Chile is a developing country that is located in South America. Whites and white-Amerindians constitute 95% of the country’s population of 16 million people (Roraff & Camacho, 2011, p. 13). Chile’s unique culture is a complex blend of European traditions and local heritage. In early 1990s, the country managed to establish a democratic political system, which enhanced its economic growth.
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Consequently, Chile has become an attractive investment destination for foreign companies. However, foreign firms need to understand Chile’s culture in order to succeed. It is against this backdrop that this paper analyzes Chile’s culture. Concisely, it will examine the cultural fit between Excel Learning Centers and Chile. Excel is a North American company whose headquarters is located in Lansing, Michigan. The company intends to join Chile in order to expand its market share.
Stereotypes about Chileans
North Americans associate Chileans with the following stereotypes. First, they believe that Chileans always arrive late for meetings, stay late, and like socializing. Chileans enjoy socializing during formal and informal meetings since they highly value personal relationships (Roraff & Camacho, 2011, p. 32).
In Chilean culture, visitors are expected to arrive at least fifteen to twenty minutes late for social meetings such as dinner. On the contrary, most Chileans are always punctual for business meetings. However, discussions in such meetings may take longer than expected.
Second, North Americans believe that Chileans have a strange accent or speak in a funny way. This stereotype is true because Chileans normally speak very fast and hardly pronounce terminal consonants in their speeches. Moreover, the variant of Spanish that is spoken in Chile is quite different from the one spoken in other countries. In particular, Chilean Spanish is characterized with a distinctive melody. Third, North Americans associate Chileans with pride or arrogance.
This view is partly true because most Chileans are easily offended. Besides, most of them tend to be arrogant or very proud, especially, when dealing with people who are likely to undermine their achievements. Nonetheless, Chileans are friendly and enjoy working with people from diverse backgrounds (Langhans, 2010). Finally, Americans believe that Chileans like wine and avocados. This view is true because a typical cuisine in Chile, especially dinner, will always include wine and avocado.
Traditional Customs and Values
Chile is one of the countries in the Americas where modernization is taking place rapidly. This has led to the fusion of Chile’s traditional customs with western cultural practices. Nonetheless, Chileans still adhere to their traditional values. Chile’s culture is based on collectivism, rather than individualism, which is common in North America. Consequently, the family is a very important social unit in Chile. Chileans maintain close contacts with their extended family members.
Furthermore, they hardly separate business from family matters, especially, in small companies that are often run entirely by members of a single family (Ahlstrom & Bruton, 2009, p. 112). Thus, Chileans consider nepotism as a positive concept that helps in recruiting the right employees. This perspective is likely to be a culture shock to members of Excel since North Americans hardly maintain close relationships with their extended families and consider nepotism as a form of discrimination.
Due to modernization, Chile’s class structure follows that of North America, which is based on achievement and possession of material wealth (Roraff & Camacho, 2011, p. 49). In Chile, education and wealth are the main determinants of one’s ability to belong to a particular social class.
Consequently, Excel’s products such as continuing professional education, college tutoring, and training programs for businesses will be valuable to Chileans. This is because the products will help them to acquire better education and skills, which leads to high income and upward social mobility.
Behavioral Dos and Don’ts
The acceptable behaviors in Chile’s business culture include the following. To begin with, foreign businessmen are expected to have business cards that are printed in both Spanish and English (Langhans, 2010). This will facilitate effective communication because most Chileans have a better working knowledge in Spanish than English. Thus, business executives from Excel should be aware of the fact that any effort they make to communicate in Spanish will be highly appreciated by Chileans.
Chileans expect their business partners to arrive on time for meetings. Nonetheless, Excel’s business executives should not be surprised if their Chilean counterparts or clients arrive late for meetings. Even though Chileans value punctuality, they hardly keep time, especially, when attending social meetings (Langhans, 2010). This contradicts North American’s tradition in which businessmen value their time and usually get offended if kept waiting.
It is advisable to utilize every chance to socialize with Chileans outside the workplace. This is because Chileans highly value personal relationships with workmates and clients. The relationships enhance harmony at the workplace and facilitate repeat business. In this regard, it is important to focus on building trust when socializing with Chilean clients.
Additionally, it is important to avoid controversial topics during informal conversations because Chileans are easily offended (Roraff & Camacho, 2011, p. 89). On the contrary, you should not be offended if a Chilean workmate invades your personal life. This is because Chileans mix family and business matters. Thus, they do not hesitate to discuss personal issues with workmates.
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Chilean businesses use a hierarchical organizational structure. This is similar to Excel’s organizational structure in which the president and the board of directors lead the company, whereas other employees hold lower positions. The top-down method is the preferred approach to decision-making in Chilean organizations (Ahlstrom & Bruton, 2009, p. 251). Additionally, employees address each other with the proper title and their surname as a sign of respect.
Negotiations can take a very long time due to Chileans’ relaxed attitude towards time. Negotiations between North Americans and Chileans can be difficult due to the following cultural differences. First, Americans are likely to take risks, whereas Chileans are risk averse.
Thus, Chileans will hardly accept any deal that is associated with a sure loss. Second, Americans focus on the interest of the Individual, while Chileans value the interest of the group. Third, Americans consider conflict to be “a natural by-product of life, whereas Chileans consider it to be dangerous” (Ahlstrom & Bruton, 2009, p. 362). Moreover, Chileans do not contradict or challenge their superiors during negotiations.
Chileans try as much as possible to avoid conflicts. However, when conflicts occur, mediators are often invited to help the conflicting parties to find a solution. The mediator normally remains neutral and helps each party to understand the offers made by their colleagues (Rodriguez & Gomez, 2009, pp. 276-294).
Generally, conflict resolution in Chile follows the legal process of the country and the protocol established by individual firms. For example, Excel’s employs will use the company’s reporting structure to channel their complaints to the management.
Language and Communication Style
Spanish is the official language in Chile and nearly every Chilean speaks it (Langhans, 2010). Chileans use Spanish to conduct business since it is the dominant language in their country.
Thus, Excel will have to print its training materials in Spanish in order to communicate effectively with the Chileans. Moreover, they will have to hire people who can speak Spanish in order to communicate effectively with their clients. Learning Spanish in Chile is better than depending on an interpreter to communicate. This is because Chilean Spanish is different from the one spoken in other countries.
Thus, depending on an interpreter who is not conversant with the Chilean Spanish can cause misunderstandings. Additionally, most Chileans have inadequate English skills, thereby limiting their ability to translate Spanish to English correctly. The disadvantage of learning Spanish is that it requires a lot of time. Thus, foreigners who are in Chile for a short period may not find adequate time to learn the language.
Chileans prefer written to verbal style of communication because they consider contractual agreements to be binding. In this regard, Chileans require their business partners to make written commitments after verbal agreements. Additionally, it is advisable to provide all relevant information during negotiations because Chileans make decisions after meetings, rather than during discussions (Roraff & Camacho, 2011, p. 114). This improves the decision-making process by eliminating the need to make further clarifications after meetings.
View of Women, Men, and Ethnic Groups
Chile’s law considers men, women, and members of all ethnic groups to be equal. This is similar to the USA where both sexes and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds are considered equal by the law. In Chile, women have equal or better educational achievements than men.
Moreover, academic achievement and social status depend on one’s effort, rather than gender or ethnicity. Chilean women are very influential and participate in every aspect of life in their society. This includes joining the labor force at all levels and holding key positions in public and private firms (Rodriguez & Gomez, 2009, pp. 276-294). Nonetheless, more men than women are employed in most Chilean organizations.
Christianity is the dominant and the most influential religion in Chile. Approximately 89% of Christians are Roman Catholics, whereas the remaining 11% are Protestants (Carillet, 2009, p. 96). Religious leaders play an important role in the country by contributing to social and political policies. Even though religion has little influence on Chilean businesses, it will have some effects on Excel.
This is because the education system in the country uses a curriculum that includes religious teachings. In public schools, religious instructions focus on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, Excel will have to include religious teachings in its K-12 syllabus. Another implication for Excel is that Chile has religious national holidays. Thus, Excel will have to close during the holidays in order to conform to the country’s traditions.
The aim of this paper was to analyze the cultural fit between Excel Learning Centers and Chile. The findings reveal that Chileans conduct business in Spanish, rather than English. Negotiating with Chileans can also be difficult because they are collectivists and risk averse.
On the contrary, North Americans are individualists and are likely to take risks. Unlike North Americans, Chileans always try to avoid conflicts because they highly value group harmony. The similarity between Excel and Chilean firms is that they both follow a hierarchical organizational structure. Additionally, women, men, and different ethnic groups are treated equally by being given equal employment opportunities.
Ahlstrom, D., & Bruton, G. (2009). International management: Strategy and culture in the emerging world. London, England: Palgrave.
Carillet, J.-B. (2009). Chile and Easter Island. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
Langhans, C. (2010). Doing business in Chile: Chilean social and business culture. Web.
Rodriguez, J., & Gomez, C. (2009). HRM in Chile: The impact of organizational culture. Employee Relations, 31(3), 276-294.
Roraff, S., & Camacho, L. (2011). Cultural shock in Chile: A survival guide to customs and etiquette. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.