The culture of Chile

Preparing for Chile

Chile’s population is approximately 14 million with most of the people occupying Santiago, the capital city. The population is made up of mestizos, Indians and people from European descent. The greatest population is mad up of the mestizos who are approximately 95 percent and they are comprised of a mixture of Indians and Europeans. Chile is ethnically homogenous as compared to other countries in South America mainly due to its geographical location (Chile- Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette, 2011).

Spanish is the official language in Chile though English is spoken by the well educated people. Though English is used in most businesses that have international affiliations with other countries, it is a requirement to have Spanish as an additional language if one wishes to capture the market in Chile. This is the most common spoken language spoken and will be a requirement for efficient communication with customers.

According to Chile Culture and Customs (2011) the Roman Catholic Church has influenced the religion in Chile therefore; most people are catholic though there is a small percentage of Protestant. Due to the influence of the Catholic Church, abortion is considered illegal unlike in most countries in America. Divorce was also considered illegal until 2004 when it was made legal. Religious values have shaped the country’s social and political way of life. Religious values are taught in schools and are instilled ion children at a very tender age. Most national holidays in Chile are religious and are greatly celebrated. One should also avoid visiting Chile for business during the months of January and February because most executives are away on holiday and general business is on a slow down.

Chile is a country that has great business opportunities and is a great place for business people to make investments. The economy of the country is stable with low inflation and numerous free trade agreements making Chile the country of choice for many foreign investors. Chile also enjoys political stability in addition to good infrastructure and technological advances that make it a threshold for future success (Doing Business in Chile, 2010).

Chileans enjoy their work and are devoted to the responsibilities given. They are also enthusiastic and energetic in their work though family comes before getting ahead at work. Chileans devote their time to their families and therefore, weekends are considered the time that people spend time with their families. Overtime is not common in Chile because all people are expected to be with their families after work. Arranging for a business meeting past working hours or during the weekend is considered rude (Chile Culture and Customs, 2011). Generally, business customs are like those in European Cities which requires formality.

Businesses in Chile are dominated by a few people who form an association though individual businesses are more centralized. Decisions are made by the top management and promotions are not that common because succession of the business is through the hierarchy system. Decisions making takes a long time because Chileans prefer a business deal that is honest and done without a hurry so one is required to be patient.

Keeping time is very important and it is termed as rude if one is late for a business meeting. It is common to be kept waiting and the person you had an appointment with appears to be busy even if they are not doing anything important. The time spent waiting depends on the importance of the person. If one is very important, then they are never kept waiting. This is however not the case with those companies that are have international affiliations (Doing Business in Chile, 2010). .

During an initial meeting, a firm handshake is important accompanied with a smile. Eye contact is also vital and most of them prefer to stand in close proximity while conversing (Alhstrom & Bruton, 2009). There is exchange of business cards during the first meeting and it is required that you insect the card for a few seconds so as to be familiar with the names and titles of the person you are having the business meeting with. The card should also be kept in good condition because failure to do so will reflect badly on the owner of the card. It is important to address people in Chile with their surname. Chileans use two surnames; one belonging to the father and the other belonging to the mother. The father’s name should always be used to refer to another person and first names should not be used unless one is invited to do so.

A relationship driven culture is emphasized in Chile and so the first business meeting are normally meant to build a relationship and trust. It is therefore not advisable to rush to the intended agenda of the business meeting (Alhstrom & Bruton, 2009). Time should be devoted for informal business meetings and one is not required to change the topic unless the host does. As explored by Martin & Chaney (2006) one should pay attention to hand movement and gestures because they could mean something different in different culture. Interrupting someone while they are speaking is common in Chile and should not be seen as rude. Business meeting here is not well structured and it is possible to discuss several issues at the same time. Time in Chile is not of the essence and it is possible for business meeting to take longer than usual so one is required to be very patient. Decisions are also not made during meetings; the importance of the meeting is to get different views from different people. Decisions are mainly made by the top management and it could take time for them to do so.

The mode of communication is mainly indirect and Chileans can become very assertive when they get emotional. Confrontations are avoided at all costs so as not to risk one’s dignity and honour. It is therefore important for one to fully understand the meaning of people’s statements and actions before confronting them. Open criticism is not well appreciated in Chile it is preferred that it is done in private (Martin & Chaney, 2006). Diplomacy is very essential and just saying “No” is not well appreciated in business dealings. Forcing your views on others and saying “No” openly will cost one friends and business. If a negative answer needs to be given, then it should be done in a diplomatic way to avoid hurting the feelings of others and compromising their dignity. Chileans are honest and conservative and do not like the use of business tactics where deals are made in a rush. Decision-making takes time and one is required to be very patient (Chile- Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette, 2011).

According to Doing Business in Chile (2010) it is common for Chileans not to respond to emails, letters, faxes or phone calls promptly. They take time to give a response unless a definite answer is required. Work allocated is not also done promptly so it is important to make a follow up to ensure that tasks are completed on the stipulated time.

Appearance is very important to Chileans and is part of their life. Dressing is conservative, but sophisticated at the same time. Business suits of are preferable to many men and women. Navy blue is mostly a colour of choice for many which are accompanied by leather shoes for men and heels for women. Men are always seen to wear there jackets despite the weather whenever they step out of the office. Casual Fridays are gradually being introduced in Chile though it is not acceptable in all companies (Doing Business in Chile, 2010).

If a company wishes to send an employee to Chile for the purpose of business, then it is important to offer them training concerning the customs and courtesies of Chile for them to hit the ground running upon arrival. The most important thing to consider before choosing the preferred employee is whether they are familiar with the language spoken in Chile. The employee should have the ability to write, read and converse in Spanish. If not, then they should receive proper training on the basics concerning the language. Spanish is the language that most Chileans are familiar with and if the employee is not conversant with these language, then it would be difficult for them t communicate with the customers.

The employee should be provided with sufficient information concerning the social and business customs of the people in Chile. Business customs in Chile are not similar with those practised in many American countries so it would be vital for the employee to learn as much as they can about the customs in Chile to avoid giving the wrong impression. Patience should also be a virtue because in Chile, time is not of the essence because decision making as well as meetings can take longer than necessary. Gestures are also important and in Chile they could mean differently compared to other countries so it is a requirement to be familiar with the common gestures used and what they mean.

Learning how to behave around Chileans especially in a business meeting is very vital in order to establish a good relationship. Chileans are interested in building a personal relationship before they can embark on doing business and so portraying the right attitude is very important. Being familiar with the attraction sites as well as the history of Chile will give one an upper hand in business meetings because this shows an interest in the country.


Alhstrom, D. & Bruton, G. (2009). International Management: Strategy and Culture in the Emerging World. New York: Cengage Learning. Print.

Chile- Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. Kwintessential. Retrieved January 24, 2011 from HYPERLINK “”

Chile Culture and Customs. Retrieved January 24, 2011 from HYPERLINK “”

Doing Business in Chile. (2010). South America. December 05, 2010. Retrieved from HYPERLINK “”

Martin, J. & Chaney, L. (2006).Global business etiquette: a guide to international communication and customs. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group. Print.