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Doing Business in Colombia

Business Etiquette colombiaFor the business traveller, doing business in foreign countries can pose intercultural challenges. Understanding and appreciating a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette is important in nurturing good business relationships.

This guide to doing business in Colombia offers some basic tips on how to do business more effectively by adapting your working style and practices to accommodate the Colombian way of doing things. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype the Colombians. It simply highlights some key areas for consideration when doing business in Colombia.


Meeting & Greeting

As with most South American countries the standard greeting is a handshake. Friends will embrace and slap each other's backs - what is known as the abrazo.

Meetings should be prolonged affairs where the parties involved ask about family, business, health and your sports team. Rushing the process is seen as disrespectful.

Note that in Colombia people stand quite close together and like to engage in some physical contact. Be prepared for a hand on your shoulder and don't back away from people if they get too close.

Until invited to do so, don't address Colombians with their first name. A simple Mr, Mrs or Miss followed by their surname is fine.

Gestures

Yawning in public is considered impolite. If you see someone tapping their fingers on their elbows this means they are calling someone miserly. The "OK" gesture, i.e. thumb and forefinger brought together to make a circle, should be avoided.

Business Meetings

Business meetings should be booked at least a week in advance and one should also confirm them prior to departure. It is best to make appointments via telephone or fax rather than 'snail mail' as this can be unpredictable.

It is key to engage the services of a local contact that can act as a facilitator, guarantor and interpreter. The contact will know how business is done on the ground, what companies would be interested in your proposals and negotiate the inevitable red tap surrounding business deals.

If entering into negotiations initially concentrate on building rapport and establishing trust. Colombians will put personal relationships above other considerations so do not rush the initial stages of any business relationship. The less business discussed the better.

Once a level of trust has been established never change your personnel as this will mean returning back to square one and rebuilding the relationship again.

Doing Business in Colombia

The above examples point to a few areas one must take into consideration when doing business in Columbia. Such tips are meant as a safety-net for those doing business there to help avoid misunderstandings and promote better communication.

Business Culture Guides

We offer free guides to doing business in many countries. Please visit Business Culture Guides for a full list.

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