Venezuelans respect leadership and are a tolerant and loving
people. Extended family and friends are very important, and one
should avoid doing anything that might shame them. The upper class
dominates the economic structures of commerce and industry, but the
middle class dominates politics. People are emotionally attached to
the church (96% Roman Catholic), which gives them a sense of
stability, but religion is not a strong force in daily life.
Venezuelans are very proud of the fact that religious freedom is
guaranteed by their constitution.
Meeting and Greeting
- Greetings are warm and friendly. People kiss business
acquaintances on the cheek once and personal friends twice.
- Handshakes are common among strangers.
- Venezuelans stand very close when speaking. Do not back away.
- Seating posture is important. Try to keep both feet on the
floor, and avoid slouching. Don't put your feet on furniture.
- Casual touching is common among males.
- 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.
- Pointing with your index finger can be considered rude.
Motioning with your entire hand is more polite.
- Always maintain eye contact when talking.
- Be punctual for business meetings, but be prepared to wait for
your Venezuelan counterparts. The pace of business is relaxed,
easy-going and informal. Be patient.
- Focus on long-term relationships. Get to know your business
colleagues personally before attempting to do business.
- Establish a local contact to make introductions at the
appropriate levels for business and social meetings.
- Clearly communicate your position and title in your company to
make your status known.
- Small talk before a meeting is minimal. Unlike other South
Americans, Venezuelans will get right to the point.
- Venezuelans like to be in control. Don't push the process or
try to dominate business meetings.
- Negotiations may proceed slowly with many interruptions.
Maintain a sense of humor.
- Print all of your materials in Spanish.
Dining and Entertainment
- For social events, always arrive at least half an hour to an
hour later than the invitation reads.
- VIPs arrive very late for social occasions in order to “make
- Meals are for socializing. Discuss business only if your host
- You will normally be served a great deal of food and drink;
Venezuelans enjoy both, but do not abuse either.
- Appearances count. It is important to be neat, clean and
properly groomed. Your watch and jewelry will be noticed.
- For business, men should wear conservative, dark suits.
- Women should wear feminine business suits, dresses, skirts and
- Always bring a gift when visiting someone's home. A gift for
the children will be appreciated. A little dress or teddy bear
would be appropriate.
- White, gold and silver are popular colors for any gift.
- Send flowers before a social occasion. The orchid is the
- Many Venezuelans like scotch. Give high-quality scotch (Johnny
Walker Black Label, Chivas Regal), or wine.
- Do not give gifts in business until a personal relationship
has been established.
- Learn about Venezuelan history, and ask questions. Venezuelans
are proud of their country and will appreciate your interest.
However, don't talk about local unrest and inflation, or give your
opinion on local politics.
- People call each other names like Negro (“black”), Gordo
(“fatso”), Chino (“Chinaman”), etc. These nicknames are meant to
show friendship, fondness and fun and are not meant to be
- Privacy is not valued in the same way it is in North America.
Especially for Women
- Venezuelan women are beautiful and work hard at looking great.
Even professional women “dress to impress.”
- North American businesswomen can operate effectively in
Venezuela. Be polite and friendly, but be firm.
- Blondes (catira) are pursued with interest.