South America offers tremendous opportunities for business, but don't assume that business and social practices are the same throughout the region.

Whenever doing business in a foreign country it's always wise to prepare your printed material in the correct language. However, don't be tempted to put it all in Spanish and assume you can get by with that in Brazil. Wrong! In Brazil the official language is Portuguese and for the most part Brazilians do not speak Spanish. They don't speak English either, so if you're doing an important presentation, be sure to have translation and interpretation available.

In São Paulo, Brazil, the main international airport, Guarulhos (GRU) is an hour out of town — more in the rush hour, which is now almost a permanent feature of São Paulo. The locals invariably refer to the airport as Cumbica, but it's one and the same.

In São Paulo, be wary of wandering out alone at night. A new choice now is the Berrini region where a number of multinationals, such as Bank Boston, are relocating and where stunning new hotels, such as the Hilton and Hyatt, have recently opened.

While it's safe and normal to jump in a cab at GRU and SCL (Santiago, Chile) and say “Take me to my hotel”, it's not so safe and normal to do that at EZE (the international airport at Buenos Aires, Argentina). There you're better off to arrange a car in advance, either through City Service Travel, a local and long-established destination management company, or the hotel concierge.

Buenos Aires, home to the tango and the gaucho and rich in Latin flavors is as a result very Latin, where “mañana”, a shrug of the shoulders, and a big smile still works. Not so in Santiago, Chile, the least Latin country in South America. It's much more western in style and more formal, and that can be either good or bad depending on your own style of doing business.

There are only two places on earth where you can snow ski in July — and Chile is one of them. Snow skiing in the summer is a wildly popular incentive for corporate groups.

Finally, you can call your host a Brazilian or a Chilean, but never an Argentinean. He or she is an Argentine. There is one common thread however to doing business in South America and that is gracious, warm hospitable people everywhere you go.