Bolivia – maintaining dignity
Bolivia is a central South American country which borders Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru. Bolivia’s main economic activities include agriculture, mining, and manufacturing of products such as textiles. It has a population of around 9 million and Spanish is the main and official language however Bolivian Spanish differs in vocabulary and pronounciation, depending on the region.
Most Bolivians are born into Roman Catholicism, which has to some extent become “localised”, as it has grown intertwined with local folklore and customs in its early years of taking root in the country.
The family is the axis of social life and structure, and roles within the family are very traditional. The machismo mentality often translates into a feeling of male superiority and a strong sense of honour which means maintaining dignity at all costs.
Unlike Europeans Bolivians use both their maternal and paternal surnames. The father’s surname is listed first and is the one used in conversation. When a woman gets married she usually adds her husband’s first surname to her first surname with the connector “de”, so if Jennifer Maria Lopez marries Manuel Sebastien Costa, she would be called Jennifer Maria de Costa.
Bolivians tend to be formal in their business dealings. Professional or academic titles with the surname are used in business. Common titles are “Doctor” (medical doctor or Ph.D.), “Ingeniero” (engineer), and “Licenciado” (lawyer or university degree). If someone does not have a title, the honorific titles Señor or Señora are used with the surname.
Relationship building is important in Bolivia so initial meetings should always be about establishing trust and learning a little about each other. Wait for the other party to move the conversation on to business. Most business is conducted in Spanish so try and arrange for your own interpreter and have any materials translated into Spanish.
Share your Bolivian business experiences.