Skip to content

Doing business in Venezuela

Read more about business culture, office hours and society and culture. 

Business Etiquette

General Relationships
. Venezuela is a country where networking is important since it broadens your base of personnel who might have a connection you need.
. Business men usually prefer face-to-face meetings than doing business by telephone or in writing (they are seen as impersonals). 
. Venezuelans are risk averse: it is very important knowing and trusting the people with whom they do business.
. Appearance is important: it is recommendable to dress properly and trying (as possible) to stay in a fine-reputation hotel.
. Senior positions are mostly held by the upper class. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the hierarchy and show an appropriate deference and respect to those in these positions.

Business Meeting Etiquette
. Business appointments can often be scheduled on short notice; however, it is best to make them about 2 weeks in advance by telephone, email or fax.
. Confirmation of meetings can be made by fax or email, at least one week before the meeting. It is recommendable to schedule appointments in the morning.
. Avoid scheduling meetings on Friday afternoon - as many Venezuelans leave early for the weekend. It is also difficult to schedule meetings two weeks before and after Christmas and Carnival and also on the weeks before and after Easter.
. Venezuelans are generally punctual for business meetings, especially if they are used to work with international companies.
. The first meeting is formal.
. Have all written material available in Spanish and English.
. Decisions are not reached at meetings: they are held for discuss and exchange ideas.
. It is advisable to send a thank you note to the most senior executive after the meeting.

Business Negotiation
. It is common to have a small talk before getting down to business. Older Venezuelans prefer to get to know people before doing business with them, while younger businesspeople are more concerned with business than social relationship.
. It will take several meetings to come to an agreement. Negotiation and time for consultation are important. Negotiations and decisions take a long time.
. Relationships are viewed as more important than business documents.
. Venezuelans focus on long- term rather than short-term goals.
. Local business is hierarchical: decisions are made by the person with most authority.

Dress Etiquette
. Appropriate business attire is expected.
. Men should wear good quality, conservative, dark colored business suits.
. Women should wear suits or dresses. They should be elegantly dressed - including make-up, jewellery and manicure.

Business Cards
. Business cards are exchanged during introductions with everyone at a meeting.
. It is recommendable to have one side of the business card translated into Spanish, and present it with the Spanish side facing the recipient.
. Business cards should contain both professional and educational qualifications, since Venezuelans are status conscious.
. Writing on someone's business card in front of them is usually considered rude.

Society and culture

Languages in Venezuela
About 40 languages are spoken in Venezuela. However, Spanish, the country's official language, and the most common. The most widely spoken indigenous languages are Wayuu, Warao, Piaroa, Yanomami, Kahlihna, Manduhuaca, Panaré, Pemón, Guahibo and Nhengtu. Most of these languages originated in the languages of the Caribs, the Arawaks and the Chibcha.

As more indigenous people move to the cities, many of their languages are becoming extinct. Languages such as Sapé and Mapoyo have five or fewer speakers. Anthropologists are trying to learn these languages and the stories of these peoples before the last people who speak these languages die.

Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic and English are the most common foreign languages spoken in Venezuela. Some English words, such as "parking," have found their way into Venezuelan Spanish. Venezuelans often speak less formally than people in most other Spanish-speaking countries.



Venezuelan Pride
. Venezuelans are proud of their country and heritage.
. Simon Bolivar, who liberated much of South America from the Spanish colonialists, was born in Venezuela.
. Their flag is a national icon and is respected and admired.
. There are four separate public holidays that commemorate independence, during which time flags are flown outside private houses as well as public buildings and there are street parades.
Venezuelan Family Values
. The family is the cornerstone of the social structure and forms the basis of stability for most people.
. The individual derives a social network and assistance in times of need from the extended family.
. In villages it is common for members of the extended family to live close to one another, often on the same block.

Venezuelan Hospitality
. Venezuelans pride themselves on their hospitality.
. They go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and comfortable.
. Venezuelan hosts cater to their every desire.

Religion in Venezuela
. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Venezuelan constitution.
. More than 90% of the population is Roman Catholic.
. Some indigenous people practice their traditional religions, but many have converted to Roman Catholicism.

Meeting Etiquette
. A firm handshake, with direct eye contact and a welcoming smile are the standard greeting. When shaking hands, always use the appropriate greeting for the time of day - 'buenos dias', 'buenas tardes', or 'buenas noches'.
. When meeting groups always introduce yourself to the eldest person first.
. When leaving, say good-bye to each person individually.
. Since this is a formal culture, address people by their academic or professional title and their surname until invited to move to a first- name basis.

Gift Giving Etiquette
. If invited to a dinner party, send flowers, particularly orchids, in advance of the event.
. Do not give handkerchiefs since they are considered unlucky.
. Gifts are generally opened when received.
. Always send a handwritten thank you note as it marks you as a person with class.

Dining Etiquette
If you are invited to a Venezuelan's house:
. Arrive 15 to 30 minutes later than invited.
. Dress conservatively but with an elegant flair. Smart casual dress is usually acceptable.
. Never decline an offer of coffee, as it is a symbol of hospitality to Venezuelans.

Table manners
. Wait for the host or hostess to tell you where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
. Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
. Do not begin eating until all other diners are seated, unless encouraged by the host to start.
. The host saying 'buen provecho' (enjoy or have a good meal) is the customary invitation for everyone to eat.
. In most cases, a maid or server will place food on your plate, although large dinner parties may be buffet style.
. Always keep your hands visible when eating, but do not rest your elbows on the table.
. Food is always eaten with utensils. Even fruit is eaten with a knife and fork.
. Keep your napkin on your lap while eating.
. Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink. Venezuelans typically toast with the word 'salud'.
. The host makes the first toast.
. When not using utensils, rest the tips on the edge of the plate with the handles resting on the table.
. It is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.
. When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork diagonally across the plate with the prongs facing down and the handles facing to the right.

Relationships & Communications
. This is a country where networking is important since it broadens your base of personnel who might have a connection you need.
. As with many Latin cultures, Venezuelans are risk averse, which makes it important that they know and trust the people with whom they do business.
. Venezuelans prefer face-to-face meetings to doing business by telephone or in writing, which are seen as too impersonal. It takes time to develop relationships.
. Appearances matter to Venezuelans. Dress well and try to stay in a reputable hotel.
. Senior positions in business are predominately held by the upper class, so it is important that you pay attention to the hierarchy and show appropriate deference and respect to those in positions of authority.