Even though Colombia counts with a qualified workforce, the level of proficiency in English can vary among Colombian business executives. The majority can understand spoken English as well as written, but in terms of speaking the language, many individuals prefer to rely on interpreters. (If you require interpretation or translation services, the chamber offers special discounted rates for members. Please enquire about this specifically if you require the service.)
Additionally, the B&CCC counts with a list of hotels in which our members receive preferential rates. Please let us know about your trip well in advance to help you organize your stay
BASIC BUSINESS PROTOCOL
Meeting and Greeting
- It is polite to shake hands when meeting for first time, saying hello and departing.
- Greetings should take some time - ensure you engage in some small talk, i.e. ask about family, health, weather and general business.
- Eye contact is viewed positively.
- Personal contacts do play a special role in Colombia and can make the difference between finding an open or closed door.
- Wait for the other party to initiate a change to first names.
- Business attire is mostly suit and tie for men and suit or dress for women. Evening functions are similarly dressy unless advised otherwise. Colombians view a person's clothing as an indicator of status.
- It is a good idea to try and have one side of your business card translated into Spanish.
- Include any university degrees or qualifications as this is valued.
- Treat business cards with respect.
- Business Meetings
- Try as much a possible to address people by their title and surname, or use Señor, Señora (Mr, Mrs). 'Doctor/Doctora' is often applied to any accomplished or educated person, regardless of whether or not he or she has a Ph.D. or is a medical doctor.
- An agenda will serve as a starting point and be flexible as last minute changes could happen.
- Relationship building is crucial - it may be a good idea to invest time in establishing trust for the first few meetings.
- Time is not an issue in meetings - they will last as long as they need to last. Do not try and rush proceedings.
- Colombians are termed as 'indirect communicators' - this means there is more information within body language and context rather than the words, i.e. if you ask someone to do something and they confirm please make sure that you reconfirm the appointments to avoid disappointments. It is common to use this form of communication to protect relationships and face.
- This means people that are used to speaking directly and openly must tame their communication style as it could cause offence.
- Although they can be indirect, Colombians can also become very animated. This should not be mistaken for aggression.
- Avoid confrontation at all cost. If someone has made a mistake do not expose it publicly as this will lead to a loss of face and a ruined relationship.
- It is usual that Business contacts may wish to invite you to their home, to show appreciation and to build a trustworthy relation.
GENERAL ETIQUETTE AND SOCIAL NORMS
Meeting and Greeting
- Men shake hands with direct eye contact.
- While shaking hands, use the appropriate greeting for the time of day: "buenos dias" (good day), "buenas tardes" (good afternoon), or "buenas noches" (good evening/night).
- Once a friendship has developed, greetings become warmer and a lot more hands on - men will embrace and pat each other on the shoulder (known as an "abrazo") and women kiss once on the right cheek.
- Most Colombians have both a maternal and paternal surname and will use both.
- The father's surname is listed first and is the one used in conversation.
- Always refer to people by the appropriate honorific title and their surname.
- Gift Giving Etiquette
- Gifts are given for birthdays and Christmas or the Epiphany (January 6th). In Colombia a girl's 15th birthday is considered an important milestone.
- If you plan to give gifts in Colombia, here are some handy tips:
- When going to a Colombian's home, bring wine, flowers or quality chocolates for the hostess.
- If you are going to a girl’s 15th birthday, gold is the usual gift.
- Imported alcohol (especially spirits) are very expensive and make excellent gifts.
- Wrapped gifts are not opened when received.
- Dining etiquette is quite formal in Colombia as they tend to give importance to decorum and presentation.
- Below are some basic tips - if you are ever unsure the general rule is "observe and follow":
- Wait to be seated by the host.
- Hands should be kept visible when eating.
- Do not rest elbows on the table.
- The host will say "buen provecho" (enjoy or have a good meal) as an invitation to start eating.
- It is polite to try everything you are given.
- Unusually all food is eaten with utensils - even fruit is cut into pieces with a knife and fork.
- It is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate when you have finished eating.
- Do not use a toothpick at the table.