Sorry, no Timmy's in Barranquilla: On Culture Shock.



The Tim Hortons place at the US border in Niagara is very a busy one. Many Canadians returning home flock to the aroma of their much-missed Double-Double. I, too, stop there when I cross the border, as it grounds me back to what is familiar.

When we travel, we inevitably lose the sights, tastes and routines that we are accustomed to and give us comfort, things that define us. When we are exposed to a new culture, we lose our “normal”, we are pushed out of our comfort zone, and we are filled with a sense of confusion and uncertainty. You feel lost. And, when we are up in the air, we start comparing the new culture with what we know, usually the negative, and we expect everyone to be more like us.


But, here’s a shocker: You live in a vast and interesting world that does not revolve around you.


Observe, taste and learn.

We can either become aware and start enjoying the new scenery or let it shock us. For example, if you travel to Colombia for business or pleasure, I must warn you there is no Tim Hortons there. Coffee is Colombia’s national main brand, their most prized asset. Their other asset is Colombian courtesy. The first thing they will offer you, is a "tintico", a small black coffee. You might think, nah! nothing like my Timmy’s! But, when you try it, the aroma and taste of that little cup of coffee might startle you with its subtle power. However, its magic really lies in what happens when you share it with you host. This small gesture of sharing a "tintico" with you customers will open to new conversations. You will find out, for example, what really bothers or concerns your customer while having an informal conversation. There is wonderful effect about a shared taste of warm coffee, it makes your guards come down, you will gather informat


ion, gain tons of empathy while really, really having a good time learning about what Colombian culture.


And while you are there…

Overcoming Culture Shock is very easy. Follow these tips and the experience of learning a new culture will be rewarding:


· Research cool things to do in the new country and make a Bucket List of places to visit.

· Talk to locals and ask them about the things that you find weird or strange. Maybe they have a good reason of doing the things they do. You will be shocked, but you will be amazed!

· Use comparison only as a learning tool. Let go of the idea that you are better than them. Putting yourself out there will increase your knowledge (and wisdom!) of the world.


While we don't teach about coffee, at R&B Consulting Group we do know about Colombian business culture and ways to train you to gather intelligence on your potential customers, while opening your heart and mind. Let’s share a "virtual tintico" while we talk about your needs on doing business in Latin America.


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