Excerpted from the Peru Career Guide
Peru is a thousand-year-old country steeped in tradition and a grand history. Peruvians are proud of their culture and the level of development achieved by the Inca Empire. A great number of people, however, believe corrupt leaders and poor examples from teachers have degraded the country’s traditions. This perception spawned a movement among some employers who wish to promote values of honesty and hard work, which they hope will help create good citizens and good workers.
Peruvians speak in quiet tones and maintain a modest demeanor; they do not interrupt one another. They are very direct. It is polite to maintain eye contact during a conversation, but never to point at someone. It is important to know the old traditions remain in Peru, and therefore it is necessary to use good manners all the time.
Expatriates should make an effort to speak Spanish if they wish to be understood, though in Peruvian conversation it would not be surprising to hear some words in English. One need not worry about becoming fluent in Spanish right away; Peruvians are very patient with people who do not speak it very well, and they are very helpful to foreigners. In a work situation, however, efficient communication is very important, and co-workers may not be so tolerant.
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
It is expected that guests will arrive at least 30 minutes late to social events.
Sneezing, winking and gesturing in public should be avoided.
Table manners are very important. Keep the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left.
In most workplaces, Peruvians tend to be very polite and amiable with others, including foreigners and new acquaintances. For foreigners, it is especially easy to establish new relationships because Peruvians tend to give them special attention.
Peruvians dress rather formally for work. Men and women generally wear suits when their occupations put them in direct contact with customers or when they are attending an important meeting. Otherwise, men can wear dress pants and a nice shirt to work. Women can wear dresses or skirts complemented with jewelry, makeup and colored nail polish if they are so inclined. It is always favorable to wear recognized brand clothes, because in Peru they are synonymous with a good position in society.
Corporate Hierarchy / Boss and Subordinate Relations
Hierarchy plays a major role in the operation of a Peruvian business. Peruvian titles are generally accurate, e.g., a vice president is actually the second in command, making it easy to discern the corporate hierarchy in an organization. Traditionally, relationships between employees at different levels of the hierarchy have been very formal. However, this is changing among younger professionals, particularly those working for international corporations.
When a company is negotiating a deal in Peru, offering the best service or product is not enough; personal relationships are crucial. A proposal is more likely to succeed if the parties have established a good rapport, so the company should send charismatic negotiators and maintain the same players throughout the process. Switching negotiators midway through the negotiations can cause an entire project to fail.
Women in the Workplace
Regarding gender, about half of the Peruvian workforce consists of women, and they have made great inroads into the professional business world. Women in Peru continue to struggle against a deep-rooted machismo mindset, particularly in the provinces. Quite simply, Peruvian men usually prefer to deal with other men. Women who expect to be taken seriously must dress and act with the utmost professionalism. The law in Peru mandates a minimum of 90 days of paid maternity leave; other benefits related to maternity, such as lactariums, are yet to be implemented in most workplaces.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete Peru Guide.