¡Vamos Pa’ Cuba! Puente Cultural Integration is planning its first trip to Cuba. Government policies keep changing and we have been paying close attention to the latest updates. In the last couple of months, the US has opened bids for domestic airline carriers to provide service to Cuba and has eliminated many restrictions for travel. We, like so many others, are anxious to see Cuba before their doors open to all tourism and trade. Interest has been great in the Metro Detroit area. Because this is unknown territory for US businesses, there is value in seeking out a cultural liaison that can help you to bridge the gap between the US and Cuba.
We are working with strategic partners and our initial trip falls under two categories allowed by the US State Dept. for travel to Cuba.
Educational Activities: exploration of cultural centers, museums, music, art, architecture, and cuisine.
People-to-People: our primary goal is to form relationships with various locals in multiple cities that will provide ongoing mutually beneficial relationships. We aim to eat with the locals, find dance instructors, meet musicians and honor their craft, connect with artisans, and stay in “casas particulares” to embrace the daily life of the Cuban people.
As of March 15th, the Department of Treasury has updated its FAQS page which includes the following, “Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities, subject to the criteria and conditions in each general license: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.”
You’ll find dozens of articles and tips about traveling abroad. Some are applicable to our business travel as well as for pleasure. While most tips will focus on Europe, the cultures of Latin America have a deep European influence and can be a source of valuable tips when traveling for work.
Here are a few tips from Puente Cultural Integration for business travel in Latin America:
Dress the part
Err on the side of formality
Even (or especially) for social events – Latin Americans will dress up
No tennis shoes unless it’s an athletic event
You can always take off the sport coat & tie if you are overdressed
If everyone else is in business dress & you show up in khakis / polo – what role do you play?
Eat the local cuisine with your hosts
Nothing can kill a deal faster than your desire to eat at McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s
Insist that they take you to a local restaurant & let them order for you
One person (usually the highest exec) always picks up the check (do not offer to split the bill)
If you are buying the meal say “Les invito” (I’m inviting you all) & you must ASK the waiter for the bill “La cuenta, por favor” – they will never just bring it.
Enjoy your meal – it is not uncommon for a “business” lunch / dinner to last 2-3 hours.
Say “Provecho” (Bon Apetit) before eating & “¡Salud!” (Cheers!) before drinking
Business is done after hours
Relationships matter – ask about their family
Real conversations matter – find out what they love to do
Business deals will be sealed the next day, don’t insist on keeping the business talk going out of the office
Use the out-of-office “social” time to build the relationship & the business will get handled more effectively
Be really careful with taxis
Only use radio taxis or a business/hotel car service
If your company is in the Metro Detroit or Chicago areas and would like Puente Cultural Integration to provide consulting, cross-cultural or diversity training for your staff, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.
You will see a common theme when doing business in Latin America: Relationships!
To be successful in the Latin American market, you must be present – both physically and emotionally – to maintain your clients’ trust and loyalty.
Do not assume previous positive business dealings will ensure a long-term relationship in business. If something newer, flashier, bigger or better comes across their desk – they may jump at the opportunity if you are not close by to remind them of your value. They will “love the one they’re with” and you will be out the door like yesterday’s news.
So my best advice, as we bridge the gap with Puente Cultural Integration, is to forge and maintain your business relationships. Get to know your cohorts in Latin America well. Understand their needs. Ask questions about their lives and their families. Be present. Be available. Be there for them and you will be the one they’re with!