Nov 29

7 Ways to Impress a Colombian

Colombian Traditions

Now, I rarely impress anyone. My mum won’t even really watch me when I do something really cool like balance on one leg or wave my arms around a bit. I thought I’d just put that out there just in case you think I’m trying to give myself airs with the title of the piece. The following observations are not from first-hand experience: they happened to a friend of mine’s ex-flatmate’s third cousin, so it’s bleedingly obvious how handy they will be. Still, if you really want to impress a Colombian, we here at the virtually impressive See Colombia Towers, through such extensive research as that, bring you the following tips.


1. Know Your Colombian Music




The first step in impressing a Colombian is knowing the difference between Vallenato and Salsa. Get on top of that one, first. Next, expand your knowledge a little by absorbing this quick guide. Branch out a bit into the enormous spectrum of other Colombian music, or learn a bit about one or two Colombian music legends. If you want to impress a Chapinero Hipster, it’s best to have a look here.



2. Dance Your Colombian Music



Your now hipster-worthy knowledge of Colombian music is only going to get you so far. Probably just as far as the first five minutes at any club or bar. After that, you’re going to have to put your money where your dancing shoes are. The first step is to master the basic steps of Salsa or Cumbia. If you’re a particularly rhythmless-looking gringo like myself, this would be one small step for a Colombian, but a giant hip-wiggle for Gringokind. Still, it will only get you so far in your mission to impress. Probably the best thing to do is spend a month or two in Cali, the Salsa Capital of the World. This should get you up to speed, and really turn some heads, particularly if you head back to Bogota (Rolos are rumoured to be the poorest dancers in the country. They’re probably still better than me, though…).


3. Know Your Colombian Spanish



En Colombia se Habla Espanhol
Daaawnday airstar Macdonaldso? – Image from Deviantart


Even my dad knows how to say “hasta la vista.” Weird Spanish quotes from movies or Cypress Hill songs aren’t going to cut it in your Impress a Colombian Mission. I’m afraid you’re going to have to learn some Spanish: why not through song? This will get you some casual nods of Colombian acknowledgement, which should encourage you to pick up some slang, and familiarise yourself with some Spanish you’ll only find in Colombia. This should get you at least a free shot of guaro or a pola. Watch out for that guayabo, parce. Trust me,  you’ll thank us for the warning. Siempre a la orden.


4. Know Your Colombian Food



It’s going to be tough, but, at the very least, pretend that you love arepas. Give it a go, anyway. Stanislavski invented a technique called method acting: hey, it worked for Robert De Niro. Next, get into a debate about these little circles of corn; where you passionately defend arepas from an obscure region of Colombia. That should get an appreciative look, at least – or else utter rage if you happen to be talking to someone from Medellin. Really, though, to give it your best shot at impressing a Colombian, cook them an ajiaco or sancocho. And, eat a ridiculous amount of it yourself. Or, just eat a whole bandeja paisa. That’d impress me, at least.


5. Drink Your Colombian Aguardiente



It’s something I’ve often observed, and it is a bit ridiculous. In a lot of cultures, if you appear as if you enjoy drinking the local poison, you’ll often get a few brownie points. In Colombia, this can be a challenge. We’ve often discussed how truly awful – yes I’ll have another shot, please – guaro (the nickname for Colombia’s beloved firewater, aguardiente) is.  Bad luck, my friend: if you want to impress many Colombians, you’re going to have to drink at least one shot of it. But, here’s the rub: you’re going to have to look like you enjoy it. Noone said impressing a Colombian was going to be easy.


6. Know Colombia


Caño Cristales, photo courtesy of Chris Allen
Caño Cristales, photo courtesy of Chris Allen


You will impress very few Colombians by bragging about how many bars you’ve been to in Medellin’s Poblado or Bogota’s Zona T. Be a little more impressive by saying you love guinea pigs in Pasto or the tamales in Tolima. Turn it up another notch by saying you’ve seen the seven colours of Caño Cristales, or the enigmatic statues in San Agustin. We just happen to know a pretty impressive travel company that can help you out there.


7. Don’t Be a Douchebag




I know this is more like general life advice, and it’s something I myself am yet to master, but try not to be a douchebag. It’s a tough realisation, but if you try too hard to impress anybody, you probably won’t. Don’t run around saying you’re more Colombian than a Colombian, even if you think you are. Colombians generally are very warm and open, but if you do douchey things like ask them how their friend Pablo Escobar’s doing, or spell their country with a “u,” you’re going to find it very difficult to impress them. Due to an often hard history, and the way their country is portrayed in Hollywood and the world in general, Colombians can be understandably sensitive if you’re disrespectful in such matters.On the other side of the arepa, however, if you seem interested in sharing and understanding their culture, who knows, you may even end up impressing them a liitle bit. It’s worth a shot!

2 thoughts on “7 Ways to Impress a Colombian

    Tim Eaton on

    Or if you have an instrument, carry it around a play it. I’ve been making many friends and enjoying many shots of guaro or rum by walking around with my mandolin and playing folk songs from the US… Seems to work!


      Chris on

      Hi Tim,

      That’s great idea, and a really nice way to share a part of your culture with the people you meet along the way.


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