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El Salvador Business Etiquette & Culture

                      

El Salvador Introduction

El Salvador, a population of 5.5 million, is composed of three ethnic groups: Mestizo (a mixture of European and Indian)89 percent, Amerindian 10 percent, and European 1 percent. During the 1980s, the United States poured $4 Billion into El Salvador in an effort to support the government and stop the Communist guerrillas. Not only did the rebels survive, but the gap between rich and poor widened.

The official language is Spanish, although many Indians speak Nahua and other native languages. English is understood in tourist centers and by much of the well-educated people. El Salvador has no official religion. Although the Salvadorans have traditionally been Roman Catholic, various Protestant sects have gained ground in recent years and now constitute about 10 percent of the population.

 

El Salvador Fun Fact

Many business people are now members of religious Neopentecostal groups, which equate wealth with God’s favor (hence the poor are being punished by God for their lack of faith).


Geert Hofstede Analysis for El Salvador


The Geert Hofstede analysis for El Salvador is similar to it’s Latin American neighbors. Uncertainty avoidance ranks highest which indicates a high concern for rules, regulations, controls and issues with career security – typically, a society that does not readily accept change and is risk adverse. Individualism ranks lowest which signifies a society of a more collectivist nature and strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.

El Salvador is similar to many Latin American countries when analyzing Hofstede's Dimensions (see Latin America Hofstede Graph below).

El Salvador's highest Hofstede Dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) at 94, indicating the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

El Salvador has a low Individualism (IDV) rank of 19, as do most Latin countries. The score on this Dimension indicates the society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group

In many of the Latin American countries, including El Salvador, the population is predominantly Catholic (see Religions Graph below). The combination of Catholicism and the cultural dimensions, shown in the Hofstede Graphs above, reinforce a philosophy predicated in the belief that there is an absolute ‘Truth”. As Geert Hofstede explains about peoples with a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, their attitude is, “There can only be one Truth and we have it.” More Geert Hofstede Details

Written by Stephen Taylor - the Sigma Two Group

 

Religion in El Salvador


* WORLD FACTBOOK 2011

In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines. (See accompanying Article)

 

El Salvador Appearance

International Business Dress and Appearance   For business, men should wear a conservative, lightweight suit. Women should wear a blouse and skirt or dress

International Business Dress and Appearance   Do not point your fingers at anyone

International Business Dress and Appearance   Good eye contact is important in business situations

International Business Dress and Appearance   Salvadorans are expressive with both hands and face; this complements their verbal communication

International Business Dress and Appearance   To beckon someone over, extend the arm and wriggle the fingers with the palm down. Only summon close friends with this gesture

International Business Dress and Appearance   Yawning in public is considered rude and should be avoided

 

El Salvador Behavior & Manners

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Make appointments a month in advance of your trip by telephone or by telex

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Business is done only after a relationship has been established. Spend time forming a friendship before jumping into business discussions

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  It is rare to find women in upper levels of business. A visiting business woman should act professionally and convey that she is representing her company, rather than speaking for herself personally

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Business is discussed in an office or over a meal. It is not discussed in the home or around family. If you are invited to a Salvadoran home, this is purely a social function

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  The main meal of the day is at noon. This will probably include black beans, tortillas or meat, and fruit and vegetables

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Small gifts often exchanged. If you are invited to a Salvadoran home, it is appropriate to bring a gift of candy or flowers

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Avoid giving white flowers; they are associated with funerals

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) More information on International Gift Giving

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Considering sending a gift to someone in El Salvador? See this information

 

El Salvador Communications 

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Handshaking is the usual form of greeting; it is typically limp and normally lasts longer than a U.S. handshake

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Some people merely nod when meeting

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  While Salvadoran men are willing to shake hands with women, the women must first extend her hand. Foreign men should wait for a Salvadoran woman to extend her hand

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Keep the vocal component of your greeting soft. Many Salvadorans dislike loud persons

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Titles, especially among the elderly, are very important. Address a person directly by using his or her title only. A Ph.D or a physician is called Doctor. Teachers prefer the title Profesor, engineers go by Ingeniero, architects are Arquitecto, and lawyers are Abogado. Persons who do not have professional titles should be addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, plus their surnames. In Spanish these are:

      • Mr. = Senor
      • Mrs. = Senora
      • Miss = Senorita

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Most Hispanics have two surnames: one from their father, which is listed first, followed by one from their mother. Only the father’s surname is used when addressing someone

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Good conversation topics: history, geography, culture, families

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Bad conversation topics: local politics, religion

 

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