Great opportunities for foreign interns in Colombia
In most Latin American countries, foreigners are welcomed with open arms. You will notice the people’s curiosity of wanting to know how life is like in other parts of the world. This is mostly due to the fact that the majority of people haven’t had the financial means to travel abroad. Locals usually take any opportunity to ask anything that they always wanted to know. People are very eager to pick your brain on any subject and want to know about the (cultural, political and behavioural) differences in life around the globe.
The way hierarchy works in Colombian companies
In Colombian companies, cooperation and trust is more valued than individual initiative. And the successful completion of tasks is more important than creative problem solving. Work tasks are performed as described in the contract and additional input or involvement from the employee is not expected. Negotiations generally follow formal protracted processes, conducted in Spanish, with little sense of urgency. Communications are generally inefficient and indirect. Creation of trust is crucial and negotiations are personal, between individuals, rather than between companies. Change the team, and you start from the beginning, if at all. During participation in meetings, hierarchy and formality determine the tone and process. Much business is conducted at lunches, which may go on for several hours and have generally no time to finish. The relationships between the employees in Colombian companies is traditionally hierarchical and paternalistic; generally formal.
Colombia can be termed a hierarchical society. People earn respect due to age and position.
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.
Foreign interns on key positions
There is a huge appreciation for the level of education and experience of foreign students. Interns will therefore almost always be appointed key positions, usually between the management and the team. This gives you quite a responsibility and a great opportunity to really make a difference. Apart from the personal development and cultural awareness, in most cases the intern has a lot of liberty to give shape to the role with its own input, and as a result define the projects end-result.
When looking at the intern positions at Paisa Internship, we can see that in several cases, depending on the intern’s motivation and involvement in the process, more benefits are offered to the candidate. Like “great freedom and autonomy to take ownership, make decisions and have major impacts”. And “freedom to develop a marketing plan independently” for example.
We also have several examples where our interns were able to base their final thesis and graduation on the internship project at Paisa Internship. And often the hiring company offers a more permanent position to the candidate, for after graduation. We have an opening with a company for example; offering the possibility to work for the company full time after the internship in Colombia, another South-American country or even from your home country as an ambassador. How great is that?
From the interns’ perspective
In a mini interview, our owner Conor Bannon, points out some more key advantages for interns in Colombia:
Q: How was your experience with the hierarchy in Colombian companies? Do you feel there is a positive acceptance of a foreign intern by the local team?
A: In comparison to the Netherlands and other western countries the so called “power distance” is much higher in Colombia. It is not common to challenge your superior or to hold a discussion. The respect towards authority is higher.
Although it may seem that as an intern you would be low on the hierarchical ladder this is not the case. You are seen as an important addition to the team, your western study background may even put you higher on this hierarchical ladder than your supervisor.
Q: And how is the communication within the company (team; coach/supervisor; management/HR; etc.) on a daily basis?
A: In comparison to the Netherlands I would say the communication is less direct and people are less assertive. This again links back to the hierarchy, when you are asked to do something you do it, if not asked it is not seen to be necessary to be assertive. Communication is very formal and it is important to ask co-workers about their personal lives and family.
Another important cultural difference is that punctuality is not of high importance. It is important to always “confirm” a few hours before the meeting to see if the meeting is still going to happen.
Q: Is it easy to “fit in” and make friends at the workplace? Do co-workers generally socialise after work as well?
A: People in Colombia are generally open to receiving foreigners and show interest in learning more about their culture, language etc. You will for sure make friends within the company and will probably also be invited to family events of co-workers. Colombians take great pride in “showing of”, having a friend from another country is something they are proud of. Colleagues are open to socialising after work hours. However take into account what may seem like little money to you can be a lot of money to your co-worker due to the low wages in Colombia.
Sign up with Paisa Internship
Paisa Internship is your go-to specialist for a paid foreign internship. Check out our broad range of paid internship positions in cities like Bogota, Medellin and Pereira. And in case you are looking for specific terms and conditions in a specific region or out of the season, our Diamond Package is ideal for you. You can sit back and relax, we’ll arrange everything! Contact us and we’ll find you the paid internship abroad that fit your needs.
We also have WhatsApp support and a local team available to guide you with whatever need you have during your whole stay in Colombia.
You can read all about the benefits of an international internship experience on your resume by clicking here. Want to know all the advantages of interning in Colombia, check-out our post Why doing an Internship in Colombia?
Contact us with any questions and be sure that we’ll take away all your doubts.