Facts and Statistics
Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana
Climate:tropical; hot, humid; more moderate in highlands
Population: 25,017,387 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arab, German, African, indigenous people
Religions: nominally Roman Catholic 96%, Protestant 2%, other 2%
Languages in Venezuela
About 40 languages are spoken in Venezuela. However, Spanish, the country's official language, is the most common. The most widely spoken indigenous languages are Wayuu, Warao, Piaroa, Yanomami, Kahlihna, Manduhuaca, Panaré, Pemón, Guahibo and Nhengtu. Most of these languages originated in the languages of the Caribs, the Arawaks and the Chibcha.
As more indigenous people move to the cities, many of their languages are becoming extinct. Languages such as Sapé and Mapoyo have five or fewer speakers. Anthropologists are trying to learn these languages and the stories of these peoples before the last people who speak these languages die.
Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic and English are the most common foreign languages spoken in Venezuela. Some English words, such as "parking," have found their way into Venezuelan Spanish.
Venezuelans often speak less formally than people in most other Spanish-speaking countries.
Venezuelan Society & Culture
. Venezuelans are proud of their country and heritage.
. Simon Bolivar, who liberated much of South America from the Spanish colonialists, was born in Venezuela.
. Their flag is a national icon and is respected and admired.
. There are four separate public holidays that commemorate independence, during which time flags are flown outside private houses as well as public buildings and there are street parades.
Venezuelan Family Values
. The family is the cornerstone of the social structure and forms the basis of stability for most people.
. The individual derives a social network and assistance in times of need from the extended family.
. In villages it is common for members of the extended family to live close to one another, often on the same block.
. Nepotism an accepted practice and is considered a good thing, since it implies that employing people one knows and trusts is of primary importance.
. Venezuelans pride themselves on their hospitality.
. They go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and comfortable.
. Venezuelan hosts cater to their every desire.
Religion in Venezuela
. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Venezuelan constitution.
. More than 90% of the population is Roman Catholic.
. Some indigenous people practice their traditional religions, but many have converted to Roman Catholicism.
Etiquette & Customs in Venezuela
. A firm handshake, with direct eye contact and a welcoming smile are the standard greeting. When shaking hands, always use the appropriate greeting for the time of day - 'buenos dias', 'buenas tardes', or 'buenas noches'.
. When meeting groups always introduce yourself to the eldest person first.
. When leaving, say good-bye to each person individually.
. Since this is a formal culture, address people by their academic or professional title and their surname until invited to move to a first- name basis.
Gift Giving Etiquette
. If invited to a dinner party, send flowers, particularly orchids, in advance of the event.
. Do not give handkerchiefs since they are considered unlucky.
. Gifts are generally opened when received.
. Always send a handwritten thank you note as it marks you as a person with class.
If you are invited to a Venezuelan's house:
. Arrive 15 to 30 minutes later than invited.
. Arriving on time or early shows that you are too eager, which is interpreted as greedy.
. Dress conservatively but with an elegant flair. Smart casual dress is usually acceptable.
. Never decline an offer of coffee, as it is a symbol of hospitality to Venezuelans.
. Wait for the host or hostess to tell you where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
. Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
. Do not begin eating until all other diners are seated, unless encouraged by the host to start.
. The host saying 'buen provecho' (enjoy or have a good meal) is the customary invitation for everyone to eat.
. In most cases, a maid or server will place food on your plate, although large dinner parties may be buffet style.
. Always keep your hands visible when eating, but do not rest your elbows on the table.
. Food is always eaten with utensils. Even fruit is eaten with a knife and fork.
. Keep your napkin on your lap while eating.
. Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink. Venezuelans typically toast with the word 'salud'.
. The host makes the first toast.
. When not using utensils, rest the tips on the edge of the plate with the handles resting on the table.
. It is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.
. When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork diagonally across the plate with the prongs facing down and the handles facing to the right.
Business Etiquette and Protocol
Relationships & Communications
. This is a country where networking is important since it broadens your base of personnel who might have a connection you need.
. As with many Latin cultures, Venezuelans are risk averse, which makes it important that they know and trust the people with whom they do business.
. Venezuelans prefer face-to-face meetings to doing business by telephone or in writing, which are seen as too impersonal. It takes time to develop relationships.
. Appearances matter to Venezuelans. Dress well and try to stay in a reputable hotel.
. Senior positions in business are predominately held by the upper class, so it is important that you pay attention to the hierarchy and show appropriate deference and respect to those in positions of authority.
Business Meeting Etiquette
. Business appointments are required and can often be scheduled on short notice; however, it is best to make them about 2 weeks in advance by telephone, email or fax.
. Confirm meetings by fax or email, in Spanish, at least one week before the meeting. It is best to schedule appointments in the morning.
. Avoid scheduling meetings on Friday afternoon, as many Venezuelans leave early for the weekend.
. It is often difficult to schedule meetings in the two weeks before and after Christmas and Carnival, and three weeks before and after Easter.
. Venezuelans are generally punctual for business meetings, especially if they are accustomed to working with international companies.
. The first meeting is formal.
. Have all written material available in both English and Spanish.
. Decisions are not reached at meetings. Meetings are for discussion and to exchange ideas.
. Send a thank you note to the most senior executive after the meeting.
. Expect a minimal amount of small talk before getting down to business. Older Venezuelans prefer to get to know people before doing business with them while younger businesspeople are more concerned with business than the social relationship.
. It will take several meetings to come to an agreement. Negotiation and time for consultation are important.
. Relationships are viewed as more important than business documents.
. Negotiations and decisions take a long time.
. Venezuelans focus on long- term rather than short-term goals.
. Venezuelan business is hierarchical. Decisions are made by the person with the most authority.
. Appropriate business attire is expected.
. Men should wear good quality, conservative, dark coloured business suits.
. Women should wear stylish suits or dresses. They should be elegantly dressed, including make-up, jewellery and manicures.
. Business cards are exchanged during introductions with everyone at a meeting.
. Have one side of your business card translated into Spanish.
. Present your business card with the Spanish side facing the recipient.
. Business cards should contain both your professional and educational qualifications, since Venezuelans are status conscious.
. Writing on someone's business card in front of them is considered very rude.
Being a Manager in Venezuela
The business set up in Venezuela is hierarchical and, as such, clearly defined roles exist. To ensure successful cross cultural management it is important to remember this. Since Venezuela has a formal culture, err on the side of being formal and conservative rather than risk upsetting a potential business relationship because you were too informal and may have appeared flippant.
Women often hold significant management positions in Venezuela, particularly in the field of engineering. Once they have attained these senior positions, women's opinions are generally well respected.
It is important to have a wide range of contacts. This is a country where "who you know" is often more important than what you know.
The Role of a Manager
If you are working with people from Venezuela, it is important to remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration. Cross cultural communication needs to take into account that traditionally it would have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with, or ask ideas of one of a lower status.
However, this is changing and if you would like to encourage participation, you need to make it clear this is welcome and ensure you establish a non-threatening environment. Any ideas that are raised need to be treated gently so as to protect the reputation of the participant.
Because of the paternalistic attitude of managers, the role often extends into one of giving advice on personal matters.
Approach to Change
Venezuela’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Venezuela is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Venezuela is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Venezuela will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.
While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.
Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.
Cross cultural management is more likely to succeed if you understand that Venezuelan business is relatively hierarchical and managers tend to be autocratic. There are still the remnants of social class in the business arena, since the upper echelons are generally from well connected families. Managers tell subordinates what they want done, although they may consult with subordinates with experience in a specific area before making decisions.
Boss or Team Player
The hierarchical nature of the Venezuelan business world means it is important that the manager maintains his/her role as boss.
When the manager needs to work collectively, this needs to be clearly stated.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Successful cross cultural communication will need to take into account Venezuela’s relationship-driven culture. Relationships are viewed as more important than business documents. Expect negotiations and decision-making to be a lengthy process. Venezuelans focus on long-term rather than short-term goals. Hierarchy is important, although not always apparent. Defer to the person with the most authority, as they are most likely the decision maker. Men should not take off their suit jacket unless the most senior Venezuelan does. Women should never remove their suit jacket during meetings or negotiations.
Useful Information and Links about Venezuela
* Currency - the currency is known as the Bolivar. Use the free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP or Euro.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Venezuela.
* News - check out all the latest Google news on Venezuela.
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code is +58.
* Time - Venezuela is -4 hours GMT.
* Hotels - Hotels in Venezuela.
* History - read about the long and rich history of Venezuela.
information provided by www.kwintessential.co.uk