Overarching ideas in Latino culture
Whether or not you do business internationally, chances are you work with Latinos in some capacity, be they clients, employees, or colleagues, and therefore deal with the differences found in Latino culture.
In the business world, the differences between Latino and mainstream U.S. culture are visible in everything from employee management to negotiation style. While Latino cultural tendencies can range from the paternalism of supervisors to familismo among medical patients, most can be traced back to a basic cultural value: Personalismo.
Personalismo in practice is an emphasis on politeness and courtesy, and establishing a good rapport with someone — a personal connection — before getting down to business or the task at hand. However, personalismo is more than just making polite conversation at the beginning of a meeting. As stated by Dr. Fernando Mederos, at a deeper level it is the “unconditional recognition of the essential value of each individual. A person’s value stems from who they are unto themselves and from their membership in a family group, rather than from their social status or from their professional accomplishments.”
This importance of personalismo cannot be overstated, as it serves as the foundation for many other cultural values, including confianza (trust). Being “trustworthy” in mainstream U.S. culture often means little more than being honest and reliable. However, in Latino culture, having confianza implies a trust based largely on personal relationships and rapport, the idea that a person “knows us” or “is one of us” far outweighs that person’s credentials or professional accomplishments. Hence the Latino tendency to trust individuals far more than institutions. Without confianza, you’re unlikely to have any significant success in working with Latinos in any context.
So how can you start to build confianza with your Latino business partners, co-workers, employees and clients?
- Take the time to get to know them as individuals – and don’t underestimate the importance of family to one’s individual identity in Latino culture.
- If Spanish is their primary language, make an effort to communicate with them in Spanish to some degree. While you may not feel that the onus is on you to learn the language, the personal effort to connect is recognized and conveys the ever-important message that you have their best interest at heart.
- Learn about the cultural values and tendencies that often govern Latino behavior, such as respeto, agreeableness, simpatía, etc.
As always, remember that Latinos are a huge and diverse population in the U.S. While these cultural values are broadly-held, the millions of Latinos in the U.S. and beyond cannot be lumped together. In business it’s always beneficial to try to understand the other party’s culture, but with Latinos in particular – get to know the individual.