El Salvador Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays

Introduction

Although business ethics are increasingly approaching the standards valid in Europe and the USA, Czech entrepreneurs may encounter a number of peculiarities resulting from different cultural and social conditions and business practices.

Addressing

Initial contact in El Salvador is relatively formal, both written communication and personal meeting are accompanied by a great deal of politeness. The address begins with an abbreviation for Mr./Mrs. (Sr./Sra.), followed by the first or both surnames. Salvadorans, like a number of other Hispanophone nations, have two surnames by law – one after the father, the other after the mother (e.g. Carlos Fuentes Macías). Often, however, only one is used in the address, in the overwhelming majority the first one after the first name (Sr. Fuentes). The initial address is always in the form of an exhortation. In subsequent negotiations and correspondence, only the first name is often used, and in the Czech context, the first name is also used earlier. In certain professions, it is possible to encounter more frequent use of academic titles – medicine (Dr.), technical professions (Arq., Ing.), advocacy (Abg.), teaching (Prof.), etc. Concerns about personal security make contact information for employees and executives of private companies and often government institutions difficult to access throughout Central America. It often takes several phone calls, e-mails or even personal meetings to find out the contact details of the desired person.

  • Programingplease: Yearbook 2010 of nation El Salvador, including population, politics, and abbreviations.

Business meeting

It is a good idea to request an appointment at least a few days in advance, however confirmation often comes just before the date of the meeting. It is good to make the initial contact in writing – depending on the nature of the matter by letter or e-mail, but subsequent confirmation of the meeting by telephone is usually necessary. Communication is often conducted using the extended WhatsApp application.

Meetings usually take place in the company’s office, after getting to know each other better, you can count on an invitation to lunch. An offer to pay the expenses will be appreciated, but given that the Czech company is in the position of a guest, most Salvadorans will insist on being paid by them. Gifts are welcome but not expected. Handing over business cards is a standard part of getting to know each other.

Timing of meetings The first meetings are usually arranged for 9:30, meetings in the evening are no exception. Despite the widespread notion of time flexibility, it is a good idea to arrive on time for a pre-arranged meeting, Salvadorans are surprisingly punctual when it comes to work. Especially in the capital, you have to take into account the unpredictable traffic situation, and arriving 10 to 15 minutes later is often tolerated. It is not uncommon for meetings to be postponed at the last minute. In that case, try not to look irritated and accommodate the Salvadoran side.

What surprises a Czech businessman the most during negotiations?
Although business ethics are increasingly approaching the standards valid in Europe and the USA, Czech entrepreneurs may encounter a number of peculiarities that result from different cultural and social conditions and business practices. Among the most striking ones are:
1. the importance of personal contacts – you cannot sell the best product in El Salvador without a partner who is well-versed and has connections in the field;
2. personal zone – Salvadorans are very contactable, a hug is a standard part of the greeting;
3. introductory courtesies – El Salvador is also known among other Latin American countries for its short polite conversation that precedes the actual topic of discussion, directness can be considered rude;
4. family as a topic of business negotiations – the family is a very important social phenomenon in El Salvador and often becomes the topic of “small talk” during negotiations;
5. evasiveness in dealings – a polite form of communication forces Salvadorans to avoid direct rejection or criticism (perhaps it is often used in the sense of no);
6. Hierarchy – fairly strictly observed in El Salvador, the level of reception corresponds to the level of visitation;
7. corruption – unfortunately, corruption is still present, especially in the state sector.

What are Salvadoran traders like?
Preparation for entering the local market should therefore be thorough and well thought out. A frequently used, and almost inevitable, market entry model is in the first stage in cooperation with an agent/distributor or partner company (e.g. on the basis of an agency agreement or joint-venture), and in the second stage, if the cooperation develops, the establishment of a Salvadoran legal entities.

Is negotiating with local traders different, made difficult by cultural/religious/ethnic differences?
It is certainly necessary to take into account the gradual development of business negotiations, whether during personal negotiations, but also afterwards during the implementation of a business case. Although El Salvador is predominantly Catholic, you won’t encounter religious expressions/differences in the business world. In addition, it is still possible to observe a lower representation of women in decision-making positions, as well as frequent social and ethnic divisions within professions.

How do Salvadoran business people manage time in a business meeting?
In El Salvador, even thanks to the polite parts of the conversation described above, business negotiations can be lengthy. Courtesy topics help Salvadorans to get to know their partner and establish an important personal relationship with them, so it is good to be patient when dealing with them. However, if the partner is prepared in advance that the Czech counterpart only has a certain amount of time for negotiations for objective reasons, it is possible to complete the negotiations in a shorter time.

How do Salvadoran businessmen deal with emotions in business negotiations?
Salvadorans are mostly warm, open people. In business negotiations, however, their demeanor does not differ much from European businessmen.

Are there any territorial differences in trade negotiations within the country (North x South, Provinces)?
The differences in business dealings between the city and the province are similar to other countries. In the region, one can expect less experience with foreign trade, less knowledge of English, but a more “Latin American” (more relaxed) personal approach. In El Salvador, it is also necessary to reckon with stronger interpersonal ties of influential people, with the positives and negatives that this can have for a Czech company.

It is suitable or customary to offer alcohol during business meetings?
The relationship to alcohol in the framework of business relations is very similar to that in the Czech Republic, it does not belong to business meetings, but it does to a reasonable extent to subsequent social activities (dinners, receptions).

How to dress for a work meeting?
For business meetings, formal clothing is expected, a suit with a tie is suitable, or costume. A certain flamboyance and quality in dressing can be assessed as a good credit rating of a partner.

Communication

Is it important to bring an interpreter with you?
The official language of El Salvador is Spanish, which is preferred in business negotiations, although many business partners also speak English. Minor mistakes are tolerantly overlooked and the effort to learn Spanish is appreciated. However, for meetings at a higher level, it is recommended to use the services of an interpreter, who can also be recommended by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Mexico. Spanish is also appreciated for business cards and business materials.

How about language facilities?
Some of the upper management (both private and state sector) speak English at least at a conversational level, at a lower level English is only basic or not at all. It is therefore necessary to be prepared for the fact that the partner prefers to speak in Spanish with interpretation. Visit Calculatorinc for more information about El Salvador culture and traditions.

Are there any communication taboos?

We certainly do not want to put our Salvadoran counterpart in an unpleasant situation, the standard lesson about avoiding topics such as politics, commenting on the security situation, religion or personal financial situation therefore also applies in El Salvador.

What is the best way to communicate (in person, email, phone, etc.)?
As in the case of other remote territories of countries, Salvador is not a country in which one can expect to establish business contacts or to implement business cases simply by sending an offer and a company presentation to selected companies from the field. If you are interested in the Salvadoran market, you must expect a certain initial investment, long-term efforts and the need to be physically present on the market often. It is good to make the initial contact in writing – depending on the nature of the matter by letter or e-mail, but subsequent confirmation of receipt of the letter by telephone is a necessity. A personal meeting is almost inevitable for establishing a first contact. Further communication is often conducted via e-mail and the extended WhatsApp application, even within the state administration.

Recommendation

The recommendations, or rather the obstacles and risks that must be taken into account when Czech companies and enterprises enter the Salvadoran market, are as follows and can be simply summarized in three points:

  • The costs of foreign representation, without which you cannot apply in the territory for a long time, or at least a frequent personal presence on the market, and the risk of recovering these costs.
  • Risks associated with participation in public tenders, which often bear signs of non-transparency and corrupt behavior.
  • Claims for higher competitiveness of Czech goods due to the low price of local labor and high transport costs.

Public Holidays

January 1 – New Year
March – April – Easter week (before Czech Easter Monday) – Thursday and Friday are public holidays, Saturday and Sunday depend on the region
May 1 – Labor Day
May 10 – Mother’s Day
June 17 – Father’s Day
August 6 – August Festivities/ San Salvador Celebrations*
September 15 – Independence Day
November 2 – All Saints’ Day December 25 -God’s Day

* Regarding August holidays: Public sector and students have a week off, in case of private sector employees: on August 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th there will be holidays only for the capital city of San Salvador, for the rest of the country there will be a holiday only on August 6th.

El Salvador Culture of Business