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Travel in Latin America

Uruguay Business Etiquette
By:Cate Rushton

Uruguay is a stable country with a strong middle class and a good place for foreigners to pursue business. According to the U.S. Department of State, "The investment climate is generally positive. Investments are allowed without prior authorization, foreign and national investors are treated alike, and there is fully free remittance of capital and profits." Uruguay has one of the most educated populations in South America; the country boasts an overall 98% literacy rate.

Dress and Appearance
Despite the popularity of bright colored clothing in other parts of South America, business people dress conservatively in Uruguay. Wear a suit and tie of muted, dark colors to meetings.

During hot summer months, your hosts may remove their jackets and ties. Follow their lead and do the same if this is the case.

In keeping with tradition of South American business meetings, Uruguayans are typically tardy for business meetings. You should be punctual, but be prepared to wait for your hosts.

Make small talk before getting down to business. Uruguayans prefer to form relationships with clients and will want to get to know you. Family is very important in Uruguay; be prepared for your hosts to ask you personal questions about your family life.

Though many Uruguayan business people speak English, you will most likely need a translator.

Have plenty of business cards on hand. Print one side in English and the other in Spanish.

Present all materials in Spanish.

Uruguayans dine late; typically around 9 or 10 p.m. Plan to arrive at least a half-hour later than the invitation states.

Lunch is a typical business meal; dinner is for socializing only.

It is extremely rude to use a toothpick in public while in this country.

Tips and Taboos
Though Uruguay is a friendly country, people do not typically talk to strangers on the street. Refrain from smiling at people on the bus or street; your gesture may be misunderstood.

The "OK" hand gesture has a vulgar meaning in Uruguay, so do not use it.

Uruguayans have a much closer personal space than Americans and will typically stand shoulder to shoulder or touch each other on the arm while speaking.

Do not sit on top of a desk or table during your visit in Uruguay; this is considered very bad manners.

The people of Uruguay take great pride in their country and will welcome conversation regarding their culture and history.

Politics is also welcome during conversation; make sure you are well informed before engaging in this topic, however.

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