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Business Culture

Costa Rica - Business Culture

Personal relationships are important in Costa Rican business, so you should try to make regular visits, making appointments in advance. You will find the Costa Ricans, or Ticos, friendly and welcoming, but more reserved than other Latin Americans. Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken. Both English and Spanish versions of business cards and promotional material should be made available.

Business attire for meetings consists of a conservative, light-weight business suit and tie for men and a conservative suit or dress for women.

Costa Ricans are more punctual than most Central Americans, but there is nonetheless a relaxed attitude to time; expect delays of up to 30 minutes. The usual form of greeting is a firm handshake: it is not normal to embrace as in other Latin American countries. Business cards are normally exchanged at the start of meetings.

Costa Rican men use their father's family name in introductions, but both their father's and mother's family names in written correspondence. Titles are seen as important, and you should address those with political or professional titles by these only, e.g. Doctor; Abogado (lawyer). Don't address your Costa Rican contacts by their first names unless invited to do so, but this will often happen fairly quickly.

Costa Ricans are honest and open in their communications, and will expect the same from others. They are quite conservative, however, and not necessarily very receptive to unconventional ideas.

Business negotiations can be slow as the decision-making is consensual and often involves many different people. There is also a great deal of bureaucracy to be navigated. Note that delays in settling bills and invoices are commonplace in Costa Rica, so payment arrangements should be established in advance. Business dinners are generally held in the evening, and it is expected that spouses will also attend. It is acceptable to give gifts to business contacts, especially if invited to dinner. Appropriate gifts include flowers (but not lilies), wine, whiskey or chocolates.

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