Cultural do’s and don’ts
The information provided in this section is a summary of a report by Ìnternational Business (2016).
Ecuadorians are proud to speak Spanish and trying to communicate in Spanish is generally appreciated. Although the larger companies will have English speaking staff in the sales department, in some cases companies may not be able to communicate in other languages than Spanish. If your own Spanish is not sufficient you have to use a professional interpretator or find an agent who is proficient in both languages.
Titles should always be used when addressing a person. If the person does not have a title, use the formal Señor, Señora or Señorita together with the surname. The first time you meet someone the most common greeting is shaking hands, regardless of gender. The second time you can proceed to a kiss on the right cheek, more common between a man and a woman and between women; men usually shake hands only.
Power, trust and personal relationships
Ecuadorian culture is hierarchical illustrated by the use of titles but also by other business aspects such as the way in which persons with authority can overrule staff and for example in business meetings where managers tend to give instructions to staff rather than having open discussions. It is even considered to be disrespectful for an employee to correct or make a suggestion to a superior, especially in front of other employees.
Relationships between the company and its employees are often based on mutual loyalty. Employees are expected to be loyal and willing to do what they are asked for. Employers are expected to be loyal to staff as well, and often see their staff as extended family. Family is important in Ecuador and therefore company owners seek to work with and hire family members.
Building personal relationships is very important. Part of this is that extensive greetings with inquiries about health and family are considered crucial before getting to the purpose of the meeting. Not greeting appropriately might be considered disrespectful. Sharing about your personal life is a way of assuring an Ecuadorian that you are reliable. In the same trend, it is expected that you have informal conversations during lunch and dinner, after a meal you might actually get more business done than in regular meetings.
Competition between companies can be regarded as high mainly due to the focus on groups and the close relationships between companies and their employers. Therefore, it is important to chose your right business partners and to be loyal to them.
The main religion in Ecuador is Catholicism and the church continues to have an important influence on the national identity as well as the personal and social behavior. Therefore, you should be respectful to the church not to insult your business partner.
You are expected to dress quite conservative when doing business. This expectation increases as you move more inland and away from the coast. Dark suit is considered appropriate for men, and a suit or a dress for women.
As in most parts of Latin-America the attitude towards time is less rigid, but punctuality is more expected in business settings. Giving an end time for a meeting might be interpreted as rude, as you are seen to put more value on the time than the topic discussed. Scheduling meetings back to back should therefore be avoided.
Business cards are part of the formal way of doing business in Ecuador and are normally exchanged in the beginning of a meeting to all the participants. It is advised to have one side written in English and one in Spanish, and it should contain information of your professional title or your academic degree.