Meeting and greeting
A handshake is customary when meeting someone in Chile, however you may see women patting each other on the shoulder or forearm rather than shaking hands. When meeting large groups, it is good etiquette to shake hands with all those present.
Primary address must always be formal. Address people by their surnames and Miss, Mr and Mrs. Most Hispanics have two surnames; one from their father and one from their mother. Usually only the father’s is used. Conversations may be informal, but you must await an invitation to be informal with business associates.
When conversing, Chileans interact in close proximity to one another. Don’t be surprised if feel a hand on your shoulder from the person talking to you. Try not to step away or look uncomfortable.
People value eye contact in Chile as it conveys trust, sincerity and interest.
In Chile, slapping your fist into the open palm of your other hand is obscene; an open palm with the fingers separated means stupid.
Business entertaining in Chile usually takes place in hotels or restaurants. It is the host’s responsibility to pick up the bill, and this should be arranged with the establishment beforehand to avoid any debate about who should pay. It may be considered polite for the guest to offer to pay, but realistically he/she would not be allowed to do so. In such cases, guests should offer to reciprocate the offer and ensure they do so.
If you are invited to a person’s home in Chile, a good gesture is to send flowers or chocolates to the hosts in advance. If you wish to express your gratitude after the meal, to so by telephone rather than in writing.
Business meetings and negotiating
Any business appointments should be made at least a few weeks prior to your arrival in Chile. January and February should be avoided as it is summer vacation at that time of year.
Establishing trust and connecting with people is essential to create successful business relationships. An initial visit to Chile is always a good idea for introducing yourself and for building rapport.
Honour is a fundamental principle in Chilean society. You should never criticise or cause embarrassment to anyone in public. If you don’t stick to your word you are considered untrustworthy.
Chileans negotiate in a serious and direct manner. You should be upfront but not domineering. Hard sell tactics and pressure never work. Always show you are willing to compromise as this indicates you value the relationship over the financial aspects of the deal.