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
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
- 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
- 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
- Negotiating and decision making will probably proceed slowly.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Paraguayans are polite and soft-spoken. They do not appreciate
shouting or rude behavior. Exhibit patience in all of your
- 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.