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The People

Paraguayans are traditional, conservative people who strive for tranquility (tranquilidad). Paraguay has historically been voluntarily isolated. In the 19th century, the government tried to seal the borders in an attempt to become self-sufficient. More recently, very strict government controls have isolated the people from most outside information. Inflation, foreign debt and high unemployment plague this young democracy. There is a large gap between the rich and poor. A few elite families control nearly all the resources, and economic opportunities are limited to urban dwellers.

Meeting and Greeting

  • Men and women always shake hands when greeting, even if they have met earlier in the day.
  • Paraguayans kiss twice when meeting friends and family members.

Body Language

  • Good posture is important. Try to keep your feet on the floor, and never prop them up on a piece of furniture.
  • A chin flick (rubbing your hand under your chin) means “I don't know.”

Corporate Culture

  • Paraguayans may be late, but visitors are expected to be punctual for business meetings. Business appointments often begin 10 to 20 minutes late.
  • Connections are more important than expertise. Personal relationships are more important than business relationships.
  • Take time to make “small talk” with colleagues before the meeting begins.
  • Negotiating and decision making will probably proceed slowly. Be patient.
  • Face-to-face communication is vital to doing business in Paraguay. You will only be able to go so far communicating by phone or fax.
  • Hire a local contact to represent you in the Paraguayan business community.
  • Send the same company representative to negotiate deals. A new person will need to start from scratch.

Dining and Entertainment

  • An 8:00 p.m. social engagement could begin at 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. Dinner is usually served around 10:00 p.m. and never earlier than 9:00 p.m. Never invite anyone for a 7:00 p.m. dinner, which would be far too early. Invite people at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., and serve dinner at 10:00 p.m.
  • Lunch is the main meal of the day. Businesspeople and schoolchildren go home at noon to have lunch with their family. It may be followed by an hour-long nap before everyone returns to work and school.
  • Guests are served full plates of food. Show that you enjoy your food. Eat dinner and accept seconds, which will probably be pressed upon you. Not finishing all the food offered is a compliment to your host.
  • When dining continental style, it is customary to hold your fork constantly in your left hand.
  • Paraguayans share. They buy rounds of drink and offer food to all.
  • Dinner is a social event. Do not talk business unless your host initiates it.


  • Paraguayans dress conservatively.
  • Hair, nails, makeup and dress are all important, regardless of a person's economic status. Even the poorest people are well groomed and clean.
  • Men should wear dark suits and ties for initial meetings. Follow your Paraguayan counterparts' lead in dressing after the first visit.
  • Women should wear suits and dresses.


  • Give high quality gifts.
  • Gifts from your country and home region will be appreciated.
  • Giving a knife suggests “cutting” the relationship. Including a coin with the knife can blunt the “cutting.” This is an old tradition.
  • Give your hostess flowers and chocolates. Sweets (cookies and candies) from Argentina are prized by Paraguayans.
  • Gifts for children are appreciated. Barbie dolls and Power Rangers are popular with young children, and older children will appreciate t-shirts and baseball caps (Hard Rock Cafe, Nike, NBA, Major League Baseball).
  • For business, give pens and gifts from your home region.
  • If you are giving a gift with your company logo, it should be discreetly displayed.

Helpful Hints

  • Paraguayans are polite and soft-spoken. They do not appreciate shouting or rude behavior. Exhibit patience in all of your actions.
  • Paraguayans are very proud of their country and will appreciate your interest in it.
  • Don't give your opinion about local politics.
  • Refer to yourself as a North American or as a citizen of the United States instead of as an American.
  • Do not photograph anything associated with the military, including soldiers, bridges or equipment.

Especially for Women

  • Machismo is strong, but women are respected. Men will go out of their way to avoid confronting or offending a woman.
Adapted from material compiled by Window on the World, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm. Originally based on material contained in the "Put Your Best Foot Forward" series of books by Mary Murray Bosrock.
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