Mar 13

5 Things I wish I’d known before coming to Colombia.

Colombia flag

Not knowing very much more about Colombia other than it being somewhere in South America, and that two of my best mates were from there (I’m sure I didn’t even know how to spell it), there’s plenty I could say I wish I’d known before coming here for what I stupidly thought was a month. However, the continual surprises and magic that just seem to happen around me everywhere in this country have been part of the charm for me. There are a few things, though, that I rue, and so in the interests of public service, I’ll list some of them below.

1. Danger.


Danger! Danger! There's a beret on your head!!
Danger! Danger! There’s a beret on your head!!

Before I got here, my friend, Salsa (who got his nickname solely because he’s Colombian – being a metalhead, I’m not sure if he can even dance salsa) was scaring the bejebus out of me about the country of his birth. And I don’t even believe in Jebus. Don’t walk around at night. Don’t catch a bus. Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know. All my other friends were also telling me to take care. Don’t get kidnapped. Don’t die. By the time I got here, I was pretty anxious that I hadn’t brought a flack-jacket, and would only venture out of the backpacker’s hostel when I felt it was completely necessary, and avoided even looking at anyone I didn’t need to.

With all due respect to Salsa, I don’t think it’s really as dangerous now as he and my other friends were making out. Granted, he has been out of the country for something like ten years, and I know there have been some pretty dramatic changes since then. I still stay alert when walking around certain neighbourhoods at night, but there are some spots in Sydney or Auckland where I’d do the same. I’ve met and spoken to so many Colombians who are so downright friendly, helpful, and almost embarassingly concerned about my welfare that I’m left feeling a little bit special. Now, I love catching buses.

2. Spanish.

En Colombia se Habla Espanhol
If a manga dude can do it, why can’t I? – Image from Deviantart

Before I came, I was oddly confident that I’d somehow just “pick up” the language once I got here, as if it were a sexy lady or a disease. Being able to speak Korean a bit, I thought Spanish was going to be a breeze. I forgot how incredibly big a whole language is, and that it takes more than a bit of osmosis to get into it. Having survived here for something like 5 months, I can assure you that it’s not necessary to be able to bust out Spanish at break-neck speed, but speaking the language sure enhances any experience you might have here.

3. How Totes Amaze Balls This Place Is, Babez.

Totes awks! I was in Bogs way before it was cool, brah...
Totes awks! I was in Bogs way before it was cool, brah…

As I’ve already said, I had no idea about this place before I came. Salsa had just happened to find me a really cheap ticket. The plan was to stay here for a month, and then head to way cooler Buenos Aires. Five months later, I’ve no intention of leaving any time soon. Although I’ve seen a bit of this country, there’s so much more I’d like to see and do here. I wish I’d known this place was so good that I’d want to stay indefinitely. I probably wouldn’t have left my crap at my old flatmates’ house. Sorry, Kate and Derek!

4. How Colombia Would Change Me.

Look Mum! That’s me – dancing!! No, the one on the right…

Any new environment has the ability to slightly alter your actions and traits. The other day, while I was eating a particularly tasty pastry, I caught myself shouting in rapturous tones how “delicioso” it was, accompanying this statement with a series of sighs and groans. I doubt I would have done this in pre-Colombian days. And, even more staggering, I’ve recently discovered I can even do salsa a bit (the dance, not my friend). How’s that, for one of the whitest guys going around, huh?

5. How Many Bloody Aussies Are Over Here.

Next stop, Bogota. Mate.
Next stop, Bogota. Mate.

What is it with you guys, huh? Back off; I want this country to myself!

I’m seriously amazed by the amount of Australians I’ve met in Colombia. Most of them are pretty cool, to tell you the truth, but it’s still come as a bit of a shock. What are we all doing over here? Have we just got the jump on other nationalities about how bonza this place is? Are we all escaping our homeland before a certain madman becomes Prime Minister? I don’t know, but I wish I’d known I’d find so many of my compatriots over here. I could have prepared myself a bit more for the surprise. And put a few more shrimps on the parrilla.


7 thoughts on “5 Things I wish I’d known before coming to Colombia.

  1. Aaron kreiss on

    Guess i should have added that im in medellin


    Aaron kreiss on

    I just moved here from cabo san lucas mexico… And i want to plug in as quick as possible… Im working at ganesha tattoo which is in the obelisco mall next to the standium… And live close by… Im looking for the best places to dance and listen to salsa at night and some trails and a mountian bike… Also id like to find music and or art classes… And to connect with people who are here taking advantage of its nature. Id like to get out of the city as much as i can.


      Aaron kreiss on

      Another thing… Wheres a good place to grocery shop? I miss peanut butter and jelly sanwhiches and organic whole foods…


        Paul Fowler on

        Hi Aaron,

        As far as I know in Carulla they sell peanut butter and jelly so you can make yourself some sandwiches. As for getting outside, check out El Jardin, Rio Claro and more. If you get in touch with the people on couchsurfing, there’ll be communities there that will take bike rides etc, and undoubtedly recommendations for art classes.

        Finally, dance and salsa. Check out this post, it should help you out!



    Paul Giles on

    Crikey!!! Your comment about the ubiquity of us Aussies is, imho, Dinky Di, Mate! For not being that populous a country, those that come from the land down under sure get around. Maybe it’s our imaginative, colourful use of expletives that makes us stand out?
    And, too bloody right; I’m still loving Bogota. It goes off – like a bucket of prawns in the sun. Hope Santa Marta’s treating you well, likewise 🙂


    Paddy on

    Interesting stuff, Paul. Especially that about the Aussies. I live in Santa Marta and a few months ago I bumped into a group of Aussies in a small shopping centre in Rodadero, hardly the place I expected to hear a “struth” or “ya flamin gallah”. Having said that, my experience has always been that no matter where you are, you will find an Aussie.
    Hope you’re still enjoying Bogotá!


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