The majority of the people are middle class; the extremes of
wealth and poverty found in most other South American countries
don't exist. Uruguayans take a pragmatic, utilitarian and
materialistic approach to life. They have an inherent trust of
people and a strong belief in social justice. A great deal of
emphasis is placed on education. Uruguay has the best-educated
workforce on the continent. People enjoy easy access to a good
education, compulsory for nine years and free through post-graduate
studies. The literacy rate is 96%, one of the highest in South
Meeting and Greeting
- Greetings are warm and accompanied by a firm handshake.
- Friends kiss once on the right cheek when meeting.
- People do not greet strangers when passing on the street.
Greeting or smiling at a stranger may be misunderstood.
- Uruguayans stand very close when conversing, both socially and
- People touch shoulders and hold arms while they talk to each
- Never sit on or put your feet up on a ledge, desk or table.
- The “ch-ch” sound is used to get someone's attention or to get
a bus to stop.
- The North American “O.K.” sign is extremely rude.
- You may see people brush the backs of their hands under their
chins to signal “I don't know.”
- Meetings are extremely formal, but don't usually start on
time. However, be sure to arrive on time.
- Kinship and friendship play a major role in business
transactions. Expertise and experience are less important than who
- Present business cards to everyone in a meeting.
- Be ready to make small talk before the business discussions
- Many executives will speak English, but arrange for an
- Print all materials in Spanish, from business cards to
- Hire a local contact to help you in the business community and
to navigate you through red tape.
- A highly trained and educated businessperson may be working at
a low-level position due to exile, imprisonment or political
affiliation. Do not ask questions.
Dining and Entertainment
- People are very casual about time for social events. An
invitation for 9:00 p.m. usually means to arrive by 10:00 p.m.
Uruguayans usually dine at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.
- Uruguayans are comfortable conducting business over lunch.
- Business dinners are to socialize. Do not talk business unless
your host initiates the conversation.
- It is extremely impolite to use a toothpick in public.
- If an Uruguayan invites you to his/her home for coffee after
dinner, don't stay late on a work night. Be alert for cues from
your counterpart that tell you he/she is tired and wants to end
- Uruguayans dress conservatively and seldom wear the bright
colors popular elsewhere in South America.
- Women may not wear nylons during the summer. If your Uruguayan
colleagues do not wear ties or jackets in the summer, you may
- For business, men should wear conservative, dark suits and
- Women should wear blouses with dark suits, skirts and dresses.
- Everyone likes North American jeans.
- Women love flowers, especially roses. A rare, salmon-colored
tea rose is a favorite.
- It is polite and common for guests to send candy or flowers to
a hostess before the occasion.
- Gift giving is not an important part of doing business. Give
scotch (Black Label or Chivas Regal) and gifts made in the United
States, especially from your region.
- Uruguayans are extremely political people. Ask about politics.
- Ask questions about Uruguay. People are very proud of their
- Don't confuse Paraguay and Uruguay.
Especially for Women
- A foreign woman will have no problem doing business in
Uruguay. It may even be an advantage. Men like to be with and
enjoy doing business with women.
- Do not misinterpret an invitation to join a man for a business
lunch. He is not attempting to seduce you.