21. Local knowledge is a real thing.
In London it rains a lot, but barring some ridiculously dark clouds, I can’t predict when. Yet every Bogotano knows exactly when it is going to rain. If you have ever heard the oh-so-annoying expression “sol de lluvia” you will know exactly what I am talking about. Why is it that every time the sun is blazing in this fair city, pessimism takes over and everyone starts to tell you that it only signifies heavy rain? Just get your top off and chill out, jeez.
Oh wait, is that a drop of… D’oh.
22. That South American football doesn’t end with Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina.
23. Sitting on warm seats can give you germs.
My first few months here were confusing in many ways. But perhaps the most baffling thing for me was seeing people leave their seat on a bus, only for another person to go and stand in front of it and then, after about thirty seconds, slowly slide into the seat. It wasn’t until a couple of months back that I was told that this was due to the potential germs that one could get from sitting on a slightly warm seat. I don’t know how much I believe it, but the whole of Bogota can’t be wrong, so now you can find me shyly sliding into my Transmi seat whenever I can get one.
24. That potato chips and pineapple jam can go on hot dogs.
You want pineapple jam on your hotdog sir?
25. It’s not racist to have a sense of nationalism.
Every day at six in the morning and six in the evening Colombia’s national anthem is played on the radio. People wax lyrical about Colombian culture, food, music, women, handicrafts, basically everything Colombian. Does that make them racist? No. Would somebody kindly tell that to all those people who get up in arms every time they see a St. George’s Cross?
27. That life away from global conglomerates does exist.
Fine, there are a whole load of Burger Kings, McDonalds, Pizza Huts et al here in Colombia, but what’s refreshing is that there are many more homegrown brands. For every McDonalds there’s an El Corral. For every (vastly superior) Papa Johns there’s a Jeno’s Pizza. On top of that there are brands like Bogotá Beer Company, Crepes and Waffles, Wok and La Hamburguesería that not only show the rude health of Colombian industry, but also help give the country an identity. In a frachise-y, capitalist way that is.
28. That stereotypes are always flawed.
Of course, I knew that. But even the good kind of stereotypes. Think Colombians are great dancers? Well, stick on a salsa song and sure.
However, stick on a hip-hop/house/techno/R & B song and us foreigners be all like whuuuuut?
29. Loads of music exists.
The existence of vallenato, cumbia, champeta, porro, and other home-grown kinds of music was pretty much unknown to me. Maybe I don’t love them all, but it’s nice to know just how much variety there is in this country, nevermind the entire world. Check out Paul’s handy guide to Colombian music if you want to know more.
30. Weather away from northern Europe can be miserable, too.
This is less something that I have learnt than something that my friends back home have had to learn. On telling them that I had decided to stay in Bogota, the unanimous reaction was “wow, you’re so lucky, I’m so jealous that you get to live in tropical heat”. No. Imagine London. But wetter.
31. That it’s possible for a community of expats to become fluent in the language of the country they’ve adopted.
I didn’t find this to be the case too often in Korea.
32. A little public affection never hurt anyone.
You may or may not know that in England (and I believe the US, Australia, Germany and many other countries…) we like to keep ourselves to ourselves. Well, that all pretty much goes out the window in Colombia. And it’s nice to see, every once in a while, a couple just not really caring what’s around them. Aww.
Flowers, dancing and general romance are a must.
33. It’s the simple things that matter.
Living away from home often forces you to strip down to your bare basics. Even moreso when moving to a country like Colombia that doesn’t have the sheer amount of stuff available to you like it is back home. It’s not to say that you can’t buy an iPad here; more that having left all that clutter behind you at home and focused more on building relationships with people, you kind of realise you don’t need to spend a month’s wages on something that you don’t need. At all.
(NB Apple if you read this and want me to delete it in exchange for an iPad I am cool with that.)
34. Switching off is important.
One of the best things about living in Colombia is the opportunity to get away for the weekend. Many of the more affluent locals have fincas (country houses) nearby to the big cities and so can head there for a couple of days to unwind. The weather is beautiful, the scenery stunning, the beer free-flowing. You can switch off, unwind, and head back to city life totally refreshed.
35. You don’t have to like a drink to find yourself imbibing it frequently.
No prizes for guessing to what I’m referring.
36. That, as an expat, it can be pretty hard to leave a country.
Especially when that country is Colombia.
37. That small cultural differences are the weirdest, and best. We’re talking milk in bags kind of thing.
And rum in cartons. And using capital letters ALL THE TIME WHEN TEXTING! What a world we live in!
38. Days actually start when the sun comes up.
In this sense, living in Colombia is like living on a farm. People in Bogota tend to start work at seven and this is seen as something totally normal. The first few times I had to get up at four thirty or five I was convinced that I was going to get a flight. Why else would I be up so early.
39. That to truly know somewhere, you have to live there.
No good saying “I’ve done here” or “I’ve done there”. There is so much more to every country than meets the eye, and Colombia is one of the world’s best examples of that. Hell, Bogotá is one of the world’s best examples of that. Getting to know a country takes years, and even then it will still surprise you. Many travellers head to Bogotá and are overwhelmed by the noise, the traffic and the grim weather. As anyone that has stayed here knows, however, this is one of the most fun cities in the world, and it’ll continue to surprise you.
40. That the best decision you can make is to get out your comfort zone and explore the world.
They said it was dangerous. They said I was crazy. There were moments when, among all the warnings, I even doubted myself. But the best thing you can do, that I have done, is to embrace the chaos, frustration, beauty and wonder of everything that comes with travel. And if you pick to travel to Colombia, well then hijuepucha – you’re going to have a ball.
By Paul Fowler, See Colombia Travel Blog