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Country Focus: Intercultural Nuances of Doing Business With Belize, Part 2

Belize is also different than its neighbors concerning the concept of time. While many of its neighbors have a relaxed view about time and punctuality, Belizeans are more monochromatic like their founders. Punctuality is expected for all business appointments, and while there is some flexibility concerning social occasions, certainly not half an hour or more. While Belizeans are firm believers in punctuality, the pace of life is slightly slower in Belize and like many of you would agree, big decisions need time. They do not have a clear aversion to risk, but actually have a high tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Unlike Guatemala, Belize is past oriented with a concern for a better future. When a good opportunity presents itself, you will find that individual decision makers can move rather quickly.

Though hierarchy is flexible, start with formality and titles and then ease your way into informality, like the saying, “better to be overdressed than underdressed.” Like mentioned before, outsiders can quickly become involved in a group, so in large groups pluck up the courage and introduce yourself.  Don’t expect personal introductions.

Dress in business situations is expected to be formal (dress pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, etc.), but often accommodates the heat and therefore tends to be more casual. Before your arrival in Belize, it is best to make your appointments at least one week in advance. Then, upon first meetings or introductions, since relationships are key in this country and hierarchy is flexible, make quality (over quantity) connections with people through extended conversations. In the business setting, decisions may take a long time, but punctuality is very important. Since Belize has primarily British roots, many business practices and business laws are similar to those in the United States. Since Belizeans follow many of the British and United States protocols for business, it also means that contracts are exactly as stated, unlike most of Central America, where contracts are flexible. It is also recommended that, like other countries where you conduct business, you have a local contact on the ground to help you conduct business in Belize. However beware that Belizean citizenship can be bought.

Other facts about Belize:

  • To find a particular address, get directions from a well-known landmark.
  • Breakfast is referred to as “tea”.
  • Lunch is referred to as “dinner”.
  • When invited to a home for “tea” or to “drink some tea” you are having what we usually consider “dinner” but also known as “supper”.
  • Belize has a distinct style of popular music and dance called Punta, where the feet remain stationary and the rest of the body (especially the hips move; popular among the Garifuna). So get your dancin’ shoes on!
  • Taking coral or tropical fish out of the country is illegal.

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