Jul 27

Cultural Guide For the Colombians at the London Olympics 2012

London (photo courtesy of JohnGoode)

You may have read our previous entries about cultural differences between Colombia and the US or UK (if not, part 1 of our guide to cultural differences in Colombia here and you can find more cultural differences in Colombia here). These are basically rough guides to the cultural quirks of Colombia that may catch you by surprise when you come here (seriously, who expected rum in a carton?).

Since the London Olympics kick off today and there will be many Colombians in the UK’s great capital over the next month or so, we at the Colombia Travel Blog thought it prudent to bring you the sister article: A Cultural Guide to London for Colombians.


Anyone for a cup?
Anyone for a cuppa?

Really great times, really great mates

The exception to the above rule is if the tea is replaced with alcohol. If you’re visiting London from Colombia be prepared: no time of day is too early, and no amount of beer is enough. The average Brit feels distinctly uncomfortable in a social situation without an alcoholic beverage in their hand. Some blame it on the stiff upper lip, I blame it on our livers of steel.


None of this stuff, please!

Which brings me to my next point… You may think that, as you see the Brits around you starting to get tipsy, some music will start and we’ll start dancing like they do in Colombia. Not so. For Colombians in London, the lack of dancing will come as a shock…

Until 1am, when everyone is sufficiently drunk that they begin to bust out moves like they’re in Step Up 2.

How to dance? Forget hip movements, forget moving your feet, just nod your head, close your eyes and point to the DJ over and over and over and over again.


Like a British sir...
Like a British sir…

A lot of people talk about British manners. I used to think it was nonsense but, having travelled I realize that we Brits are, if you don’t mind at all my saying so, a terribly polite bunch. A few pointers:

  • A Londoner will complain about the state of the Olympics and the city and possibly even the amount of tourists. DO NOT JOIN IN! If you complain, you’ll receive a polite rebuttal and the assurance that London is one of the most international cities in the world. We can handle the Olympics.
  • If you’re asked “how are you?” ONLY EVER SAY: “Fine thanks, and you?”.
  • Similarly, if someone asks “what have you been up to?”, unlike in Colombia where you give a minute-by-minute account to an audience with a voracious appetite for detail, in London you’ll be deemed rather self-interested and quite possibly a tad boring.
  • Always, always say please and thank you. Just like in Colombia, really.
  • Never ask for something directly. Instead of “no lettuce on my burger”, you say “I was wondering if there was any chance that the burger could come without lettuce? Is that possible at all? I don’t mean to put you out, of course, I just wondered?”
  • Never ask anyone about why Ireland isn’t part of Great Britain, or why Great Britain isn’t just one country. English people won’t know a thing and Welsh, Northern Irish, Scottish and Irish people will either talk to your for ages or not talk to you ever again.

Speaking about Colombia

Not all Brits are as informed about Colombia as my dad
Not all Brits are as informed about Colombia as my dad

As a proud Colombian at the London 2012 Olympics, you’ll want to be telling as many people as you can about your beautiful country, and rightly so. But please, let me apologize in advance for any ignorance. We’ve already seen a match report than spelled Colombia with a ‘U’… For some poor souls Colombia will always mean sex, drugs and violence. Be safe in the knowledge that while Colombia is quickly shedding this image, England will always be rainy, grey and a nation full of people that love to complain.


Remember: You can't just stop a bus anywhere on the street in London
Remember: You can’t just stop a bus anywhere on the street in London

If there’s one area that a Bogotano might find refreshing in London, it’s the transport. Londoners will be aghast at your suggestion that the buses and Underground are actually really good, but don’t worry, they’re also secretly flattered and will repeat your nightmare Transmilenio stories to their friends later at the pub. One major, major down side is the price. The Underground is very expensive, and all transport will be absolutely full. Still, probably the same as the Transmilenio at 5pm, right?

Finally, if you’re missing home, check out our post on Colombia in London, where you’ll find the best Colombian parties and food.

Similarly, if you’re wishing you could be in London while you’re in Bogota, check out our article ‘Bogota: The London of South America‘.

I’ll leave you with this:


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