Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. The country encourages foreign investment, and expats doing business in Peru are generally made to feel welcome.
With rich deposits of copper, silver, gold, lead and zinc, mining is an important contributor to Peru’s economy. Other crucial sectors include agriculture, fishery, gas- and petroleum exploitation, and manufacturing. The capital, Lima, is the centre of commerce and is where most foreigners do business in Peru.
Peru’s abundance of natural resources, alongside a stable democracy and strong economic growth all contribute to a positive environment in which to do business.
The business week in the country is Monday to Friday. Business hours are from 9am to 5pm, with an hour lunch break.
Spanish is the main language of business in Peru. While English may be understood in large corporate enterprises in Lima, it is not widely spoken or understood within the public sector.
Men and women in business circles will usually greet each other with a handshake. Friends and close associates may greet each other with a light kiss on each cheek.
Business dress in Peru is formal and conservative, with business suits being the usual attire.
Gifts are not expected at business meetings, but it is common practice to give a gift if invited to a Peruvian home. Flowers, liquor or chocolates are a good option; avoid giving knives or scissors, as these may be interpreted as a severing of the relationship.
Peru is still a traditional, macho culture with conventional gender roles. While there are opportunities for women within the corporate arena, salaries tend to be lower.
Business culture in Peru
As with most Latin American countries, building strong relationships and trust is essential when working in Peru. It’s important to network, as Peruvians prefer to do business with trusted associates. Personal connections often go a long way to securing good work opportunities.
The business culture in Peru is formal. Business structures are hierarchical, with decision making done from the top. There is very little consultation with those in lower positions. Those in authority are respected for being experienced and knowledgeable. When doing business in Peru it’s therefore important to ensure a meeting with a company’s higher-ups in order to avoid delays and miscommunications.
The communication style in Peru is indirect and rather ambiguous, so it may be difficult to decipher what someone is truly saying. Saving face is important to Peruvians, and they generally try to avoid causing offence or confrontation. When conversing, a Peruvian may appear to agree with what is being said, even if they don’t really.
Peruvians are generally quite open and it’s not unusual to stand close together and to touch each other on the shoulder or hands while talking.
Building interpersonal relationships is essential, as Peruvians prefer to do business with those they know and trust. Expats should spend time getting to know an associate before any real business is dealt with. In line with this, business meetings will usually start with small talk about matters such as family or football.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Peru
- Do make small talk when starting a meeting, but avoid topics such as politics and religion
- Do be punctual for meetings, but don’t expect that the Peruvian counterparts will be on time; it’s not unusual for meetings to begin late
- Do try to learn some Spanish, especially if dealing with those within the public sector, as English is not widely spoken outside of city business circles