Doing Business in Jamaica?Published Aug 1, 2002
The atmosphere in Corporate Jamaica is ultra conservative as compared to corporate America…
Many financial institutions still provide uniforms for their employees and dressing down is frowned upon. If uniforms are not provided, employees are expected to wear a dress shirt and tie at the least in the case of men and business suits in the case of women. Be prepared to wear a business suit at least for your first meeting.
It is ok to dress down and be comfortable if you are meeting business colleagues outside of the work atmosphere but be careful not to wear anything too risqué as that could convey the wrong message about your seriousness as a business person.
Jamaicans will be receptive to a gift during a first time business meeting but nothing too expensive as that can be construed as “trying to mek dem feel small”.
Jamaicans on the whole are great hosts and love to be expansive when entertaining guests. That extends also to corporate visitors. You can expect to be treated to lunch, dinner and drinks, depending on the duration of your stay. Do offer to pay but do not be too insistent especially if there are other co-workers or colleagues around.
Be sure not to drink too much as this will create a very bad impression and you may be construed as someone who is not serious about his or her business.
Do not attempt to discuss business outside of the time set aside for that, time allocated for eating and drinking is regarded as just that, business discussions are best left for the office. Jamaicans within the corporate environment have a great work ethic and will get right down to business when it’s time to work.
Eating is a very important part of daily life so be sure to ask for good restaurants and let them know you want to experience some of the Jamaican cuisine.
Although at one time men used to be the major breadwinners within the household, more and more women are entering the corporate world and making their mark. Women are treated with the same respect that you would accord a man holding a similar position. The relationship of man to woman within the corporate environment is strictly business and most companies prefer that employees address each other by their last names with of course the suitable acronym in front. E.g. Mr. James, Mrs. Barnett, Ms. Smith etc.
Unless you are invited by the individual to do otherwise, this is the proper way to address all business associates.
It is not uncommon to hear someone being referred to as “bossman” or “bosswoman” even if the person addressing them is not an employee -this is a colloquial term which is used to show respect for another or denote the fact that they recognize the other person has some status (usually within a business type setting).
Religion is a strong part of Jamaica’s culture and most Jamaicans if not practicing Christians at one time or another had some affiliation with religion. If the topic is introduced by your Jamaican business affiliate, by all means express your views and beliefs, but tread lightly it could lead to an all night discussion.
As with everything else Jamaicans also have very strong political views. Do let the Jamaican take the lead when it comes to local politics. Ask informed questions but never get into a political argument with a business associate, it could be a deal breaker.
There are preconceived ideas about foreigners that are imbedded into every culture and Jamaica is no exception. For the most part Americans are viewed as being somewhat pushy and that can make a potential business partner defensive. Ask for their opinions and let them know that as the visitor you will need to rely on their expertise and knowledge of the country. This will help to ease some of that defensiveness.
As in every situation follow cues set by the host and keep an open mind, if you play your cards right you will eat out every night and be treated to the “real” Jamaica.