Colombian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • Be respectful and courteous, especially around someone’s parents or elders. Colombians are often very charismatic and talkative, but their warmth is generally always accompanied with good manners.
  • Make an effort to steer the conversation towards the positive aspects of Colombian culture (i.e. the geography, biodiversity, literature, art, as well as the energy and attitude of the Colombian people).
  • Be generous and open to performing favours. Colombians often go out of their way to help those that they have a good relationship with.
  • Show respect for Catholicism and the Christian tradition. It forms the basis and justification for many Colombians’ opinions.
  • Try to tolerate a higher volume of noise. Colombians are generally more lenient with the level of noise that is permissible in a social situation or coming from a neighbouring house.


Don'ts

  • Avoid making jokes about illicit drugs or drug consumption. Colombians do not like to be stereotyped as ‘narcotraficantes’ (drug traffickers). A minuscule proportion of the population is involved in such activity and the comments can become insulting if delivered insensitively or too often. Furthermore, consider some Colombians may have been affected by the violence of drug cartels. If you want to approach the topic, take it seriously, not lightheartedly.
  • Do not ask about “violence in Colombia” unless you have a specific question. Colombians are generally open to discussing the subject, but they can find it tiring or even annoying when foreigners seek a broad explanation. It is an incredibly complex conflict that is hard to summarise for people with little background knowledge.
  • Do not emphasise Colombia’s struggles or seek to make them feel ashamed of it. Most are disgusted by it and want to redeem the reputation of Colombia in foreigners’ eyes. Furthermore, while they are very critical of their own nation’s problems, they do not need further judgement from outsiders – especially when this criticism is informed by stereotypes.
  • Do not assume all Hispanic and Latin American peoples are the same. There are many different countries and cultures across Central and South America that vary greatly in many aspects of life. Avoid homogenising Colombians with people from other areas of the continent.
  • Avoid referring to the United States as “America”. If you are going to do so, specify it as “North American”. All of South America is also technically American and Colombians can find it frustrating when the term is reduced to refer to just those from the USA.
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