This picture caught my eye on Twitter this week*. It shows how some basic things we take for granted – like taking a corner in a football match – have to be adapted to different realities.


There’s lots of sadness behind it: that a player has to be protected by police shields to, well, play – let’s not forget it’s a game after all, is frustrating to say the least. The picture, from Argentina in this case, got me thinking about how important it is to understand someone else’s reality, particularly when entering a new market.

Just like this player needs the police to protect him to do his job:

  • some people cannot exercise the right to work in Uruguay during strikes because picketers will aggressively block them from their workplace – something the international viewers have heavily criticised
  • it is almost impossible to open a store in many Latin American cities without private security guards – and that applies to homes, too, in many cities and rural areas across the region – when I see people in the UK locking their door with one key, I remember that for the house I rented in Montevideo not long ago we needed three keys, an alarm system (connected to a response unit), an automatic gate and bars in every window – and Montevideo is deemed as “safe” by regional standards
  • here in Montevideo, we have to deal with banks that open between 1-5pm

You’ll have to adjust your expectations to the reality of the markets you are aiming to grow your business in. It’s not all bad news, there’s opportunity in those failings but also in other (more positive?) aspects of life in Latin America – for example, did you know that…

  • children stay at home much longer than in Europe, particularly the UK – since there are not many university campuses, children stay at home usually during their university years? that heavily affects decision-making, for example
  • people gather a lot for birthday parties, even adult ones, and sending birthday cards is very unusual?
  • people take more time for lunch, and eating a cold sandwich in front of your computer is very rare (as well as eating/drinking while walking on the street)?

People do business with people – make sure you genuinely understand the reality of the people you deal with in Latin America – whether you are selling shields, CCTV solutions, fintech, ready meals or greeting cards.

*picture credit: