By now we’re sure you’ve heard the usual spiel: Medellín has incredible weather, Bogotá has an unbeatable nightlife, Cartagena boasts some mad-lovely architecture, Cali salsas until the sunrises, etc etc etc.
These are all some major upsides to living in Colombia (and there are many, many more, too), but what are some of the more unexpected delights that captivate and, yes, capture visitors in this country? What are the things that keep us expats in the warm embrace of a Colombian hug?
1. Delicious, delicious fruits and vegetables.
Fruits you’ve never heard of, peppers bigger than you’ve ever seen and oranges that actually aren’t orange. This is the wonderful world of non-identikit fruits that taste a million times better than the ones you get back home. They not only taste great alone, but like Captain Planet, with the help of friends they can forge together and make something wonderful.
The initial sensation of having a maid is a weird one. I remember staying at a friend’s house upon arrival and feeling thoroughly uncomfortable having someone else cook and clean up for me (at least, someone that wasn’t my mum). You can appease these feelings by paying well and ensuring your maid has a nice place to work. And once you’re appeased, you can sit back and relish a pleasure that, if you’re anything like me, you never thought you’d have.
3. Minutos ladies
Not that there aren’t men out there offering minutes on the street, but the far more ubiquitous sight is that of a middle-aged woman wrapped in a big duffle-coat sellign chewing gum and lending out her mobile phone for calls. It’s one of Colombia’s most peculiar charms and incredibly helpful when you’re out and about. After all, prepaid mobiles run out of battery INSTANTLY and pay-as-you-go phones generally don’t have credit. So who you gonna call?! Well, no-one until you get to that minutos lady.
4. Bus stops are everywhere (and nowhere)
Ok, buses are largely responsible for traffic and pollution in Colombia’s big cities, and when you’re on one you can find yourself incredibly frustrated by the amount of stops they make to pick people up. But still, for anyone that’s run to a bus stop in their home country, only to arrive just as the bus leaves, the mere fact that you can just stick your hand out – wherever you are – and climb on board is a revelation.
5. Expats and locals are passionate about the place
I often find that when talk about Colombia people go to extremes. Locals will speak incredibly harshly about their country, complaining about traffic or weather or a general lack of percieved development. But they’ll also be quick to tell you that this is the best country on earth, and that here we’ve found a kind of paradise that people though they’d only find in books. Expats are the same. This is the best country they’ve ever visited, but they’ll spend a decent amount of time complaining about little things.
But that’s Colombia. This is a country of extremes, and a country that elicits passionate reactions that contradict each other willingly and somehow with complete sense. This is Colombia. It’s frustrating, it’s chaotic, but it’s also overwhelmingly beautiful, outrageously addictive and an absolutely incredible country to live in.