolates or imported liquor when invited to someone’s home.
  • Business gifts are not expected until a fairly close relationship has been formed.
  • High-quality gifts are appreciated, but very expensive gifts may be interpreted as bribes.

Helpful Hints

  • Don’t be offended by Argentine humor, which may mildly attack your clothing or weight.
  • Always greet officials before asking them questions.
  • Don’t compare Argentina with the United States or with Brazil, which is considered a rival.
  • Avoid talking about Great Britain or the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas). These are sensitive subjects to many Argentines.
  • Be careful when discussing the Perуn years. People either love or hate the Perуns.
  • Although Argentines may be very vocal about politics and religion, avoid adding your opinions to these discussions.

Especially for Women

While machismo persists in Argentina, it is being challenged and women are gaining visibility and influence in politics and business. Argentine businesswomen are similar in status to North American businesswomen.

  • A kiss or a hug is considered a compliment to a woman.
  • Piropos—flirtatious comments—are common. Men may call out “Hey, gorgeous!” while you’re walking down the street. Just smile, say, “Thank you very much” and keep walking.
  • Defensive behavior will damage your credibility. Emphasize status and responsibility.

Mary Bosrock
International Education Systems
1814 Hillcrest Avenue, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55116
Visit our web sites at

Doing Business in Argentina


Are you currently doing business in Argentina, or do you plan to in the near future? Consider this…

  • Argentina is the eighth-largest country by landmass worldwide, and the second-largest country in South America after Brazil.
  • Argentina has the third-largest economy in Central and South America with a high GDP per capita, and it’s is one of the G-20 major economies.
  • Argentina is a country founded on immigration with strong remnants of European cultures. Though Spanish is the official language, English, Italian, German, and French are commonly spoken.
  • Argentina is a major agricultural producer. The country is the third-largest beef exporter in the world after Brazil and Australia. Other major industries include consumer durables, motor vehicles, textiles, petrochemicals, printing, metallurgy, and steel.
  • Argentina is one of the top media markets in Central and South America. It has more than 150 daily newspapers and dozens of commercial radio and TV stations. One of the newspapers, Clarin is the best-selling daily in South America and has the second-highest number of subscribers among Spanish-speaking countries.

With diverse cultures based on European influences and strong economic pull in the region, Argentina is attractive to foreign businesses. However, Argentina has many social and cultural differences compared to the United States. Here are some pointers for successful business relationships!

Important tips

  • Most of the population considers themselves Roman Catholic, which influences basic perceptions and behaviors.
  • Argentines have a different naming structure from other Spanish-speaking countries. They use their father’s surname instead of using both parents’ surnames. When you address people, use job titles with surnames. If your counterpart does not have a professional title, use Mr., Mrs., or Miss with their surnames.
  • Both men and women commonly greet one another by shaking hands and nodding slightly. Close friends kiss each other on the cheek.
  • Compared to North Americans, Argentines speak at a closer distance. If an Argentine puts his or her hand on your shoulder or lapel, don’t be offended. Patting on the shoulder is an expression of friendship.
  • If you give gifts bearing your company logo, the logo should not be obvious. Also, do not give knives; knives signify the end of a friendship.
  • Eating food in the street or on public transportation is considered rude.


  • Appointments should always be made ahead of time.
  • When going to a business meeting, be on time and be prepared to wait patiently. Important people tend to arrive later than the scheduled start time.
  • If you are invited to a social event, ask what time you are expected to show up, not what time the event begins.
  • Keeping irregular business hours is common for executives. Argentine executives often work late, so scheduling a business meeting in the evening is quite acceptable.


  • Make personal contacts who can refer you to business prospects and focus on building your relationship with a prospect before doing business. The higher the level of the prospect, the better.
  • When you are doing business with the Argentine government, you need to have an Argentine contact to introduce you to them. Without this intermediary, you are unlikely to get an appointment.
  • The country is based on bureaucracy; negotiation processes are slower than in the United States. Even after a final decision maker agrees to a contract, that person still needs to get approval from other people.
  • Argentines can be stubborn and have a decided tendency to avoid risk. Expect little yielding in negotiations.
  • Before you sign your final contract, you should be prepared to renegotiate items.


  • Business dinners are common and usually held in restaurants. However, except Buenos Aires, business lunches are uncommon; most people still prefer to go home for lunch.
  • Argentines do not mention business over meals. They believe meals are social events.
  • Dinner is not served before 10:00 p.m. If you have a meeting from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., you will be offered pastries, tea, or coffee. It is polite to accept the offer.
  • Flowers (especially bird of paradise flowers), imported chocolates, and whiskey are the most popular gifts when you are invited to an Argentine’s home. Since Argentina is a major producer of leather, don’t bring leather as a gift.
  • Argentina has the world’s second-highest consumption rate of beef. Many Argentines eat meat twice a day, and most dishes include beef.
  • Argentina has great liquors, including wine. Also, domestic products are cheaper than imported. Usually a host pays for the meals, so don’t order imported liquor without the host’s suggesting it.
  • Don’t pour wine with your left hand; it is considered an insult.

For your business document translation needs in Argentina, contact McElroy Translation. Visit our website to learn more about how we can help you and your company become successful in your international business ventures.

Morrison, Terri, and Wayne A. Conaway (2006). Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, 2nd edition. Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation.


Published - May 2012

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