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Meet the Culture

Background Information
Peru's Competitive Advantage
Working in Peru
Peru's Economy
Meet the Culture
The Peruvian Markets
Risk Management in Peru
Social Issues and Concerns in Peru
Conclusion and Recommendations

Spanish, which is spoken by about 70% of the people in Peru, was the sole official language of Peru until 1975, when Quechua, one of the principal languages of the Native Americans, also was made an official language. Another Native American language, Aymará, was declared official in 1980. English is occasionally spoken, along with more than 85 different languages from around the world.

Business Language and Non-verbal Communication (Humour)
In Peru, the main business language is Spanish. English is also used, but not as commonly as Spanish. You should speak in a high pitch voice, to avoid boring the businessman that you are negotiating with. Most Peruvians want to have a quick negotiation, so you should probably speak quickly. You should avoid using too many gestures, expression or any body language at all. It is very important to use a lot of vocal inflection and humour.

Conversation Topics
Most topics in Peru are okay to discuss at business meetings. There are only four topics that you must avoid discussing. They include religion, government, sexuality and the economy. Religion is vital to avoid because there are many different beliefs within Peru. Despite the fact that 90% of the population is Roman Catholic, many people have different interpretations on topics regarding their religion. The government and the economy should both be avoided for the same reason; they are extremely unstable. Many Peruvians are very concerned about the dangers of an unstable economy, and they also fear some of the political parties. Sexuality is the last main topic that should be avoided at all times. It is even against the law to discuss, or write about, homosexuality.




Business Negotiations
In Peru, negotiations are very short and they get directly to the point. Peruvans do not enjoy negotiating with a company, so a middleman is almost always present. They rarely negotiate with women, as women have very few rights within the country. Before negotiations begin, the businessmen should shake hands using their right hand. After the negotiations are done, if there is an agreement, hands are shaken again using the right hand. If an agreement is not reached, hands are shaken still, but with the left hand. Most negotiating occurs during lunch, and the person seeking the deal should pay for the meal. The largest conflict that may occur is cost and prices. Since Peruvian currency is very unstable, there will often be conflict over the exchange rate or currency that should be used. Negotiations over the internet are increasing in popularity within Peru, as many companies are fascinated by the capabilities that the Internet provides.


Customs, Greetings and Gift Giving
Gift giving is okay in Peru before or after negotiations, but never during. There are many different greetings that are common practices in Peru. The most common greeting is simply shaking hands. A handshake in Peruvian business should be firm and usually lasts 5-10 seconds. It is customary to greet the person speaking in Spanish. One should never speak in their own language unless the Peruvian negotiatior addresses them in that language.

National Holidays and Ceremonies
In Peru, the most significant national holidays are:
  • January 1 - New Year's Day
  • March/April - Holy Week
  • May 1 - Labour Day
  • June 29 - St. Peter's and St. Paul's Day
  • July 28-29 - Independence Day
  • August 30 - St. Rose of Lima Day
  • Novemeber 1 - All Saint's Day
  • December 8 - Immaculate Conception
  • December 24-25 Christmas

Most of Peru's ceremonies occur on these national holidays. The most frequent ceremonies occur during the Holy Week during either March or April. At this time of year, there are many parades and festivals in all of the major cities.


Business Customs (Tipping, Gifts, and Time Management)
When negotiating with Peruvian businessmen, one should wear a suit and tie. Meetings usually occur between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm, and are often during a meal. Tipping should not occur, but gifts may be given as presents and should not be opened when received, as this represents greed. Time is very important to Peruvians and it should not be wasted. If negotiations are unsuccessful, they should be discontinued immediately.

Gender Roles in the Home and at Work
Men are responsible to make money and support their family, and are not responsible to do any house work. Women take the responsibility to perform all of the house work, and often the children may help out. Uprisings have often been performed by the women of Peru, in an attempt to gain more rights; however, they have hardly been successful, other than the victory felt when Toledo appointed Beatriz Merino as Prime Minister (the first female ever). Also, when a boy turns 14 years old, he may go out and find his own job. Child labour does occur within the country, however it is a topic that is avoided at all times.

Class Structure
In Peru there have been principles of a hierarchy forced on the country since the colonial times. The Highland people are widely believed to be savages which has made many natives take on humble personalities and be pushed around by rich, more important people. It is common to have Natives go to the back of the bus so that they are not near the wealthy Peruvians. There is a very small percentage of the population that has amassed a great amount of wealth. This has created a gap between the rich and poor which has only emphasized the class structure more.

The word indio, as applied to native Highland people of Quechua and Aymara origin, carries strong negative meanings and stereotypes among Peruvians. The highland people are labeled as savages, traditionalist and standing in the way of modern development. For that reason the government attempted with some success to substitute the term peasant (campesino) to accompany the many far-reaching changes the government directed at improving the socioeconomic conditions in the highlands. Nevertheless, traditional usage has prevailed in many areas in reference to those who speak native languages, dress in native styles, and engage in activities defined as native.

Ethnic and Gender Issues
Because of Peruvian society's longstanding negative attitudes and practices toward native peoples, those who have become socially mobile seek to change their public identity and learning Spanish becomes critical. Denial of the ability to speak Quechua, Aymara, or other native languages often accompanies the switch. The Afro-Peruvians who came as slaves with the first wave of conquest remained in that position until released from it by Marshal Ramón Castilla in 1854. During their long colonial experience, many Afro-Peruvians, especially the mulattos and others of mixed racial decent, were freed to get working-class roles in the coastal valleys.
Politics - Women and some minorities participate actively in government and politics, although they are underrepresented. There are 13 women in the 120-seat Congress. One of 15 cabinet ministers and several vice ministers are women, as are 3 of the 33 judges of the Supreme Court.
Violence against women - Violence including rape, spousal abuse, and sexual, physical, and mental abuse of women and girls, continues to be a chronic problem. Such abuses are caused by insensitivity on the part of law enforcement and judicial authorities toward the female victims of abuse. It is estimated that 37 percent of adult women living in Lima and Callao are abused annually. It is also estimated that there are 25,000 annual cases of physical and mental abuse against women. Human rights organizations continue to believe that a large number of domestic violence cases remain unreported. 

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