A New Adventure

by Jacco Fijnheer
- Aureus

Living and working in Medellín

Interview with Bas Groot

About five months ago Bas Groot moved for indefinite time from Amsterdam to Medellín to start a new chapter in his still young career. At the moment, 25-year-old Bas Groot fully enjoys working and living in the beautiful city of Medellín. He started as graduation intern doing research to cold calling in different markets, and is nowadays active as Senior Sales Account Executive for Virtuagym in Medellín. This interview explores the experiences of a Dutch young man that started a new adventure in Medellín, Colombia.

What made you decide to start a new adventure in Colombia?

Personally, it was not a very difficult decision to accept an offer where I could escape the somewhat routine-lifestyle in The Netherland, and to continue working from a warm country as Colombia. There has always been a part of me that was seeking for new opportunities to go abroad. So, on the one hand moving to Medellín gave me the chance to explore the beauty of this country and to embrace the Latin-American culture. On the other hand, there is also a business aspect to this decision.

Do you notice any differences between doing business in Colombia and The Netherlands?

A difference in business culture between the Netherlands and Colombia is that Colombia is a more hierarchical country where rules and regulations form the basis for doing business. This characteristic creates a structured business approach but can also withhold Colombia from growth opportunities. Another noticeable difference is the relatively direct approach of Dutch companies and employees. Keep in mind when traveling to Colombia that this direct and straightforward mentality is not always appreciated and can be interpreted as rude.

What is it like to live in Medellín?

The people in Colombia are very warm and kind, and there is a much more open culture compared to the Netherlands. For example, you can enter most of the bars and be invited to join the locals for a drink. The people are more relaxed and have a very different mentality, a characteristic commonly linked to people in Latin-American countries. But above all, the climate is one of the best aspects of living in Colombia. Besides a few rainy months, which I have not yet experienced myself, there is a constant pleasant temperature. This is without a doubt one of the best things compared to the Netherlands.

For Dutch standards, daily life in Colombia is cheap. Public transport is good, but the nicest mode of transport is the famous cable car across the city, connecting a rich part of the city with a poorer part. This cable car is definitely worth a visit when staying in Medellín. Fun to mention is that my apartment and office are not connected via public transport and because the city is build in a valley it is quite difficult to walk or ride a bike to work, I have no other choice than to take a taxi every day.

Did you experience a language barrier?

The best advice I can give is to learn the basic Spanish language and take into account that no one speaks English besides a few business people and some expats. Shopping, groceries, ordering food or drinks in a restaurant or taking a taxi requires basic knowledge of the Spanish language. From experience it is much more appreciated by the people when you try to speak Spanish, rather than just start in English.

What do you do in your spare time?

After work and in the weekend, I often play soccer with friends, colleagues and locals. It is fairly easy to rent a small soccer pitch and organize small games. These soccer games are usually followed up with diner and a few beers, and this may sometimes end up with a long night in the bar. Because domestic flights are relatively cheap, I quite often plan weekend trips to places as Cartagena, San Andres, Santa Marta and Guatapé. The latest plan is to visit a finca in the mountains outside of Medellín. A finca is a villa or country house outside the city, often provided with luxury amenities such as a pool or sport fields. Maybe interesting for the entire ARP group as weekend activity.

What tip(s) would you give to us?

A small tip is avoiding what the locals call “showing your papayas”. Poverty is still an issue in the city so be careful when showing off forms of luxury. For the project I would suggest focusing on companies in the technology sector. As mentioned before, the rules and regulations can sometimes counterwork growth, but it does not withhold companies, especially in the tech sector, to open up facilities in Colombia. The last few years Medellín, but Colombia as well, has undergone a serious image change from its negative drugs-related past to prosperous high-end tech city. Reputable companies such as Uber are opening offices in the business center of Medellín. To answer the question why tech companies should move to Colombia, I would say that besides the low operating cost, Medellín has a very good public transportation and telecommunication network. But most of all, enjoy the beauties of Colombia.