Work culture in Chile

Etiquette and expectations

Work culture in Chile

Chile is typically characterised as a conservative society in its business culture, with formality and deference highly regarded.

Business meetings and formalised settings are subject to a degree of etiquette upon arrival that usually includes a firm handshake, and the exchange of business cards.

As professional relationships progress there is more room for personal greetings and interactions, typically a kiss on the cheek and more small talk can take place. Expats from cultures which place more emphasis maintaining personal space when talking should be aware that Chileans often speak standing very close, and it is considered impolite to keep your distance.

Expect to address new clients and colleagues with their title and surname, until directed to do otherwise. Chile has a somewhat institutionalised class system that is still visible in the widespread use of the formal ‘you’ - usted- when speaking Spanish to those above you in the business hierarchy.

Like other parts of Latin America, Chileans often display a more relaxed attitude towards appointments and timing. Business hours are generally kept between 9am and 6pm with a one or two hour break over lunch.

Correspondence via email and letter can be less than prompt for those used to more fast paced business environments. Despite the long work week that many Chileans keep (locals are typically employed for 45 hours of the week), it is always worth following up orders and appointments to ensure more timely completion.

Also, whilst you are expected to be on time to meetings and appointments, always reconfirm before arrival and allow for the host to be late by up to 30 minutes.

Further reading

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