Doing business in Argentina is just like doing business anywhere: A varied experience involving many individuals.
Sometimes when I consider how often I am consulted for advice on doing business around the world, both in the field of language translation and in general, I start to check myself for a long white beard and flowing robes, wondering if I’ve aged centuries (and changed genders) overnight. After all, why would people my own age and experience level expect me to know more than I do? What I’ve come to realise is that it’s the translation work: I tend to know a little something about most cultures simply from having had so much contact with various cultures throughout my career. I may not know everything, but I can render a pretty convincing facsimile thereof.
For example, I was recently asked about doing business in Argentina. I’ve never actually done business in Argentina, but I know some who have, so I was able to offer some basic information and advice. But my main piece of advice is applicable to any new market when you’re trying to expand your business into global markets: Don’t make the mistake of assuming your can categorise an entire country of people with a few bullet points.
A country like Argentina is made up of millions of people from various backgrounds. Yes, you can make some general statements about any group of people, but the fact is you’ll be dealing with individuals. Individuals often surprise you with how unlike the caricature of their country they are.
For my American friends, I often ask them to consider how they feel about the way American tourists are caricatured around the world: Loud, ignorant, confident, rich. Do they think this is an accurate description not just of them but of every American tourist out there? Or do they bristle a bit and feel a touch of outrage that people think of them as part of this flat grouping where everyone is exactly the same? That’s how many of these “guides” to a culture work: Take some possibly untrue generalities and act like everyone you meet will be that way.
Here’s some actual facts that will make your encounters in Argentina much more successful:
- Learn Spanish. It’s the language that’s spoken primarily in Argentina, and especially if you are going into business there it’s what you’ll need to speak.
- Argentinians are very cosmopolitan, with the population a mix of many immigrant groups from Europe.
- Argentinians consider their country to be the main rival of Brazil for dominance of South America.
Beyond that, you will be dealing with individuals who may or may not conform to the broad strokes of what it means to be Argentinian, just as I may or may not conform to your idea of what it means to be an Australian translation professional. My best advice: Go and find out for yourself what it’s like to do business in a certain country. Don’t rely on Internet blog posts!