Monday, 3 June 2013

Cultural Differences Between Colombia and Switzerland

By Beatriz Andrea Quintero (undergraduate FIGRI student)

Last year, I had the chance to live with a Swiss girl and it was such a great experience because I noticed how different we are in lots of aspects of our lives. I think it is important to examine different cultures now that globalization is part of our daily lives and has turned into a major issue and opportunity.

So in order to go alongside globalization and avoid any possible cause of confusion, it is essential to understand each other’s points of view and ways of interacting. I have decided to talk about 3 aspects: individualism/collectivism, family relationships and the avoidance of uncertainty.

Individualism is the extent to which people identify themselves in terms of “I” or “WE”. I have found that Colombian culture is a highly collectivistic culture because we tend to think more as a group, taking into account what others believe. On the other hand, Swiss culture is an individualistic culture. They believe that the achievements of the group are not as important as separate achievements. Furthermore, relationships are clearly separated from business and should not be mixed; this clearly doesn’t happen in Colombia.

Family relations are also very different. In Colombia, we tend to share a lot of time with our family like “family Sundays” and we are very dependent on our parents, even when we are over 18. We also usually live with our parents while we are doing our degree and even afterwards. In Switzerland, it is far different. They tend to be more independent and it is common that as soon as young adults finish high school, they move away from their parents and most Swiss adolescents have a job and pay for their studies and expenses. WE DON’T.

The avoidance of uncertainty deals with how people handle the uncertainty of what is going to happen in the future. Colombians usually prefer to avoid unfamiliar situations and are less willing to take risks than the Swiss; Swiss people love taking risks. Another big difference is that Swiss people are very punctual and they feel a strong need to be busy all the time and work hard, while Colombians don’t.

To conclude, Colombians are very different from the Swiss. While Colombians are resistant to change and more concerned about things such as job security, collective accomplishments or family relations, the Swiss are more willing to take risks; freedom and personal accomplishments are highly valued and family relations are not as close as they are in Colombia. Still, even though we are very different from each other, it is really nice to share time with people from Switzerland.

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