Cultural Information - Paraguay

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Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

When meeting someone for the first time in Paraguay it is customary to greet the person in a warm and friendly manner. Shaking hands is always acceptable when meeting someone for the first time. When getting together with a group of friends, Paraguayan people will greet their friends warmly. Between men and woman, and women and women, the people will usually give each other 2 kisses, one on each cheek. The kiss is not actually a kiss on the cheek, but more of a kissing noise while the cheeks of the two people makes contact. Between men, there is always a handshake, and often a hug depending on how close they are. Elderly people will usually give a warm and friendly hug to almost anyone they meet for the first time, especially foreigners.
In formal business meetings it is common that a superior greets colleagues and employees by shaking hands. In formal social events, a high-ranking official will probably greet both men and woman with a handshake. Paraguayans generally are quite demonstrative with their affections.
For conversation topics, Paraguayan love to talk about family. They also enjoy sharing conversations about work, hobbies, sports, past experiences, vacations, etc... Paraguayans love to meet and talk to foreigners and hear details about where they're from and how is it in their country. Canadian weather is a particular curiosity to Paraguayans and stories about -30 degree temperatures will surely solicit a reaction. It's quite normal for Paraguayan people to ask you direct questions like, “How old are you?” “How did you become disabled?” or “How much do you earn?” But don't feel obliged to answer. This discussion might depend on the formality of the meeting. Topics that people should avoid discussing are the normal taboos such as religion and politics. Political alliances can be very strong and differences of opinion are not always appreciated. In Paraguay, everyone is a soccer fan and expert. Paraguayans love to joke and having fun. Humour is an excellent way to break the ice. Social events are an excellent place to interact and learn about Paraguayan culture.

Canadian Perspective:

Paraguayans are expressive and warm, like most Latin people, and they generally exhibit these attributes from the moment of first contact. Accordingly, it is recommended to offer them a warm smile and open body language. It is customary for women to kiss men and women, whereas men shake hands with one another. Politeness and graciousness are greatly valued, and it is thought very poorly of to fail to take the time to greet those around you upon arrival and departure.
During first contacts, Paraguayans tend to keep conversation light, keeping to low-risk, general topics, such as the country of origin of the expatriate, his place of work, soccer(!) and his views on Paraguay. It is very ill advised to broach topics of a political or ideological nature, as several decades of dictatorship have left Paraguayans with a certain sense of mistrust when it comes to revealing their opinions. It is also difficult to predict the reaction of the other person during such a conversation
Paraguayans enjoy laughing and teasing each other, but it is a good idea to stick to a good-natured sense of humor and to avoid too much use of sarcasm or irony during first contacts.

Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

Paraguayan are outgoing, warm and curious, and they may touch your hands or your shoulder while speaking. Personal space is less restrictive and does not play a significant role in this society. However, distance can and should be considered when speaking or dealing with strangers on the street.
Paraguayans consider eye contact and body expressions as a way of expressing a high level of interest in what someone is saying. Moreover, keeping eye contact during a conversation will create an atmosphere of trust.
Another important issue is the way to talk with people. In a formal conversation people refer to others using the formal pronoun "usted" (as opposed to the personal “tu”). They will use proper titles and the last name of the person. For example, people with professional qualification such as Engineer (Ingeniero/a Benitez), Doctor (Doctor/a Gomez), Lawyer (Abogado/a Gimenez), teacher (Profesora Maura), clergy (‘Padre' or ‘Pa' I' Alonzo, etc.). Also Paraguayan people use the marital status Señor, Señora, Señorita. This voice is used especially in formal situation.
However, "vos" (equivalent to "tú", the most common voice in Spanish) is widely used among young people and among friends.

Canadian Perspective:

In Paraguay, it is best to abandon the notion of the “personal bubble” that is given so much importance in North America. Paraguayans are very comfortable with physical proximity and physical contact is commonplace within the family as well as among friends and acquaintances, regardless of gender. In fact, Paraguayans consider the family and community very important, sometimes to the detriment of their private lives. One's personal affairs are everybody's business, which is why it is essential for each Paraguayan who wishes to keep his life uncomplicated to maintain harmonious relationships by minimizing conflict situations. The order of the day is therefore the least amount of confrontation possible and not frankness at any cost. As such, the frank and direct manner that is valued in Canada is not the best strategy to adopt. In fact, it is better to remain good-spirited, to avoid confronting the other person, and to try to get one's message across more subtly. Along the same lines, it is unusual for a Paraguayan to turn down an invitation, preferring to offer an excuse for his absence rather than admitting to the host that he does not wish to attend. Paraguayans are masters at interpreting body language, and it is often by this means that one deduces what the other person really wishes to tell us. “Yes” does not always mean “yes” and it is by observing the other person's tone of voice and facial expression that one understands him. Finally, if one has difficulty in grasping the other person's meaning, it is generally better to ask questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” in order to obtain a clear response.

Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

It is common for Paraguayans to publicly demonstrate there emotions, whether it is anger or happiness. You will see couples of all ages cuddling and kissing as they walk down the street and dramas between lovers or friends can be seen in public as well. Displays of anger or other negative emotions are also frequent in public and are often facilitated by alcohol. Those fights are considered as negative public behaviour and are not accepted as a good social practice.

Canadian Perspective:

As in most Latin American countries, Paraguayans tend to act very affectionately and expressively among family and friends. However, due to the long-lived totalitarian regime and the ever-present eyes of others, Paraguayans tend to avoid making waves and act rather discretely in public.

Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Paraguayan people dress formally if the job requires. In business, government, or similar office environments, it is hard to go wrong by being dressed formally. The traditional Paraguayan formal shirt, or a'o poí, is also considered formal dress and can be worn to the office or formal social occasions such as weddings. It is normal for women to wear makeup, have their hair done, wear pantyhose and high heels, particularly if they are working in an office or school.
Some women wear very short skirts and open tops. As a foreign woman you might feel more comfortable and command more respect by dressing more conservatively. It is not necessarily required that men wear a formal jacket in the office because of the heat. A tie alone is considered acceptable.
You should address people or supervisors formally (usted) and by their last name or with their title as I described above (eg. Engineer, Doctor, etc). After the title, use the first last name of the person's two last names. Yes, all Paraguayan people have two last names. The first last name comes from the father, and the second last name comes from the mother. Even once you get to know them well, your superiors might always want to be addressed in this formal manner.
Punctuality and reliability are both demanded by supervisors, but we can't say that they are always present among all Paraguayan employees. Serious public transportation problems and unexpected downpours have a tendency to affect one's ability to be punctual. Social events will normally be cancelled due to downpours. On days and nights when there is heavy rain, people tend to stay at home.
Paraguayan people always have problem with deadlines because we leave everything for the last minute or “a ultima hora”.
Canadian's will feel frustrated because the sense of time is viewed differently in Paraguay. Generally it is taken in a more relaxed attitude. So take it easy. As for processing documents, licenses, passport or general public work or government related services, you may be told that it will be ready in 15 days. You will get a faster service if you imply you are in a hurry for the document and if there would be any incentive that would expedite the process. In other words, offer a “coima” or tip, but don't insult the person while doing so.
Shoemakers, computer, TV, and radio technicians and dressmakers, etc, always says come back tomorrow and will keep you for weeks and months like that (or as long as you accept it), so it is better to set a deadline a week or two before the real deadline.
Office hours differ from public to private companies. Make sure to call first and ask if they are open before you show up as the hours posted are subject to change at the owner's convenience. Bank hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 1 pm.
Showing up to meetings and appointments when first establishing contact, Paraguayan will tend to be on time. Once some degree of trust has been built, it is common to arrive over a half hour late.
For parties or meeting someone for an informal social get-together, don't expect your friends to always show up on time. They will sometimes show up as what is referred to as ‘hora Paraguaya'

Canadian Perspective:

At work, as in other areas of daily life, it is very important to exhibit an appropriate and neat dress code. Generally speaking, Bermuda shorts are not worn to work, even during hot weather, dress pants and a button-down shirt for men, and a tailored set for women being preferred. Paraguayans are generally proud of their appearance, and they consider personal hygiene very important, taking on average two or three showers per day. In it not unusual to overhear comments about foreigners who “smell bad” or are not dressed appropriately. Moreover, although Paraguayan women often wear sheer clothing, it may be considered inappropriate for foreign women to do the same. This is all the more true outside the capital city, as dress codes tend to be more conservative in the countryside.
Relationships at work are fairly formal, and a superior is often addressed by title. One may expect to hear a mixture of Spanish and Guaraní, known as Jopara. Spanish predominates in the capital, whereas in rural areas Guaraní is heard almost exclusively.
As a rule, Paraguayans are not very punctual. “La hora paraguaya” translates as “Paraguayan time”, and it means that one must take as a given that twenty or thirty minutes are to be added to any time agreed upon. Nevertheless, Paraguayans usually expect foreigners not to follow their example, and to be on time. In addition, expectations of productivity are very different than in North America. Work progresses slowly, and there is a tendency to place less importance on deadlines, which are not always respected. This is usually not due to laziness (although the sweltering heat plays a big part!), but rather to a lack of resources and infrastructure.

Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

In the public service or family businesses, supervisors or managers are not always selected based on their qualifications. Designations for management positions often follow political interests, connections, favours, and / or family ties. In international or other private sector, a superior is usually valued for his/her level of education, expertise and experience. This does not change significantly for a foreign person. However, there is a common view that foreign education, knowledge, tools, and expertise are superior to local ones.
You will know how the staff views you by their productivity at work. Even though Paraguayans are hard workers by nature, you will get more productivity if you show strong leadership; understand the culture, the reality of the country and also the people's priorities.

Canadian Perspective:

Studies and experience are highly valued in Paraguay, and a person who has finished university is often regarded as an expert, even in subjects outside his field of expertise. People often go so far as to address somebody by his degree rather than by his name (e.g., “licenciado” for “bachelor”).
Nevertheless, this sort of standing is more often reserved for native Paraguayans, foreigners having to demonstrate other abilities in order to be treated as knowledgeable. A clean and well-groomed appearance is essential. Since the class structure is very hierarchical, in order to be respected as a manager, one must display the look of a manager. But above all, as an expatriate, one must demonstrate a great deal of respect and consideration to employees. Indeed, Paraguayan society is based on a system of loyalties corresponding to family connections and political allegiance. In most cases a great deal of tact is required to pierce the social veil and become truly accepted and heard. This being said, Paraguayans are generally generous and warm by nature and will do everything in their power to make an expatriate feel at ease. This also means that it will sometimes be difficult for said expat to know when the members of his team are dissatisfied!

Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

The most powerful person in the hierarchy makes decisions; the owner of the business would be the one with the most power. Traditional methods of administration exist in most companies, generating gaps of power between management and employees in lower positions. Decisions are made by the superiors but staff and superiors can generate ideas together. It is acceptable to go to immediate supervisors for feedback and answers if there are some doubts regarding procedures or rules; establishing that way respect and trust between you and your supervisor.

Canadian Perspective:

What one must remember is that Paraguayan society is very stratified, even though the workplace may seem fairly relaxed and productivity requirements may not be very demanding. Under the dictatorial regime Paraguayans became accustomed to receiving clear instructions so that they might avoid having to make decisions that could later cause them problems. Conformity is much more valued than strong individualism and the desire to make one’s mark. There is little feedback, so a person who needs to pointers on improving the quality of his work must seek it out explicitly.

Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

Gender: Culturally, women are generally still seen as sexual objects and the ones who should be in charge of household duties, even if they hold a full-time position. In other words, Paraguay is way behind first world standards in terms of women’s equality. The workplace is really a man’s world in Paraguay. In recent years, women have gained access to many positions in the job market as well as in politics, economics, but still face a lot of sexual harassment, although there are many interest groups and the government is working to minimize this situation. Religion: Paraguay is mainly a Catholic country, but there is a proliferation of Christian sects, Mormons, Baptists, and Protestant. Paraguayan people are believers and religious holidays are very important. In the workplace, it is expected to participate in ceremonies or funerals especially when an immediate family member of a colleague dies. Normally people assume that you are Catholic.

Class: Paraguayan society has a strong sense of social classes. The classes are defined by a combination of family origins, education level, and level of income. Inflation is high, and the lower class is currently paying the consequences of a deteriorated economy, as the wages, already low, are not keeping pace with inflation. At the workplace, lower classes may feel resentment toward the higher class while the higher classes may feel disdain for the lower classes. People from the higher classes tend to have the higher positions. The lower classes fill the lower positions with less pay.

Ethnicity: Most Paraguayans are mestizo, of Spanish and Native Indian origins. The true native people are a minority, and there are some European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Argentine immigrants. Historically, Paraguay experienced the most peaceful inter-mix of the European and indigenous people. That’s why Paraguay has two official languages, Spanish and Guarani. Paraguay is truly a bilingual country with a high percentage of people speaking both official languages. People from the rural areas speak mostly Guaraní, and a mix Spanish and Guarani. It is really appreciated when the foreigners try to speak this language at least as a greeting. If you learn to say ‘mba’éichapa’ meaning ‘how are you’, you’ll surely receive a big smile and earn some respect. The influence of immigrants has a significant impact on most professional workplaces. For example, the Mennonites from Canada, Germany and Japan have the most productive and economically successful farms, mostly due to the use of modern technologies. The Korean and Chinese control almost all the stores and restaurants in the capital, Asunción.

Canadian Perspective:

Gender equality: Paraguay is far from having established gender equality. Although there have been some advances in this domain among the younger generations, traditional roles are still respected, and tasks are clearly separated. Very few women occupy positions of power. If they are not housewives, women work in jobs that are traditionally reserved for them, i.e., as maids, secretaries, receptionists, cashiers, school teachers, estheticians, nannies, etc. Their salaries are also lower. Men do not bother with domestic chores, instead taking care of the family's financial survival and matters outside the home. Clearly, there are fewer freedoms afforded to women.

Religion:

Religion is very visible in daily life, being an integral part of most popular festivals and family celebrations. Almost all Paraguayans are Roman Catholic. They willingly display their religious affiliation, but do not all practice to the same degree, and are tolerant in this respect. In fact, some people go to church assiduously several times per week, whereas others only attend marriages and funerals. What may be said, however, is that Paraguayans are usually more superstitious than dogmatic, and their practice aims mainly at protecting themselves from potential dangers, obtaining favors, and curing illness. We must also mention the presence of Protestant groups across the country and of ethnic German Mennonite farmers in the Chaco. They do not interact much because they live in a sparsely populated region, far from the main cities. Religion has little influence in the workplace.

Social class:

Social differences are very apparent in Paraguay. There are relatively few interactions between different classes because the well-to-do have put in place structures aimed at limiting this, such as private social and athletic clubs, gated communities, and so on. There is a serious problem with child prostitution. Social contrasts are great. At work, employees from what are considered lower classes usually occupy less important positions.

Ethnic origin:

The Paraguayan population is 90% mestizo; that is, the vast majority of Paraguayans are of mixed Guaraní and European descent. Nevertheless, there is widespread racism targeting the indigenous Guaraní, whose culture is little valued, in spite of numerous efforts to revive it. They are often considered to be dull-witted and unproductive. It is generally those of lighter skin who are given more consideration and respect. As there is very little contact with other ethnic groups, attitudes towards these is difficult to evaluate. However, because Paraguayans are rather homogenous in their appearance and their manner of dress, the expatriate should expect to be subjected to the stares of numerous inquisitive people. One may be the target of prejudice based on ignorance and a lack of multicultural contact, but no serious problems should occur.

Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

It is very common to establish a personal relationship while getting down to business. Paraguayans, in general, are very open and warm; they will tell you about themselves, both in a formal business or informal social context. In Paraguayan society friendship and family occupy a central place so, depending on common interests such as sports, food, travel, and others, is very common to start with a good relationship.

Canadian Perspective:

In order to be well accepted in Paraguayan society and so that people might venture to place their trust in you, it is usually necessary to actively participate in social activities outside of work. An individual who does not meet others for Happy Hour or weekend barbecues may be seen as haughty, cold, or distant, which will hardly facilitate his/her integration into the social fabric. Be aware that politics are intermixed with several areas of Paraguayan daily life, and that allegiances and friendships are often determining factors in business. Career advancement is not necessarily based on personal ability, but more often than not on a system of loyalties to family, friends, and political organizations.

Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

Colleagues or employees may expect preferred treatment, pay increase, hiring of his/her friends or family, etc. There are circumstances under which I recommend granting such privilege; consideration of such favours should depend on whether your colleague or employee is a hard worker and can be relied on. Personal judgment should be used in every situation because some people will use " la ley del mbarete": the law of the more powerful.

Canadian Perspective:

It is probably the case. As has already been stated, loyalty has very important currency in Paraguayan society, and it is established in part by extending certain privileges to the persons concerned. This is not always the case, however. It is preferable that the expatriate or foreign worker respect his own values in this area and not use too many strategies, as he may find himself in awkward situations, since his status as an outsider does not permit him to understand the unspoken rules that govern these practices. Much is not spoken in Paraguay, and special privileges must thus be considered on a case by case basis.

Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

A work related problem with a colleague should always be treated directly with the person or people involved and in private. You may know that somebody is offended by something you said or did, depending on their body language and usually, they will avoid you. Also if there is a change in the quality of the individuals work. In most cases you will be the last person to know that there is a problem, when the gossip has already passed from bottom to the top.

Canadian Perspective:

Paraguayans do not like confrontations, so one is advised against confronting a colleague in public. Even if one must confront a colleague in private, one must take care not to appear aggressive and to broach the subject in a calm and friendly way. It will probably be difficult to determine the exact source of the problem, as Paraguayans tend to avoid problems by denying their existence or by not admitting to having been offended. Of course, matters are not always that difficult and such behaviour is seldom dishonest in intent. So, it is better not to be too insistent and to find a less menacing way to approach the problem.

Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

In Paraguay there are more workers than work; just by having a job employees can develop loyalty and commitment to their employers and they can be very hard workers. Most employees in Paraguay are not very well rewarded as a consequence of the deteriorated economic situation, and they can be motivated to perform well on the job with good working conditions, job security and remuneration.
Many families have only one member working outside the house, and in many cases, heads of families are single mothers, or families are often large in number, in these cases, money is definitely a major motivating factor.

Canadian Perspective:

Because Paraguayans are generally resigned to the fact that opportunities for advancement are limited due to a stagnant economy and social stratification, what motivates employees above all are job security, a fair wage, and social status. It is primarily a matter of putting food on the table and occupying a favorable position in the community. Professional satisfaction and other work conditions are secondary. One must not forget that labour relations are largely based on connections obtained through family and friends, so the notion of loyalty is preponderant, which may not necessarily guarantee good productivity.

Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Books: a must is a dictionary either: English – Spanish or Guarani – Spanish.
Dominguez, Ramiro: "Creencias populares en el contexto de la religiosidad paraguaya".
Dominguez, Ramiro: La religiosidad popular paraguaya. Aproximación a los valores del pueblo.
Bareiro Saguier, Rubén: Literatura Guaraní del Paraguay, Caracas: Ayacucho, 1980.
Barret, Rafael: El dolor paraguayo, Caracas: Ayacucho, 1978.
Pla, Josefina: Literatura paraguaya en el siglo XX, Asunción 1976.
Roa Bastos, Augusto: "Cultura popular en Latinoamérica y creación literaria", in: Stromata.
Web sites: www.yagua.com.py ; www.pla.net.py
Newspapers and magazines web pages: www.abccolor.com.py, www.lanacion.com.py, www.diariopopular.com.py, www.dineroynegocios.com.py
To get one historical perspective on the Paraguayan culture, I recommend you see the movie The Mission, starring Robert Deniro and Jeremy Irons. I believe this movie accurately depicts some behaviour and events that shaped some of the modern Paraguayan cultural norms and social behaviour.

Canadian Perspective:

Language in Paraguay is very likely the most interesting and determinant aspect of present day culture. Several documents on Guaraní and Jopara are to be found on the Internet.
As Paraguay is a very small nation plagued by serious socio-economic problems, the cultural community is currently not very prolific. To learn more about current affairs in the region, visit the online newspaper at www.yagua.com.
If you wish to gain a better understanding of the geography of the region of Paraguay near the Argentine and Brazilian borders and of events that took place during the colonial period, see The Mission, starring Robert DeNiro. This film is about the Jesuit missions and the impact of early Spanish contact with the Guaraní Indians. It features spectacular vistas, including views of the cataracts at Iguazú.
You will have to be in Paraguay to enjoy its cuisine, as foreign restaurants featuring it are few. However, it is relatively easy to procure yerba mate, with which Paraguayans make their national drink, the cold tea known as tereré.
Harper Collins recently published The News from Paraguay, a historical novel written by Lili Tuck that is set in 19th century Paraguay.

Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

To really appreciate Paraguay, you must visit the Jesuit ruins in Paraguarí, San Ignacio Guasu, Santa Rosa, Santiago, San Cosme y Damian, Trinidad del Paraná y Jesus de Tavarangue,
The cataratas (falls) del Yguazu shared between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, Represas de Yacyreta, Chaco and national Park and museums.
In the capital you can enjoy concerts, the newspapers, radio television, soccer games, live shows, cinema, visiting the malls, restaurants etc.
Food in Paraguay is diverse, and Paraguayan people are meat lovers, especially the "asado" or ‘barbeque'. Without a doubt, a co-worker will invite you to their home for dinner. An asado in Paraguay is kind of like an informal dinner party. You cannot leave Paraguay, until you've tried the fresh drink called ‘terere' and the drink called ‘mate'. They are a type of tea. Terere is taken with ice-cold water and drank in the hot summer afternoons. Mate is served with hot water and is taken in the mornings. Another typical drink is ‘cocido', prepared from ‘yerba mate' and flavoured with milk and sugar. It is normally taken in place of coffee. As well the Paraguayan soup (sopa paraguaya) and chipa. The sopa paraguaya is a corn bread made with corn flour, eggs, and cheese and it will be your first soup that is not really soup!
Paraguayan eating habits are different than in Canada; Breakfast is similar; coffee or cocido, toast, jam, eggs except no bacon or French toast. Lunch is when Paraguayans eat their biggest meal. Around four or five there is the ‘merienda' or snack. Dinner is later in the evening (around 9-10 pm) and is not always a full meal.

Canadian Perspective:

The principal daily newspapers are Ultima Hora and ABC Color, each having well-defined political leanings.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Paraguay and matches in the Asuncion stadium featuring the national team (especially those played against Brazil!) are a must for any sports fan.
Many theatrical productions are presented, both in cities and rural areas. There are frequent dance festivals in which the whole community takes part. Paraguayan music is very different from that of other Latin American countries. In fact, the music shows a strong European influence (guitar, harp, and violin) and is almost devoid of aboriginal, Brazilian, or Argentine influences. The influence of the Jesuit missions is at the heart of this phenomenon.
In Asuncion, there are numerous little cafés and bars where cozy concerts are presented, whereas in the countryside people are more likely to gather at the corner bar.
On the other hand, it is difficult to find typically Paraguayan television productions, as most of the programming is imported from Argentina, Brazil, and the United States.

Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

One of the most famous Paraguayan national heroes is Francisco Solano Lopez. He was the President of Paraguay and he was on the front during the Triple Alianza War against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. He died with the flag in his arms and his last word were " Muero por mi Patria”, I die for my country.

Canadian Perspective:

The singer Luís Alberto del Paraná, who performed for the Queen of England, and the national soccer team, which inevitably arouses fervour, are national heroes. Apart from those just mentioned, Paraguayan heroes are usually politicians or the military figures who participated in the War of Independence or the War of the Triple Alliance, which almost saw the end of the existence of Paraguay as a nation. Paraguay is a nation that that has gone from glory and wealth to near annihilation in a short period. Paraguay's history is particularly interesting and reveals much about Paraguayans today. Historical surveys are easily found on the Internet.

Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

Canada currently maintains a good reputation and relationship with Paraguay. There is a large Mennonite community in the northern Paraguayan region called ‘The Chaco'. This Mennonite community has close ties with Canadian Mennonites in Manitoba and many of the people are Canadian and/or Paraguayan citizens. These Mennonites do most of the travel between Canada and Paraguay. A large Paraguayan festival is held annually in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Canadian Perspective:

No, there are no key historical events common to Paraguay and Canada. In the past, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been limited. In general, Paraguayans have a favourable opinion of Canadians and are interested to learn more about them.

Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

Paraguayans have a positive view of Canadians. However, many Paraguayans view Canadians as having a cold demeanor. At the same time, they see Canadians as being open minded and liberal. Canadians may be unprepared to face the risk in being in a third world country and vulnerable to being taken advantage or targeted by thieves, pickpockets.

Important information for Canadians:
· Pay a SERIOUS attention when crossing the street. In Paraguay, the car has the right of way, not the pedestrian. And they use it at all times!
· The traffic lights do not have the pedestrian signals for crossing. Use the signal for the light for the vehicles as a guide when crossing as a pedestrian at a traffic light. Don't forget who has the right of way!
· When you are driving be very careful. A lot of people are driving while under the influence of alcohol. Not everyone obeys traffic lights nor observes traffic regulations. It might be safer to have a local drive you, or use a taxi.
· If you are walking on the street, it is probably very obvious that you are foreigner. Don't carry a wallet full of money; only what you are going to use. If someone robs you, give him or her your money as you risk potential bodily harm if you resist.
· Cell phones are really convenient in Paraguay; you don't pay for the call you receive, only for the calls you make.
· People can be really aggressive at the market. They will insist on selling you a lot of things that you do not want to buy. This manner will be particularly offensive to Canadians who don't want to be impolite. The way Paraguayans deal with these people may appear harsh to Canadians.
· In the airport there will be a lot people offering you to carry your luggage, shine your shoes, exchange your money, rent you a car, etc. Take your time, and politely choose the services you wish. The people at the airport should accept a polite no. Once you are more comfortable, you may accept one of the services they offer.
· The term ‘Motel' in Paraguay strictly refers to a rendezvous for lovers, not an economical place to spend the night as in Canada. Just so you don't ask someone if they know of a nice ‘Motel' where you can spend the night if you are taking a weekend trip.

Canadian Perspective:

Because Paraguayans do not readily express their opinions on topics that may be perceived as risky (e.g., politics or ideology), it is easy to conclude that they simply have no opinions, that they are shallow, and that they are easily manipulated. The country's socio-economic context must be understood to better comprehend the behaviour of Paraguayans.
Moreover, it would be a mistake to think that political opinions are uniform in South America, and that everyone clings to the revolutionary and socialist ideas and values of Ché Guevara, for example. Quite to the contrary, Paraguayans tend to be very ideologically narrow-minded, and to prefer conservative parties to left-wing ones.

Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in the northern part of Paraguay in the small town of Horqueta. She is the eleventh of twelve children. She was raised in Horqueta until the age of nine, and then she moved to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. She also lived in Concepción, Alto Paraná, and Encarnación. She studied and graduated in Hotel Management at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción. After working for some time in her field, your cultural interpreter came to Canada in 2001 to study English. She then decided to immigrate to Canada, and she is currently working as a Caregiver in Ottawa. Your cultural interpreter is fluent in three languages; Guarani, Spanish, and English, and is currently learning French.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Montreal, a single child and was raised in this city. She studied psychology at the University of McGill. Her studies sent her abroad for the first time in 1996 where she studied in Spain. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter went to Paraguay, where she lived for 8 months. She has been living in Montreal, Canada for the last 4 years.

Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.