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Colombia Business Etiquette, Culture, & Manners

Colombia etiquette, manners, and more                   Colombian etiquette and Manners   

Colombia Introduction

Colombia has a population of approximately 33 Million with an ethnic composition of 58 percent mestizo, 20 percent European, 14 percent mulatto, and the remaining of African descent (living on the north coastal areas), and mixed African-Amerindian. Pure-blooded Amerindians now constitute only 1 percent of the population. The Republic of Colombia is a unitary, multiparty republic with two legislative houses: the 102-seat Senate and the 161-seat House of Representatives. The president is elected to a single four-year term and cannot succeed himself. The president is both chief of state and head of government.

Spanish is the official language, however, some Amerindians speak only their native languages. Many business people understand English. The vast majority of Colombians (95 percent) are Roman Catholic. The Colombia constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

 

Colombia Fun Fact

Colombian women are among the most politically active in Latin America, in spite of cultural restrictions on their social and work behavior. Colombia is divided by three mountain ranges, and this has led to the development of strong regional movements. When these movements fail to find common ground with the government in Bogota, guerrilla movements (usually left-wing) evolve.


Geert Hofstede Analysis for Colombia


The Geert Hofstede analysis for Colombia is similar to other Latin American countries where there is very strong uncertainty avoidance, large power distance, and low individualism. This is indicative of a society that has a high concern for rules, regulations, and controls, is slow to accept change, and is risk adverse. There is a high emphasis placed on close ties with individuals, or relationships, whereby everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group. There are significant inequalities of power and wealth within the society. Colombia has one of the highest masculinity rankings in Latin America. This indicates that the country experiences a high degree of gender differentiation of roles. The male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure.

Colombia is similar to many Latin American countries when analyzing Hofstede's Dimensions.

Colombia's highest Hofstede Dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) at 80, indicating the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

Colombia has a low Individualism (IDV) rank (13), as do most Latin countries (average 21). The score on this Dimension indicates the society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group

The Power Distance (PDI) ranking of 67 indicates a level of inequality of power and wealth within the society.

Colombia has one of the higher masculinity rankings in Latin America (64). This indicates the country experiences a higher degree of gender differentiation of roles. The male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure.

In many of the Latin American countries, including Colombia, the population is predominantly Catholic (see Religions Graph below). The combination of Catholicism and the cultural dimensions reinforce a philosophy predicated in the belief that there is an absolute ‘Truth”. As Geert Hofstede explains about peoples with a high Uncertainty Avoidance Index, their attitude is, “There can only be one Truth and we have it.” More Geert Hofstede Details

 

Religion in Colombia


* WORLD FACTBOOK 2011

In a country that has over 50% of its population practicing the Catholic religion, we found the primary correlating Hofstede Dimension to be Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI). There were only 2 countries out of 23 that did not follow this correlation, they were Ireland and the Philippines. (See accompanying Article)

 

Colombia Appearance

International Business Dress and Appearance   For dress, formality increases as you move inland. It is important to adopt conservative business attire inland. Suits in dark colors are preferred. Women should dress conservatively and modestly: a suit or dress

International Business Dress and Appearance   Colombians stand closer together when conversing than North Americans, however they engage in less physical contact during conversation than other South Americans

International Business Dress and Appearance   It is impolite to yawn in public

International Business Dress and Appearance   Colombian women will often substitute the gesture of holding forearms for a handshake

International Business Dress and Appearance   Colombians indicate that someone is stingy by tapping their fingers on their elbow

International Business Dress and Appearance   The "O.K." gesture (thumb and forefinger curled into a circle) when placed as a circle over one’s nose indicates that someone is homosexual

International Business Dress and Appearance   Two pointing fingers (as North Americans would use to indicate length) is an obscene gesture in Colombia

International Business Dress and Appearance   Avoid putting your feet up on a table or other piece of furniture

International Business Dress and Appearance   Women visitors should be especially sensitive about making any glance or gesture that might be considered flirtatious

 

Colombia Behavior & Manners 

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Schedule business appointments in advance

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Punctuality is relaxed; although as a foreigner you are expected to be on time

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Have business cards printed in English on one side and the translation Spanish on the other. Present the card with the Spanish side facing your Colombian colleague

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Business people prefer relaxed conversation before business

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Lunch is the main meal of the day and a popular choice for a business meal

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Typically, the person who has initiated the invitation will pay for a meal in a restaurant, although you may have to fight for the check even though you have issued the invitation

International business behavior, introductions, gift giving, protocol, culture  Let the host make a toast first, then you might wish to make one

wb01542_.gif (729 bytes) More information on International Gift Giving

 

Colombia Communications 

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Handshaking the customary greeting in business; don’t rush it. Colombians take a long time in greetings; they feel it conveys respect for the other person. Among friends, expect the abrazo, or embrace

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Titles are important and should be included on business cards. Address a person directly by using his or her title only. A Ph.D. or a physician is called Doctor. Teachers prefer the title Profesor, engineers go by Ingeniero, architects are Arquitecto, and lawyers are Abogado. Persons who do not have professional titles should be addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Miss, plus their surnames. In Spanish these are

  • Mr. = Senor
  • Mrs. = Senora
  • Miss = Senorita

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Most Hispanics have two surnames: one from their father, which is listed first, followed by one from their mother. Only the father’s surname is used when addressing someone

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Bullfighting is popular; don’t make negative comments

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Good conversation topics: history, culture, soccer, coffee, gold museum

International Business Communication, handshaking, introductions  Bad conversation topics: drug traffic, politics, religion

 

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