Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, and indeed the world, over the last decade or so. The country has encouraged foreign investment, and expats doing business in Peru are generally made to feel welcome.
With rich deposits of copper, silver, gold, lead and zinc, mining is an important contributor to Peru’s economy. Other important sectors include agriculture, fishery, gas and petroleum exploitation and manufacturing (mostly of textiles). The capital, Lima, is the centre of commerce, and is where most foreigners do business in Peru.
Peru’s strategic location in South America alongside a stable democracy and strong economic growth all contribute to a positive environment in which to do business. This has been highlighted in its positive ranking in international business surveys. In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, Peru was ranked 76th out of 190 countries surveyed. The country ranked well in getting credit (37th) but lagged in areas such as trading across borders (102nd) and starting a business (133rd), which may discourage some entrepreneurs.
The business week is Monday to Friday. Business hours are from 9am to 5pm, with an hour lunch break.
Spanish is the main language of business in Peru. While English may be understood in large corporate enterprises in Lima, it is not widely spoken or understood within the public sector.
Men and women in business circles will usually greet each other with a handshake. Friends and close associates may greet each other with a light kiss on each cheek.
Business dress in Peru is formal and conservative, with business suits being the usual attire.
Gifts are not expected in business circles, but it is common practice to give a gift if invited to a Peruvian home. Flowers, liquor or chocolates are a good option; avoid giving knives or scissors, as these may be interpreted as a severing of the relationship.
Peru is still a traditional, macho culture with traditional gender roles. While there are opportunities for women within the corporate arena, salaries tend to be lower.
Business culture in Peru
As with most Latin American countries, building strong relationships and trust is essential when working in Peru. It’s important to network, as Peruvians prefer to do business with trusted associates and often who you know goes a long way to securing good work opportunities.
The business culture in Peru is formal. Business structures are hierarchical, with decision making done from the top. There is very little consultation with those in lower positions. Those in authority are respected for being experienced and knowledgeable. When doing business in Peru it’s therefore important to ensure that the real decision makers are met with in order to avoid delays and miscommunications.
Communication style in Peru is more indirect, so it may be difficult to decipher what someone is actually saying. Saving face is important to Peruvians, and they generally try to avoid causing offence or confrontation. When conversing, a Peruvian may appear to agree with what is being said, even if they don’t necessarily agree.
Peruvians are generally quite open and it’s not unusual to stand close together and also to touch each other on the shoulder or hands while talking.
Networking is very important when it comes to doing business in Peru and it’s often a case of who you know when it comes to making decisions on who to deal with. Building interpersonal relationships is essential as Peruvians prefer to do business with those they know and trust, so much time may be spent getting to know an associate before any real business is dealt with. In line with this, business meetings will usually start with small talk about matters such as family or football before any real business is dealt with.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Peru
Do make small talk when starting a meeting, but avoid topics such as politics and religion
Do be punctual for meetings, but don’t expect that the Peruvian counterparts will be on time; it’s not unusual for meetings to begin late
Do try to learn some Spanish, especially if dealing with those within the public sector, as English is not widely spoken outside of city business circles