Although beset by numerous economic, political and social difficulties, Argentina remains a country which holds vast potential for the careful, well-prepared business investor.
Historical factors have made Argentines unsure of the long-term and are, therefore, often happiest when focussing on shorter-term issues.
People in the country are very status conscious and this feeds through into their attitudes to business and corporate structures.
Do not assume that a published organisation chart necessarily reflects the actual structure of the organisation. Complex webs of relationships can often distort things and power does not necessarily lie in the hands of the most obvious person.
Make sure you are dealing with the real decision-maker and not just somebody you assume ought to be the decision-maker.
Managers are expected to manage and decisiveness and clear instructions are expected and respected.
Managers and subordinates will develop very close personal bonds. The manager is expected to take a deep interest in the interests and well-being of subordinates.
Greater emphasis is placed upon the spoken than the written word. Don’t rely solely on email to convey a message — follow up with a phone call or a meeting.
It is difficult to arrange meetings too far in advance. If you do arrange meetings well in advance, don’t be surprised if they are postponed nearer to the date. (Another example of Argentine short-termism.)
Expect meetings to commence with quite a lot of small-talk. View this as an important element of the meeting — don’t be impatient and try to rush it.
It is unlikely that people will have done huge amounts of pre-meeting preparation. Flexibility of thought and action are highly prized.
Punctuality is somewhat better than in some other South American countries but you cannot assume that a meeting will start and finish on time.
English language levels are generally good and many people can speak either Italian or German (as well, of course, as Spanish.)
Open, free debate is viewed positively and you are expected to express your opinions strongly. However, this should never be done if it is likely to lead to a direct confrontation. Remember how vital the relationship is and never do anything to jeopardise it.
Expect meetings to be noisy, lively events with several people speaking at once, frequent interruptions and extensive use of gesture and exaggerated body language.
Do not be put off by people standing in close proximity to you or by strong levels of eye contact — this is normal in Argentina and should not be viewed as threatening or invasive.
It is common for people to refer to each other through the use of surnames rather than first names. This is a sign of respect rather than aloofness.
Female business visitors can expect to be treated with politeness and respect — although they are unlikely to meet other senior women within their Argentine counterpart.
Dress smartly and soberly as you will be judged partly on your appearance.
Avoid discussing issues such as past political problems, South American levels of poverty or the Falklands/Malvinas.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Argentina. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Argentina and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: