Just like culture, language, and etiquette, doing business varies from one country to another. Costa Rica offers diverse markets and some of the best business laws in Latin America. The country boasts strong sectors that include tourism, technology, and electronic manufacturing that can be significant for any foreign investor looking for nearshore development.
If you have been planning to venture into the Costa Rican business world as a person who has done business in the United States, it is best to be prepared as business etiquette and culture between these two countries are completely different.
Here is everything you need to know about the business practices in Costa Rica and how they differ from those in the U.S.
The Flexibility of Costa Ricans with Appointment Times
One of the first things you will notice when you start doing business in Costa Rica is that they generally don’t take appointment times as seriously as Americans do. Costa Ricans have a more relaxed approach to time management, which is the opposite of Americans. Therefore, a business meeting in Costa Rica can start later than expected.
As a businessperson from the U.S., you should be more patient when an appointment starts half an hour late. Costa Ricans have a more relaxed approach to business as they value life/work balance. However, they have an excellent focus on work ethic and will deliver as per your expectations.
Even with their flexibility with time, they understand how important timekeeping is to Americans and try to be on time when working with a team from the U.S.
Ensure you confirm the meeting well in advance with an emphasis on time, to improve the chances of it starting on time.
Negotiations Take Time
Costa Rica is a peaceful and relaxed society. When establishing a business relationship with a new person in Costa Rica, you will need to be patient and establish a social relationship first. Therefore, be prepared for a few social meetings before closing a deal. Small talk about the weather, latest news, and even sports can be part of a conversation in business meetings.
Most business decisions are made by several parties, making it a bureaucratic business environment, which is not always the case in the U.S. Therefore, business decisions take longer in Costa Rica.
This is different from doing business in the United States, where business people are often straight to the point. For instance, when trying to sell a product to a store owner in the United States, you only need to prove that the product is beneficial through effective product comparisons and that it can generate profits for the store owner to have it displayed on the shelves. In Costa Rica, it will take a few meetings for them to consider doing business with you.
You will find Costa Ricans curious about a business and will ask random questions about your business. By offering specifications, you can spike their interest and maybe close a deal.
Importance of networking in Costa Rica
With only 5 million people, most people doing business in Costa Rica know one another. You can expect people in the same sector to be familiar with each other, which is sometimes different from the United States. When trying to do business with one Costa Rican business, you can be sure that they will want to know what other businesses you have approached or worked with as they use this as a reference. Therefore, networking is highly important to Costa Ricans.
Ensure you remain respectful and honest with all business people you approach in Costa Rica. Business reputation spreads very fast in this small county, influencing how fast you close deals or whether they give your product a chance. It is important to go out there and build positive relations with Costa Rican communities to streamline future business endeavors with the market.
Without networking, you can miss numerous business opportunities and partnerships with Costa Rican business people because you failed to invest in networking. This closeness and emphasis on networking make Costa Ricans some of the best people for business collaborations.
The impact of Language on Costa Rica’s culture
One thing the U.S. and Costa Rica have in common when it comes to doing business is the importance of learning the official language. In the United States, you must possess English communication skills to have an easier time doing business. This is also the case in Costa Rica, where it is more beneficial when you can speak Spanish.
Even with high English fluency in Costa Rica, they value people who take their time to learn their language and culture. Taking the time to learn Spanish or phrases you will commonly use when conducting business is the best way to build relationships with the business people.
During business meetings, you will notice that most Costa Ricans use technical Spanish terms that are sometimes hard to understand. Always ensure you ask for clarification for any words you do not understand. They see this as a show of interest in the specifics of the meeting.
Even with the proximity of Costa Rica to the U.S., business culture is very different between these two countries. The closeness of the communities and businesspeople can blur the lines between business and personal. In contrast, there is a clear distinction between business and personal life in the U.S. Even with these differences, business partnerships between the two countries have continued to thrive, especially in software development and web-based projects.