Gift giving at business meetings is common in several countries across Latin America, but if you want to ensure your gift creates the right impression it’s important you time it correctly and are aware of what items to avoid.
Firstly, you should rule out presenting your associates with anything sharp, as this can be interpreted as a sign that you want to sever your relationship. Secondly, dismiss anything that is coloured purple and black, including wrapping paper, as these are considered to be colours of mourning in the region.
There are of course other customs relating to business gifting that differ from country to country and also between companies, just some of which are detailed below.
Gift giving is customary in Costa Rica and is usually a standard element of business negotiations. Gifts should be well presented and carefully wrapped, although they should not be too excessive. Thank you notes are also an important part of the process, so if you receive a gift it is important that this is not overlooked. It’s best to avoid gifts of coffee or fruit products, as Costa Rica is known for its production of both, this could show a lack of research, or worse, a lack of respect. In general, men should not offer gifts to female business counterparts directly from themselves, instead presenting them on behalf of their female staff members or wives.
Gifts are not considered an important part of relationship building within business in Brazil and are not expected at initial meetings. If you do decide to present a business associate with a gift, this should be done at a more informal, social meeting, rather than as part of the formal business process, and expensive gifts should be avoided as these may be viewed as a potential bribe. Items such as interesting coffee table books, high quality whiskey and brand name pens are likely to be gratefully received once you have developed a good working relationship and in some cases a present for your associate’s children may even be appropriate.
In Bolivia the gifting of small local souvenirs during meetings with international business associates can be customary and will usually be opened immediately, so their relevance can be explained. Any other gifts should be wrapped and will generally not be opened until after the giver has left. In most circumstances you should avoid giving anything that could be seen as excessive or expensive.
As in many other countries, small gifts such as engraved pens or quality products from your home country, such as whiskey or wines, are well received in Colombia. It is, however, wise to be aware that items such as clothing and perfume are considered to be much more personal and should be reserved only for business colleagues you know very well.
In Chile business gifts are not expected until a relationship has formed and even then it’s important to be aware that tastes here are generally quite conservative. With expensive or flashy items leading to potential awkwardness it may be best to opt for business related gifts, such as leather appointment or notebooks, quality pens and other office accessories. Or alternatively, carefully considered craft or design-lead pieces from your home country.