Recently, I was offered the opportunity to move to Medellin and experience Paisa culture from the point of view of a resident rather than a tourist. For someone who, on a whim, decided to stay in Colombia and abandon his life in London, I was genuinely surprised by how difficult I found the thought of leaving Bogota behind.
On paper, it should have been an easy decision. Having been to Medellin on a couple of occasions previously, I am well aware of its many benefits. The ‘city of eternal spring’ trumps Bogota in terms of weather, it is cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing, locals have more pride in their city, life is more relaxed and, by all accounts, it is a great place to live. The opportunity that came my way was seemingly ideal and would have given me a much better quality of life than I currently experience.
So what is it then that had me in fits of confusion when making what seems like an obvious choice? The question of what attracts me to this chaotic, polluted, dirty and noisy city is one which I and many fellow expats have discussed on numerous occasions. How can we explain the strange charm of this sprawling metropolis? We have tried repeatedly to make our friends back home understand the allure and have seemingly failed (judging by the number of people who have visited me thus far).
Given that fact, this blog post might seem like an exercise in futility. Never one for giving up easily, however, here I am attempting one last time to big up Bogota. When asked why I love the city so much, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is usually “the people”. Sure, Colombia is a nation of friendly, welcoming and warm people, most of whom would argue that Bogotanos are the least affable in the country. This may be true, but it’s all relative. Clearly these people have never been to London.
Obviously, compared to people living a relaxed life on the coast or in a small town in the mountains, residents of a massive, busy and fast-paced city are bound to appear surly or even hostile. For me, however, people in Bogota demonstrate an incredibly outgoing and kind character that makes it extremely easy to feel at home and make great friends.
Yet there’s more to it than that. For fear of sounding like a total hippy, Bogota has some kind of magic, an energy that seems to bind me to it. There is something in the air (aside from the fumes) that excites us foreigners and makes everyday activities seem fun and interesting. It is something intangible, a feeling, a sentiment, a ‘good vibe’ if you will. Now, if that doesn’t make it entirely clear, I really don’t know what will.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total dreamer. I would be the first to admit that one needs to get out of Bogota on a regular basis to avoid going mad. But that’s just the beauty of the place. Within two hours of the city, you can be in the mountains, in the countryside or sweating away in tropical heat. But getting back to Bogota after a weekend away is a strangely joyous feeling, returning to the culture, the relative multiculturalism, the great nightlife and the even better people.
Perhaps the best way for people to understand all this is to come and experience it first-hand. It’s clear that there is something special about the city. Maybe it’s not entirely necessary to know exactly what that is. It exists and will ensure that I, and many other expats, will be here until Rolos stop being so bloomin’ nice.
Featured image from: pulsosocial.com