Colombia’s business culture tends to vary according to the area. In the major cities, it tends to be quite formal, while in smaller cities – often found on the North Coast, it is generally more informal. However, throughout the country, it is quite important to form personal relationships with your counterparts, in order to assure a smooth collaboration when conducting business.
- Primary contact: Meetings are usually arranged two weeks prior arrival and reconfirmed a couple of days before the set date. When scheduling a meeting, it is advisable to provide a description of the intent in advance, in order to give a brief understanding of your scope.
- Punctuality: Punctuality tends to be quite an issue across Colombians but however you should never consider that a lack of respect. Things tend to suffer changes last minute, so you should be prepared to be quite flexible with your meetings schedule.
- Greetings: When meeting your business counterpart, expect a firm handshake, often for quite a long time, combined with a strong eye contact. When doing this, it is important that you also smile, in order to establish a more friendly and personal connection.
- Dress-Code: A conservative European dress-code in the more formal areas it is usually the right attire to present when meeting your business collaborator. However, in the more informal areas, a smart-casual attire may even be encouraged, especially in the more tropical climates where it is quite uncomfortable to present yourself in a full formal dress-code.
- Business Cards: When conducting a meeting in a professional environment such as an office, it is important that you present your business card right at the beginning of the set meeting. However, if the business meeting is being conducted in a more public space such as a restaurant – you should present your business card only after you’ve partaken in the meal.
- Meetings: Meetings tend to be quite lengthy and small talk is often encouraged before getting down to business. This is because Colombians prefer to establish a more personal relationship with their potential collaborators. Furthermore, during business meetings it is advisable that you switch off your phone, allowing full attention towards your counterparts. Otherwise, if it happens that you take a phone-call during a meeting, it can very often be considered a high lack of respect and this could even be damaging towards your negotiations later on.
In conclusion, Colombian business culture tends to support personal relationships, even though in some areas they prefer to be more often formal. Present yourself in a welcoming and open manner and expect to be greeted accordingly.
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