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How to Behave with Puerto Rican Businesspeople or Customers

Puerto Ricans may require your attention as a business owner. Your business may have Puerto Rican customers, or you may work with Puerto Rican-owned businesses. Here's how to behave in business with this cultural group:

  • Common greeting: Shaking hands is common for both men and women. Men and women who are friends may kiss each other on the cheek. Older people are respected and usually introduced first.

    Be formal at first and don’t use customers’ first names unless invited to do so.

  • Personal space: Puerto Ricans tend to stand close when conversing, at about 1 to 1 1/2 feet. They often touch other people when talking, such as patting them on the back.

  • Eye contact: Direct.

  • Approach to time: May be 15 to 30 minutes late or more.

  • Language: Although Spanish is the national language, English is the language of business, so Puerto Ricans are usually quite comfortable speaking it.

  • Communication: Puerto Ricans are a friendly people who often smile while talking. They like to be very direct about issues and feelings, and they may be a bit emphatic while doing it.

    Be aware that Puerto Ricans consider their country to be part of the United States, so if you were to say something like “We Americans . . .” (as if they’re not Americans), your listener would likely be insulted.

  • Topics for building rapport: Sports and travel.

  • Negotiations: Usually begin with small talk and can end with a hard sell, so be prepared. Don’t offer your best deal upfront, or you’ll have few options when the real bargaining begins.

  • Actions to avoid: Sitting or standing with arms crossed or putting your hands on your hips are considered challenging or aggressive postures. Don’t inquire about families or marital status; the rate of divorce and single-parent families is pretty high among Puerto Ricans in the U.S. don’t talk about Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory because this is a sensitive and controversial topic.

  • Tips for businesswomen: Although Puerto Ricans value equality, the spirit of machismo is still alive and well. Puerto Rican men are used to seeing women in positions of power and authority, so be yourself, but remain aware that some men from this culture may prefer to work with a man in your business.

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