Business etiquette in Colombia

Hello everybody,

As you know, professional habits may differ from one country to another. In order to help newly arrived expats better understand their new professional environment in Colombia, we warmly encourage you to share information and insights about the do’s and don’ts in the workplace.

For instance, are there office manners? How do you greet your co-workers? Do you greet your management differently? Is there a dress code? Particular rules to observe? Maybe a professional body language?

On another level, what is key for a successful professional meeting? Are there any steps to follow? How do you a start a negotiation?

In other words, what are the most important things to know for a successful professional integration in Colombia?

Thank you in advance for sharing your experience!


Google it..

Hi Escogalvis,

Yes indeed some infos can be found on google but it will be most appreciated if you share your priceless personal experience on these few questions so that members may perhaps relate or learn from your experience.

It will definitely be more informative.  :)

Thanks in advance,

What is standard is objective. Many times people offer personal views which don't correspond to the actual life.. Etiquette as many things are also dynamic in many cases, what is true today may not be tomorrow, it's why I suggest to surf seeking for fresh info.. I don't mind googling every time, there is professional advise on the web regarding many subjects. It's what the web is for. If not there; then doesn't exist 😉

Escogalvis - Really - that's your answer... ???

Julian - I thought this was a great question that could start a great thread.  Sure you can google, but starting a conversation here would be a lot better for all of us. I'm pretty culturally aware, having traveled a lot, and worked with lots of different cultures in Denver. But I'm new to Medellin as well. and interested in seeing if some more interesting responses come up.

I would like to respond via a personal YouTube video.....more effective.................if that is OK, let me know.

Dear Agro...

Go ahead and post the youtube link.

Tip:  If you post the full link starting with www.  ...  the system will typically post the link in blue ... enabling members to click on it and be taken instantly to the new site.

cccmedia in Quito

escogalvis :

Google it..

What a ***.

Julien, if I knew I would tell you, brother.

Moderated by Priscilla last year
Reason : bad language not allowed

I have had the opportunity of doing business in many types of companies in Colombia, and have made many friends in the business environment in the past.  Here is a little of what I have learned in relation to first time impressions in business environments.

Although Colombians are accustomed to North Americans appearing disheveled in meetings, they consider it a sign of disrespect (to yourself and your brand).  Respectful attire: Means that you are wearing at minimum, attire compatible with the business culture of the particular company that your are visiting.  So it will be smart for you to ask ahead of time. Most software development companies today wear jeans, but they accompany them with a modern well pressed shirt and belt, plus leather shoes and the jeans are always clean and well pressed.

Most executives still wear a suit and expect to do business with well ironed, put together individuals that take time to shine their shoes. The appearance of your shoes is very important to Colombians.  It is actually the first thing they look at when they meet you.  Because of the private school culture in Colombia, all individuals are though that you must keep your shoes clean at all times and mainly when meeting people in any occasion. If in a business meeting, tennis shoes or any type of non leather shoe is still frowned upon.
Even in hot climates there is a standard of dressing.  Most business men wear a quality guayabera (its equivalent in the USA would be a well pressed collared, buttoned, short sleeved shirt made of quality linen or light material that is designed not to be tucked in or be worn with a tie.  The shirt is typically squared at the bottom vs.  Shirts with rounded tails in back, light dress pants and leather shoes. Do make sure your articles of clothing are well pressed and modern.  Being well dressed is a sign of status in Colombia. In all business meetings you should plan to look formal.
It is appreciated in all levels of negotiations to present oneself wearing a dark suit a well pressed shirt and a tasteful tie with clean leather shoes that have been shoe shined. This is very important in Bogota but it applies in all other states in Colombia where the climate permits it.  The coastal cities in Colombia are very hot and Guayaberas are an alternative that is accepted.

Women in Colombia are always well dressed in the business environments and the rules are stricter.  For a business negotiation: a good quality dress or pant suit is recommended.  Short sleeve is preferred to sleeveless. Although you might see employees wearing short sleeves and showing some cleavage, it is recommended that you do not. Light make up or professionally applied make up is highly recommended. These days it appears that a well kept skin with light makeup is a standard in business. It is much more recommended to unprofessionally applied make up.   Shoes need to be well kept, preferably leather, clean and hills must be intact.  Women are judged to higher standards. Cleanly maintained hair is a must.

Handshakes are very important. Solid, firm and moderately strong. Shake with the right hand and reach out to hold the elbow of your counterpart with your left hand.  Always offer a wide smile and eye contact. For a woman the same applies plus, let the Colombian counterpart that you are meeting with lead you in initiating if a kiss on the chick is welcomed.  Most Colombian males will reach out to kiss a female counterpart on the chick and women business counterparts will do the same. In Colombia one kiss on the chick is important.  When Colombians of all backgrounds like you, they will reach out and touch you. There is no alternative meaning to this.  A pat on the back, a pat on the arm, a pat on the shoulder is just a sign of friendship nothing else and it is very common.

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