Business: Greetings and Courtesies
Handshakes are the common greeting among both men and women;
handshakes are gentle --almost limp --and somewhat prolonged, except
among Hondurans already involved in and familiar with international
business standards. Titles are important, and foreign visitors should
call their business counterparts by their title and last name unless
requested to do otherwise.
Business: Ethic and Framework
When doing business in Honduras, you will often hear the Spanish
phrase si Dios quiere (God willing) when a promise or commitment
is made. Because of the difficulties of surviving in such a poor country,
most Hondurans are quite fatalistic. They are content with their current
place in a business hierarchy because they know they cannot control
events. Consequently, they are more likely to keep a low profile in
business and avoid "rocking the boat." Opportunities for social mobility
are practically nonexistent, and Hondurans make the most they can
out of where they are. Do not be surprised if a functionary or official
indicates that he will be better be able to assist you if you can
help him in some tangible, most often monetary, way.
Hondurans value familial and personal relationships above almost everything
else --including business. They think little of stopping to talk with
or help a friend on the way to an appointment or meeting. Consequently,
Hondurans are often "late" from the business traveler's point of view.
The best way to plan for this is to schedule in hora latina
(Latin time) yourself. Have only one appointment set up for a morning
or afternoon. Show up on time, expect your Honduran counterpart to
be late, and accept keeping to your schedule only if si Dios quiere
Business: Decision Making
It is important to first establish a personal relationship,
possibly through several meetings, before a business deal can be concluded.
It is important to cultivate relationships with Honduran peers because
the quality of these relationships may strongly influence the actual
decision maker even when your immediate counterpart is not the one
making the decision. Negotiations will most likely take longer than
they might in the United States; thus, time should be set aside to
accommodate such deliberations.
Appointments are necessary and should be made two weeks in
advance. Allow plenty of time in this Latin American country, where
time runs slower than it might at home. Punctuality and a hurried
manner are not emphasized in this culture, and so, one must come prepared
to wait. Bring materials written or translated into Spanish; although
many businesspeople and government officials may speak some English,
it will nonetheless make a good impression and also assist those who
do not have extensive command of the English language, such as engineers
and technicians. Be sure to concentrate on socializing and avoid getting
straight down to business, as it will emphasize that you also place
importance on establishing personal contact, very much valued in Honduras.
The main meal in Honduras is eaten at lunchtime, and so business dinners
often feature "light" entr ées. Meals are eaten in a relaxed, informal
manner, and Honduran guests may arrive anywhere from 15 minutes to
an hour late. Sociable conversation is valued rather than talk about
business matters. Hands are kept above the table, and Hondurans eat
with the fork in the right hand and the knife in the left.
Fresh bananas, pineapples, citrus fruits, coconuts, mangoes, melons,
and avocados are often served sliced and ready to eat. Favorite dishes
include tapado (stew made from beef, vegetables, and coconut
milk), nacatamales (pork tamales), and mondongo (beef
knuckles and tripe). In the Christmas season, torrejas , a
French toast-style treat coated with cinnamon and sugar, is popular.
Sodas often accompany the meal and coffee follows. If you cannot eat
everything, your host may offer to have the leftovers wrapped up to
take with you.
North American-style fast foods such as pizza and hamburgers are becoming
popular in larger cities, but really fine restaurants are difficult
to find since many are semiprivate "clubs" open only to wealthy members
and their guests. If you are planning a business dinner, you may need
to rely on your host to suggest a location and provide you with a
contact name and number in order to make a reservation. Your hotel
concierge can also suggest appropriate restaurants. Expect to pay
a 10 to 15 percent tip for service.
Government statistics show that one-third of the workforce in Honduras
is female and that many women operate businesses, but that doesn't
paint a clear picture. Most of the women included in these numbers
work in factories in free trade zones producing garments for export.
To say these women occupy a secondary status in a male-dominated culture
is also misleading. For example, the National Labor Committee discovered
that female factory workers in the Choloma region were regularly injected
with contraceptives and told they were receiving tetanus shots. In
other factories, contraceptive pills were passed out to all women
regardless of their medical conditions. Those who refused the shots
or pills were suspended without pay.
Foreign businesswomen are expected to be highly professional, appropriate,
and not aggressive or confrontational. Making comments or conversations
about working conditions for Honduran women is one of the subjects
considered "confrontational" by Honduran males. Such assertive behavior
often proves counterproductive because it not only brands the female
as "aggressive" but also causes men in her group to be considered
"weak" or "unmanly." Honduran males react to the so-called "aggressive"
female by being more and more polite and courteous in her presence.
Many female business travelers find they can work better with firms
owned and managed by women. But don't make the mistake of thinking
that the Honduran businesswoman shares your philosophical outlook.
Keep reminding yourself that things work out only si Dios quiere
The best advice is to have a game plan for how to present yourself
and your ideas before you arrive in Honduras. Keep your goals clearly
in mind and, as trite as it may sound, a smile on your face.
Honduras is a poor country and many of its citizens wear secondhand
clothing imported from wealthier nations. T-shirts with slogans in
English, French, or German are everywhere, but the person wearing
the shirt may not know what the words say. In contrast, wealthy businesspeople
are very fashion-conscious and wear the latest styles from North America
and Europe. Some businessmen show their national pride by wearing
the Honduran guyabara (a lightweight, decorative shirt which
hangs to just below the waist) to work instead of a shirt and tie.
In general, a conservative business suit will do well for both men
and women. Keep in mind the more humid climate and choose natural
fabrics, if possible. Nights can get cool, so bring suitable covering.
A collapsible umbrella is also suggested for frequent afternoon showers,
especially in the rainy season, mid-May to mid-September.
Politics and Graft
Honduras is one of the most corrupt of all Latin American nations.
Transparency International rates Honduras as having a 1.8 Corruption
Perceptions Index (CPI), which means that it ranks 94th out of the
99 countries surveyed, about the same level of corruption as Tanzania
The current Honduran government came into power on a platform promising
to control government corruption, but as Transparency International
notes, that task is not an easy one. As they stated in a recent
"Typically, the main activities in need of reform are those that
involve discretion, including the issuance of licenses, permits,
quantitative import restrictions (quotas), passports, customs and
border-crossing documentation, and banking licenses; the implementation
of price controls; the blocking of entry to new firms and investors
and the provision of monopoly power; the awarding of public procurement
contracts; the granting of subsidies, soft credits, tax exemptions,
and inflated pensions and the allowing of tax evasion; the imposition
of foreign-exchange controls resulting in multiple exchange rates,
the over invoicing of imports, and the flight of capital; the allocation
of real estate, grain storage facilities, telecommunications, and
power infrastructure; the discretionary application of socially
desirable regulations such as those that apply to public health
and the environment; and the maintenance of obscure or secret budgetary
accounts as well as other 'leakages' from the budget to private
The potential for a fraudulent business deal is just as high in
Tegucigalpa as it is in any large city of the world. This is why
businesspeople in Honduras put great importance on cultivating a
business relationship on a long-term personal basis. There is, of
course, no guarantee that if you know about a person's hobbies,
wife, and family, that it will in any way better enable one to determine
how truthful a potential business partner may be, or if he is only
interested in the "fast buck."
Extraordinary caution should be exercised when purchasing real estate
in Honduras. Local law differs significantly from those in the United
States and Europe, and even if local attorneys and real estate agents
give assurances to the investor, the courts side with the Honduran
Do your homework. Examine everything carefully. Have a representative,
agent, or lawyer on-site in Honduras who can assist you with many
little problems before they become big ones. To the outside observer,
the court process in Honduras is somewhat capricious, and there
is often little hope that losses will be recovered.
Global Road Warrior, Copyright 2003 World Trade Press. All
Rights Reserved. No sample or information therein may be used
without express permission from World Trade Press.