International Travel Tips: How to Prepare for a Business Trip in South America
Katie German is a Human Resources Business Partner at MWH Global. As part of her role with MWH Global, she works strategically with their Latin American offices in Argentina, Chile, Panama, and Peru and travels there for meetings. Her business travel has taken her to Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina and she spends considerable time working with colleagues in Lima, Peru. Katie was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru for over two years.
We asked Katie what business travelers need to know prior to arrival in South America. Katie explained, that while each country in South America has its own traditions and cultural customs, there are some customs that are overarching.
“Time is not always to the minute, meetings can run over and it is not always as acceptable to let someone know you have another meeting or commitment and you must leave.” Katie explained, “In turn, this can make a person not as prompt to following meetings and commitments.”
She went on to say, “If you are offered some food or mate in Argentina, it is polite to accept.”
Another concept to keep in mind is basic communication. To avoid being perceived as aggressive, Katie suggests not being too direct. She says communication is not as direct in South American countries as it is in the United State.
Katie provided 7 tips for first time travelers to South America:
- Ensure that you have verified that the offices and travel locations will be open.
- Be aware of any business specific holidays and/or religious holidays for the countries you plan to visit. These holidays can fall on different days of the year that can change depending on the calendar (and government decision in some cases.)
- Be conscious of the potential for a transportation strike, which can occur with very little notice. She suggests having an alternative plan to arrive at your destination just in case.
- There is a wealth of information on the U.S. Department of State website for travel tips, safety and security, visa requirements, transportation, local laws and customs, etc.
- Be aware of current events prior to traveling. Travel congestion can easily occur due to a soccer tournament or an election.
- Keep in mind that the Southern Hemisphere has different seasons, so research the weather and pack accordingly.
- Don’t forget to pack a plug converter specific to the country you are traveling.
We asked Katie about how she deals with jet lag. Similar to many seasoned travelers, Katie does not let jet lag slow her down. She says she has little downtime during her trip to rest, so she just works until a normal bedtime.
The last international travel tip Katie shared with us about South America is to take in the culture.
“The culture in each country is very diverse, rich, and beautiful. South Americans are proud of their own country and culture, so the traveler should accept the offer of a trusted person to take them to experience the traditional foods, sites, and shows.”
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