In general, Colombians are very proud of their culture and national accomplishments.
It is considered polite to maintain close eye contact during conversations.
The standard greeting is the handshake upon introduction and departure. Inland Colombians are probably the most formal and traditional of Latin Americans. Only along the coast is a more relaxed attitude the norm.
Ensure that you take safety precautions when in Colombia. Ask your counterparts what areas of the city are dangerous. Be aware that both the murder rate and frequency of kidnapping is significantly high.
The formality of inland Colombians extends to their mannerisms; they do not like to engage in expansive gestures and animation. Residents of the coastal regions tend to be more expressive and less formal.
Among close friends, women may clasp forearms or kiss each other on one cheek. Men embrace and slap each other’s back. This particular hug is known as the “abrazo.”
Colombians typically ask numerous polite questions and go through other pleasantries. Expect inquiries as to your health, your trip, your family, and any friends or acquaintances you have in common. It is considered callous and disrespectful to rush a greeting.
Colombians are not known for punctuality. They may arrive at a business meeting 15 or 20 minutes late, since this is considered the norm.
Selecting representatives from your company is probably the most crucial decision you can make before entering into business with Colombians. They will want to get to know your representatives personally and establish a warm rapport and comradeship.
Colombians make decisions on the basis of feelings, rather than empirical evidence and other facts. This can be true even if you present them with an enticing deal and a “bottom line” that seems sure to be profitable.
The importance of hierarchy should never be underestimated in Colombian business culture. Nevertheless, subordinates within the group, as well as underlying circumstances, also have some influence in the decision-making process.
Before the meeting begins, there is always some preliminary “small talk.” Small talk is necessary, since it conveys to your peers that the personal rapport that you have established with them is a higher priority than just
doing business. In most cases, you should wait for your Colombian associates to initiate the business discussion.
When the meeting is over, stay a little bit longer and continue chatting with your colleagues. It’s actually considered an insult in this culture to leave immediately after a meeting because it suggests that you have better things to do.
As a follow-up to your meeting, it is a good idea to send a brief thank-you note, as well as minutes, that is, a written confirmation of what was discussed.
Welcome Topics of Conversation
- Positive aspects of Colombia, including their wonderful coffee and cuisine
- Colombian history, literature, art, and music
- The lush Colombian landscape, mountains and coastlines
- Your home country and the region you are from
- Family discussions are appropriate when initially building rapport.
Conversation to Avoid
- Avoid mentioning anything about drug traffic or illegal cartels.
- Don’t make negative remarks about bullfighting.
- Avoid talking about differences between the Columbian culture and yours
- Avoid any discussion around terrorism, politics and religion.
- Avoid making complaints of any kind.
Author: Gayle Cotton, International Keynote Speaker & Cultural Expert
Contact EMMY AWARD WINNER, Gayle Cotton for your next meeting or conference to help your business become more successful in today’s Global Business Marketplace. Gayle is President of Circles Of Excellence for Corporate Training & Executive Coaching. She is the author of the ‘5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Business Communications’, available in book or DVD. She travels worldwide as a distinguished Professional Keynote Speaker. Gayle’s vast experience living and] working abroad will entertain and inspire any audience with her fresh, unique and humorous approach to Cross-Cultural Communications! Having worked with
companies of all sizes and industries, including 50 Fortune 500 companies, Gayle has successfully helped them grow their businesses internationally. Success in the global business arena can only be accomplished with awareness of the various distinctions in communication styles, business strategies and approaches to cultural etiquette in different countries.
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