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Business Etiquette and Protocol in El Salvador.

Meeting Etiquette
  • Salvadorians are relatively formal in their business dealings.
  • Shake hands when meeting someone and also when leaving.
  • Handshakes are generally not very firm.
  • A man extends his hand to a woman.
  • Maintain eye contact when greeting people.
  • Professional or academic titles with the surname are used in business. Common titles are "Doctor" (medical doctor or Ph.D.), "Ingeniero" (engineer), "Arquitecto" (architect), and "Abogado" (lawyer).
  • If someone does not have a title, the honorific Senor or Senora is used with the surname.
  • Always wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis.
  • Business cards are exchanged during the initial introductions.
  • Try to have one side of your business card translated into Spanish.
Communication Style

Like most relationship orientated cultures, Salvadorans have a strong sense of personal pride, honour and dignity. They can be very sensitive to comments or action that can jeopardize their standing among others. It is therefore important to watch what is being said, how it is being said and who is being said within earshot of. If you think you may have offended someone it is best to apologise immediately and assure them that no slight was intended. If you feel something you have said may have been misinterpreted, clearly re-state the position using different formula of words.

Due to the need to protect face Salvadorans are indirect communicators. If you are from a direct culture you may wish to moderate your communication style to avoid coming across as rude or abrasive. For example, disagreements and criticism should be handled in private, away from others.

As a result of being indirect Salvadorans may avoid telling the absolute truth if doing so might upset the person. For example, a simple “yes” may not mean ‘yes’ but indicate that the listener agrees or is merely acknowledging a point. It is important to learn to ask questions in several ways to ensure that you understand the response.

Business Meetings

At a first meeting, introduce senior people first and according to rank. Use titles for both your own personnel and your Salvadorian counterparts.

Meetings are structured. They generally start on time and run according to an agenda. Initial meetings will be spent indulging in conversation unrelated to business. It is important to invest this time in building a rapport and firming up the relationship. It is not uncommon for business discussions to be continued over a meal. If you are invited to share a meal you must accept as this is a sign the relationship is going places.

Decisions are generally made by the most senior person. Whether or not decisions are reached after consultation with key stakeholders is a matter of personal preference rather than a cultural nuance. Salvadorans place greater emphasis on their ‘gut-feeling’ rather than on facts and figures.

Related Resources about El Salvador
  • Currency - the currency of El Salvador is the US Dollar.
  • Dialling Code - the international dialling code is +503.
  • Time – Ecuador is -6 hours GMT.
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