Colombia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays

Introduction

Colombians are pleasant and very respectful people. For them, good personal chemistry between business partners is an important part of a successful business. Getting to know each other well will always be important for the locals before any deal is made, even if it means a bigger time investment for them.

Addressing

The initial contact is usually made by telephone in order to identify the contact person. You can also contact this person in writing via email. It is advisable to set a very formal tone and use the pronunciation – usted. It often goes to a less formal level (talking, addressing by name) very quickly, even after a few emails.

However, we recommend leaving this step up to your partner. We address Colombian partners using señor/señora or the abbreviation Sr./Sra can be used in written communication. Colombians usually have two first names and two surnames – one after the father, the other after the mother. The full name of the well-known Colombian writer is Gabriel José García Márquez, however, when addressed in working relationships, only the first surname, i.e. Sr., would usually be used. García.

A common mistake of Czech speakers is the subconscious use of the very last surname, i.e. the second instead of the first. Czechs should be prepared that a number of people with a higher social status are almost universally addressed as “doctor”, even though the person in question does not have a doctorate or even a university degree.

Business meeting

It is advisable to arrange meetings with Colombian partners a week in advance by email or by phone. At the same time, it is recommended to confirm the meeting a day in advance or on the same day – by phone, email or via WhatsApp, ideally directly with the person with whom we intend to meet (not with his/her assistant). The first meetings usually take place in the company’s office.

Subsequent meetings can also take place in a restaurant or cafe. Payment for shared lunch will be appreciated, but the local partner is likely to insist on payment himself if he is in the position of host. Gifts are nice, but not a must. Handing out business cards is part of business culture.

In Colombia, formal dress is common for most types of business meetings. Colombians often judge the trustworthiness and financial security of a business partner based on their modified appearance. A well-fitting suit and attention to detail will be positively acknowledged. Regardless of gender, Colombians are very careful about their appearance (groomed hair, nails, beards for men, make-up for women).

  • PaulSourcing: Tips and recommendations for doing business with Colombia. Also includes country basic data and information for entering the its market.

Dress in warmer and seaside areas tends to be more relaxed (the socially acceptable Caribbean “guayabera” shirt). There are many regional differences in the country. In general, the atmosphere in the warmer areas of the Colombian Caribbean and Pacific is more relaxed, time passes more slowly and everything is less orderly. A larger share of the Afro-Colombian population is also concentrated in these regions.

The composition of the negotiation team does not have to be gender-specific. Although the country is to some extent a victim of machismo, women in the business environment are not rare. Colombians do not avoid alcohol, but it is definitely better in the evening than during the day, and even under the cover of darkness it is not a good idea to overdo it in front of your local partners. An invitation to the house can be proposed relatively early by a Colombian, but it is not a rule.

Communication

Cocaine and Pablo Escobar. These are usually the first two things that come to mind for a European in connection with Colombia. However, given the trauma associated with them in local society, these are absolutely inappropriate topics of conversation. It is better to avoid politics and religion as well. Colombians react quite irritated to any criticism, even if it is constructive. Visit Calculatorinc for more information about Colombia culture and traditions.

Avoid direct questions such as “when will you place the order”, rather ask how the partner is doing, how is the family, possibly follow up on a topic from the past and only then in the middle of the conversation can you mention if there is something he needs help with regarding a joint project.

A number of Colombians will claim that they speak English, and it will probably be true for managers in high positions. But if we are not sure of the perfect level of English of our Colombian counterparts, it is definitely always better to choose Spanish as the language of communication even at the cost of needing an interpreter.

Initial contact is best via e-mail. Managers of small and medium-sized companies may surprise you that they use gmail or hotmail for work purposes. For further communication, you can also use telephone contact, but Colombians are by far the most accessible on the WhatsApp application. At the same time, they use voice messages in this application a lot. As part of email communication, Colombians may not always be masters of quick response, but a short friendly message on WhatsApp will help to remind.

Recommendation

  1. Colombians are very friendly and warm.
  2. Absolutely common use of WhatsApp in business communication.
  3. Introductory lengthy courtesy “small talk” before getting “to the point”.
  4. Hierarchy – the level of acceptance is strictly followed. The occasional display of social superiority towards the service staff can startle the Czech.However, this does not mean that a foreigner would necessarily behave in the same contemptuous manner.
  5. The wealth of the upper classes – the uneven distribution of wealth in Colombia results in vast social differences. Rich Colombians are really rich and often found in business. They have prestigious – often foreign – schools, they are cultured and cultured. They can therefore expect certain standards of behavior from their business partner.
  6. The absolutely fundamental importance of personal ties (e.g. family, joint studies, etc.) when doing business in Colombia.
  7. The seeming smoothness of business – Colombians are not very good at saying no and at the same time tend to overestimate their options and underestimate potential risks. This often gives the Czech businessman a false impression of interest from the Colombian side. The above-mentioned combination of characteristics often leads to the fact that initially unexpected complications may start to appear in a seemingly problem-free business.
  8. Although the security situation in Colombia is significantly better than before, the country’s violent past is still a live and emotional topic. It is therefore not good to actively lift it.
  9. The aspect of corruption occurs in two forms – compared to the Czech Republic, according to the relevant statistics, the practice of bribery is more common, and on the contrary, you can encounter the panic of workers in the public sector that they could be accused of it

Public Holidays

Colombians have a total of 18 public holidays in a year, and some of them even shift to extend the weekend by a day to the so-called “puentes”. There are also a number of regional holidays and celebrations. It is advisable to take this into account when choosing a proposal for the date of the meeting. The period from the so-called Candlemas on December 7, and especially from the Christmas holidays until mid-January, is a period of holidays and reduced work activity in Colombia.

  • 1. 1. New Year
  • 11. 1. Three kings
  • 22. 3. St. Josef
  • 1.– 2. 4. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (Easter)
  • 1. 5. Labor Day
  • 17. 5. Ascension
  • 3. 6. Corpus Christi
  • 14. 6. Sagrado Corazón
  • 5. 7. St. Peter and Paul
  • 20. 7. Independence Day
  • 7. 8. Battle of Boyacá
  • 16. 8. Assumption of the Virgin Mary
  • 18. 10. Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus
  • 1. 11. Feast of All Saints
  • 15. 11. Independence of Cartagena
  • 8. 12. Immaculate Conception
  • 25. 12. Christmas holiday

Colombia Culture of Business