Relationships are Key
When you go into your first business meeting in Peru, you’ll notice that Peruvians gesticulate speech with a grand array of hand movements, particularly as conversations become more animated and enthusiastic. Shake hands with business associates at initial meetings, and expect an enthusiastic pat on the back as relationships develop, or a kiss on the cheek for women (women should initiate the first greeting, so follow her lead as to whether a handshake or kiss is more appropriate). Don’t address people by their first names until they advise you do to so, rather, use Senor / Senora / Senhorita followed by their surname at initial stages of association.
Peruvian meetings may start later than scheduled, and you may wait up to an hour after the scheduled time to be attended. Take this in your stride, as time keeping can be looser in Peru that might be the case in other markets. Relationships are seen as more important that punctuality, so if your contact is at lunch with another contact, they will complete this at a leisurely pace, rather than rushing to their next commitment. Don’t worry, you will soon be rewarded with the leisurely lunch too, just arrive on time, and be ready for a wait. In the context of working with a PR agency in Peru, the most obvious occasions this will be a factor will be in journalist briefings. A one-to-one lunch or coffee briefing, well-prepared, can set you up with long-standing relationships and positive media coverage throughout a campaign so it is almost always time well spent. Perceived anxiety about time keeping may make you seem impatient – not a good start for a business relationship.
Western clothing is used in urban settings, and business environments, but in rural areas, people largely still wear traditional colourful clothing. Lifestyles are very different too, between urban and rural settings. In rural settings, the daily routine will be tightly connected to the season, or the feeding needs of livestock. In urban settings, lifestyle is closely linked to social class, with the poorer living in suburbs, and often working two or three jobs simultaneously, while the rich enjoy and altogether more relaxed leisurely lifestyle.
Official languages in Peru are Spanish and Quechua, an indigenous language, while Aymara is commonly used, along with other Amazonian languages also to be heard in certain regions. English language proficiency should not be expected, and in fact national proficiency rates dropped in 2016 from the previous year, surprising in a country that depends so much on tourism. Increased fluency will be noted among those in more elevated socioeconomic groups, and particularly among those who work with tourists on a daily basis.
While fluency in Spanish or the Indigenous languages are not expected from newcomers, it is important that any company seeking to expand in this market has communications based in the local language(s).