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Business culture

Eye contact is important and socks are mandatory – irrespective of the weather. Be prepared with good quality presentations in the country’s business language Spanish.

How do I greet and address?

Greet by shaking hands in the beginning of a business relationship. Later, a kiss on the cheek is customary. Address your counterpart with Señor/Signora followed by their last name. The title "Doctor" is used for university graduates. Dignitaries, lawyers and teachers are addressed by "Doctor" and the first name.

Is there a defined dress code?

Men wear a suit and a tie whilst women, a suit or other business attire. Socks are mandatory irrespectively of the weather.

What should I consider in business meetings?

Foreigners are expected to be punctual, but traffic is a known annoyance and can be used as an excuse when necessary. The introduction is a brief presentation of participants, the company and product. Then the rest of the time is dedicated to discussing the business proposal.

What are considered effective negotiation techniques?

Consider the following:

  • Spanish is the business language in Colombia. Presentations need to be well-prepared and for the most part in Spanish.
  • Colombians will want to go through details and negotiate on price as far as possible. The decision making process is therefore lengthy.
  • Companies are hierarchical and decisions are made by top management.
  • Verbal agreements apply but must be confirmed in writing.
  • Contracts must be very detailed and precise and should be written by attorneys.
  • Failure to comply with the agreement is considered very unethical.

What else should I consider?

In larger businesses, it is good to have the "right" contacts within the network acting as a door openers.

Personal contacts are important in Colombia, which translates into numerous breakfast meetings, lunches and dinners during the negotiation period – both initially and to celebrate a clearance.

Eye contact is important.

Source: "The Unwritten Rules" (2003) Industrial Literature and Business Sweden in Colombia