Cultural Observations #001

A couple days back I went to my local bank to setup an account. Did some research online about what I needed to do and what to expect. I’ve mentioned one of two things on the video.

  1. Listen well and polite. It’s customary for private security guards to patrol private banks here in Colombia. Usually they walk about and make sure people aren’t doing anything they aren’t suppose to be doing, such as being on the phone. They will call you out on it and if its a repeated offense, client or not, you will get kicked out. In this situation, the security guard came to the front of the waiting/sitting area and got everyones attention. The 12 to 15 people that were there all looked up and paid attention to what the security guard was saying. Something along the gist of the lights will turn off briefly because of a routine check so no need to be worried. He finished and immediately everyone in unison said, “thank you sir.” I was amazed. I hadn’t seen anything like that in any other country on this hemisphere.
  2. Relationships. Going into my bank appointment, I knew from what expats had told me that the wait would be long. It was true. I’ve ended up waiting almost an hour every time I’ve gone in the afternoon. It’s not a problem if you go there first thing in the morning, however I was meeting someone specific in the afternoon meetings. My observation on the long wait: The long wait isn’t a reflection of their lack efficiency or ability to do business. On the contrary, Medellin is a prime area for business entrepreneurship. The reason it takes a while is because Colombians value relationships. When you go to meet whoever is attending you, they start conversations. How is the family? How is business? And so on… You get work and business done but you make sure that relationships are ok.

I wonder if there is a lesson to be learned for us North Americans, especially in the context of church. What do be prioritize first? Ministry or relationships? Programs or people? Something to think about.


Kyu and Anna Kim are missionaries based in Medellin, Colombia. Their ministry passion is to walk along with the Colombian church as they develop the growth and expansion of Gospel centered communities.

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