Means of Communication
Argentina ´s general style of communication is indirect: there's often more information in the body language than in the verbal content of the message. People are not as direct as North Americans, but at the same time not as indirect as some Asian cultures.
On first encounters, it is always safer to be formal. Nevertheless, the Argentine partner will most likely ask his foreign counterpart to move to a more relaxed and informal style. Argentine business people dealing with international partners pay more attention to the formality of the communications (especially in first-time meetings), while they tend to be more informal when dealing with local customers or vendors. The informal communication style can be identified by the use of "Tú" or "Vos" (2nd person singular) in verbal messages, while "Usted" (Spanish expression for "you") is the safest option to establish a higher level of deference and distance. Usted is usually used to address an individual one meets for the first time or that deserves a formal treatment, due to age or higher rank..
Preferred means of communication are face-to-face meetings and telephone calls, over email exchange. The phone is better than an email when a confirmation and some sort of commitment is required. Emails are mostly used for sharing information that needs to be persistent in time (i.e. for contractual purposes, key decisions, planning issues, etc.). Also, for informal communication among colleagues within the same organization, email is widely used, as well as internal messengers (which has been increasingly adopted by many companies to speed up the internal communication processes).
When it comes to email exchange, Argentine business partners prefer to be formal when establishing first contact. The frequency of email response varies upon the type of company and level of familiarity of their employees with latest technologies.
For example, if the company is Argentine-owned and it is managed by older people, it may take 3-4 business days to get an email response. Nevertheless, most companies have full access to Internet and utilize email as a primary communication tool. In some industries, especially when working with foreign clients, the responses happen within the course of the day or even within the next 2-3 hours.
Work from home is not a general rule in local organizations and Smartphones (eg Blackberry or Palm) and work laptops are not as widely spread among employees as in other more developed countries. Therefore, foreign visitors can't always expect a business partner to reply to a work-related email after normal business hours or during weekends. However, most medium-sized or large organizations provide their upper/ mid-level level Managers with work cell phones and expect them to be reachable at all times. Text messaging is very common among young workforce, but it is still considered an informal style. When communicating something urgent or important, a phone call is by far the most recommendable mean of communication – over email and text message.
If a foreign visitor intends to initiate contact with a local organization or individual, the most advisable option is through a referral/ recommendation eg. being introduced by a current employee of the organization or a close contact person. If the visitor doesn't know anybody within the organization, a safe choice is sending an email and following up with a phone call.
Initial approach should be done with care and politeness, looking at building relationships gradually, paying attention to the other person or organization´s timing. Pushy or invasive approaches are not effective or welcome. While exaggerating the formality is not the best option, it is recommendable to be slightly more formal, than to force a too casual approach.
When organizing a meeting, it is recommendable to arrange it on the phone and confirm it by email afterwards.