Facts and Statistics
Location: Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama
Population: 42,954,279 (July 2005 est.)
Ethnic Groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
Religion: Roman Catholic 90%, other 10%
Language in Colombia
The official language of Colombia is Spanish and spoken by around 43 million people. In addition there are approximately 500,000 speakers of American Indian languages.
Colombian Society & Culture
* Most Colombians would consider themselves to be Roman Catholics.
* The Church has historically been a very important influence over personal affairs such as marriage and family life.
* The parish church is often seen as the centre of a community, with the local priest representing divine authority and leadership.
* The church also has some influence in areas such as education, social welfare and union organization.
The Role of the Family
* The family takes centre stage in the social structure.
* It acts as a source of support and advice and therefore great loyalty is shown to families. Although extended families rarely live under one roof, apart from in rural areas, many are still live very close and frequent one another's houses often.
* It is still common for children remain at home until they marry.
* The elderly are generally revered for their age and experience.
* Colombia can be termed a hierarchical society.
* People earn respect due to age and position.
* Older people are naturally perceived as being wise and as a result are afforded great respect. You will always see the oldest person in a group served their food and drinks first.
* With this position also comes responsibility - Colombians expect the most senior person, whether at home or at work, to make decisions.
Etiquette and Customs in Colombia
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). Women often grasp forearms rather than shaking hands.
* 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 fruit, a potted plant, or quality chocolates for the hostess.
* Flowers should be sent in advance.
* Do not give lilies or marigolds as they are used at funerals. Roses are liked.
* If you are going to a girls 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.
Business Etiquette and Protocol in Colombia
Meeting and Greeting
* It is courteous to shake hands both upon meeting and departing.
* Men should wait for a woman to extend her hand.
* Greetings should take some time - ensure you engage in some small talk, i.e. ask about family, health and business.
* Eye contact is viewed positively.
* Wait for the other party to initiate a change to first names.
* 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.
* Although there may be an agenda, meetings do not always follow a linear path.
* An agenda will serve as a starting point and after that issues are addressed as an when.
* 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 reply 'I will have to see', it would be up to you to read between the lines and realise that they can not do it.
* The reason for this way of communicating it 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 offense.
* 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.
Being a Manager in Colombia
The business set up in Colombia is very formal and cross cultural management will be more successful if you bear in mind the importance of being courteous at all times. Treat those in positions of authority with particular respect and deference. It is better to err on the side of being overly formal rather than jeopardize a business relationship by being too informal and appearing flippant.
Spend time cultivating relationships and maintaining them once they are formed. This is a country where "who you know" is often more important than "what you know".
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural communication will be more effective when managing in Colombia, if you keep it in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage and it is inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
In Colombia, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns.
Approach to Change
Colombia’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is becoming more apparent although changes are still made slowly, requiring a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.
Cross cultural sensitivity is important with Colombia’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Deadlines and timescales are fluid in Colombia. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross cultural management.
While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.
Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.
Colombian business is rigidly hierarchical. For the most part decisions are reached at the top of the company and passed down to managers to implement. Managers are more autocratic than in many other countries. They do not seek a consensus before making decisions, as they believe it would make them appear weak.
If a subordinate is not clear how they should approach a given task, they will generally ask co-workers rather than their manager. In general, the business climate is risk averse.
Deadlines are not viewed as important. If you must receive information by a certain date, it is a good idea to follow up several times, in a persistent but polite manner.
If a manager must counsel a subordinate about a performance problem, it will be done in private. Positive feedback may be given publicly as it enhances the person’s status.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working with people from Colombia, cross cultural management will be more effective if you remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration. Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills. It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with someone from a lower status.
This is changing in younger generations, particularly those employed by multinational corporations. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate clearly that their participation is desired.
When meeting together and moderating ideas, it is important to qualify ideas that are raised in a gentle manner. If someone is exposed and shamed, they may not participate again, and it will likely stem the flow of ideas and the participation of the entire group.
Praise should be given to the entire group as well, and not to individuals.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
To avoid cross cultural miscommunication take care in selecting a translator. Bear in mind the importance of relationships and prepare to be patient as time is spent developing those relationships. Business meetings are slow and deliberate. Colombians can be strong negotiators and drive hard bargains but you should remember to avoid “high pressure” sales tactics. These can be viewed as confrontational.
Links and Resources about Colombia
* Currency - the currency of Colombia is known as the Peso (COP). Use the free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP or Euro.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Colombia.
* News - check out all the latest Google news on Colombia.
* Dialing Code - the international dialing code for Colombia is +57.
* Time - Colombia is -5 hours GMT. Get the time in Colombia now.
* Hotels - Hotels in Colombia.
* History - read about the long and rich history of Colombia.
information provided by www.kwintessential.co.uk