Since I’ve been living in Colombia, I’ve always wondered what things about Colombia I would miss if I ever had the misfortune to have to leave this country. Heading back home for a short trip, I wasn’t really expecting to miss that much. How wrong I was. Colombia has obviously got deeper under my skin than I had ever imagined and I started to miss, well, basically everything. Here are the main things I missed about living and travelling in Colombia:
1.Things coming in weird packaging
Perhaps an odd one to start with, but what’s wrong with alcohol in a box and milk in a bag?
2. Lack of vomit
On a random Thursday night in a normal quiet pub in London, I walked into the bathroom to be greeted
by the lovely sight of a man spewing his guts out into the toilet. Sure, Colombians drink a lot, they get drunk on aguardiente, sometimes too drunk, but they don’t chunder all over public spaces as often as English people.
3. A la orden
It’s not just that phrase, but perhaps more what it represents. Landing in Madrid from Bogota I was happily going through passport control and I greeted the nice man behind the counter with a friendly “buenas tardes”. Not only did he not respond, he didn’t even look up at me. So I arrived in England hoping to find some of that well-known British politeness, only to realise that it doesn’t even hold a candle to the friendly and polite people you’ll find in almost any Colombian shop, restaurant or anywhere really.
4. Colombian beer
Shock, horror! How many angry Brits and Europeans are going to have a go at me for this? In fact, I am quite the hypocrite as I have previously spent a large amount of time complaining about how Colombian beer is nothing compared to a proper pint in an English pub. In terms of quality, this is still undoubtedly true, but I have also now come to realise the great benefit of a good old can of Poker – you can drink almost infinite amounts of it without getting a big, full, uncomfortable belly. Or drunk. I guess water will do that.
5. Speaking Spanish
Simple as that. I enjoy speaking Spanish.
It’s 4 am in Bogota on a Wednesday morning. I want a packet of crisps and a lighter. I’m out of luck right? Wrong! In Bogota, it appears that you can order anything you want at any time of the day or night and it will arrive at your door in the hands of a smiling Colombian. London’s supposed to be a 24-hour city, so why did I get kicked out of a pub at 11 pm on a Friday? By a rude and aggressive bouncer who actually physically pushed me out of the door.
Whoah, easy now tiger, I think you’re just getting overly nostalgic, let’s tone it down a bit. No no, not so, I
love Colombian busetas and I’m not ashamed of that. Picture this – you are at a friend’s house in London (or pretty much any city in the world) and it’s time to go home. You ask your buddy the best way to get home. He directs you to three different bus stops, in different directions, each about a 10-minute walk from his house. Two of them go near your house (although still a fair walk). You have to choose one. You choose the wrong one and end up waiting half an hour in the rain and the cold. Not ideal. Now let’s jump to Bogota. You want to go home. You make a short walk to any vaguely main road, wait for a couple of minutes and hail down a bus that’s going near your house, wherever you want, and then get off right in front of your door. Who says Bogota’s public transport system needs improving? Well, me, and many millions of others, but I still like the busetas…
8. After parties
I can hardly remember one night out in Colombia which hasn’t ended with leaving the club and having to choose between a couple of after parties at random houses or after hours clubs. I’m going to be honest here, it’s not as if I always jump at these opportunities (after a night of guaro, salsa and a bit more guaro, there is little that appeals to me more than passing out fully-clothed on my bed), but I like to know that they are at least there…
9. The music
This came as a surprise even to me. I should clarify that I didn’t specifically miss reggaeton, salsa, cumbia, vallenato, or any other Colombian music genre. That would be weird. But what I did miss is the culture that surrounds them, the dancing, the joy, the general spirit of fun times and no worries. I’d take that over repetitive electronica, generic pop or dreary acoustica any night of the week.
They’re everywhere. And they’re huge.
11. And the obvious one – the people
We’ve spoken a lot about how Colombians are the greatest people on earth. So being without them for a couple of weeks is something that I hope not to have to do that often.
I’ve even shocked myself at how many things I genuinely missed in such a short space of time. I could honestly keep on going but I think you get the picture. I love Colombia. I love its quirks and so do many thousands of foreigners living here. If and when the sad day ever comes when I have to leave my adopted home, I know it is these things that will make leaving so very hard.
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