16 Signs That You Are Becoming A Colombian

***TAKEN FROM THE BLOG “http://seecolombia.travel/blog/

Happy Colombians

Living or travelling in Colombia, as we mention on a daily basis, is a truly enriching experience. I, like most foreigners who decide to live in Colombia, am enchanted by Colombian culture and its peculiarities. So much so that I have even begun to adopt some of the ‘Colombianisms’ that seemed so strange to me when I first moved here. We have previously mentioned some signs that you have been in Colombia too long but here are some more of my observations on Colombianisms.

1. You greet and greet and greet some more

Pretty much a standard greeting here in Colombia

One Colombian custom that I find incredibly amusing is the seemingly never-ending series of questions that Colombians ask each other when they meet, to which they expect no response. For example:

Parce 1: “Hola parce, que mas?”

Parce 2: “Q’hubo marica? Como te va?”

P1: “Que me cuentas? Bien o no?”

P2: “Como te ha ido? Que has hecho?”

P1: “En que andas guevon?”

Before either one has had the chance to simply say “bien”, the conversation has (eventually) moved on to more important things.

2. You now call Facebook “Face”

Now THAT's what I call a face...

Now THAT’s what I call a face…

Clearly some things are better shortened, but this particular peculiarity often leads to the slightly ambiguous and confusing questions “Do you have face?” or “Why haven’t you accepted my face?”Don’t be offended, your face is lovely.

3. Uish, parce, marica, ufff, paila, guevon

The previous six ‘words’ make up 60% of your sentences. As in “ufff parce, que frio tan paila” or “uish, no seas tan guevon, marica”.

4. You no longer say “it’s fine, I don’t need a bag”

There’s a whole lot more where these came from…

Pretty much any European or foreigner who arrives in Colombia, either to travel or to live, will begin by proudly claiming that they will carry their shop-bought items in their hands or their pockets, smugly thinking to themselves “I’m saving the planet, one bag at a time”. This may well be true, but after a while of putting up with confused looks from shop-keepers and being made to feel that your lack of aplastic bag is weird, eventually we all end up double-bagging an egg at some point.

5. You refuse to wear shorts in Bogota

Yes, Bogota is cold. And wet. But there are times (more than people would have you believe) when the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the clouds have nipped off to Boyaca for the day. However, you will not see anyone wearing shorts. Instead we prefer to sweat it out in our jeans for fear of looking like a lost and confused tourist.

6. You see everything as a diminutive

You asked for a small beer, right?

You asked for a small beer, right?

When my family came to visit, one of their first questions was why the taxi driver said that the fare was siete “pesitos”. By adding the –ito it doesn’t mean that the fare is any less, yet Colombians (and now me) love making everything diminutive. I want a normal-sized beer yet I will ask for a “polita”. Instead of asking people to hold for a second I ask them if they can wait “un ratico” or “un minutico” (even though, this being Colombia, that minute will actually be longer than a normal one, not shorter). My morning coffee is a “tintico” and that huge dog who is attacking me is a “lindo perrito”.

7. You can criticise Colombia, but nobody else can

Colombia is an amazing country, with some outrageous landscapes, the friendliest people in the world and a fascinating culture and history. We all know this. We have been banging on about it for years now. But it isn’t perfect. There are problems, peculiarities and issues that can’t be ignored. And Colombians like little better than ranting about the country’s problems. But let a Colombian catch you saying anything negative about their country and you will be on the receiving end of a veritable barrage of abuse, thinly veiled under impressive nationalist pride. So don’t let me hear you bad-mouth my Colombia. There is nothing wrong with it unless I say there is.

8. “Que pena” now just falls out of your mouth

Que pena

I have touched on this before but this Colombian phrase for saying ‘I’m sorry’ initially confused and bothered me a fair bit. It literally means ‘what a pity’ or ‘what a shame’. Sounds pretty sarcastic, right? Well, that’s what I thought at first – imagine someone stepping on your foot on the bus or bumping into you on the street and turning to you to say ‘what a shame’. How can it sound anything but sarcastic?Yet much to my chagrin, I have noticed myself using the term several times every day. It rolls off my tongue and before my brain has time to process what I am saying it is out there, making me feel slightly dirty and repulsive.

9. Waking up at 5am is normal

As a European, I am used to things starting at what I always considered a normal, civilised hour.University classes beginning at 9, work days starting at 8.30, you know, when they should begin. When the day comes, however, where you have been up at 5 every morning and getting on a crammed TransMilenio for months without even batting an eyelid, you have basically completed your transition to Colombian.

10. You look at foreigners with genuine intrigue

While in many countries around the world, foreigners are looked at with hostility or disdain, this is not the case in Colombia. Sure, people will stare, not even vaguely trying to conceal it, with wide-eyed interest. Hearing you speak English, or indeed Spanish in an obviously foreign accent, fills Colombians with intrigue – “what is an Englishman doing here? Is he lost? Does he need help?”. Again, this is just a perfect manifestation of Colombian friendliness and willingness to help. Keep staring, it amuses me.

11. You buy single cigarettes

You’re hankering for a smoke as you walk down septima so you stop at a woman under an umbrella with a box full of tricks. Now, you are well aware that you will eventually want another cigarette, that buying them in singles is twice the price and that you have more than enough cash for a ten-pack, yet you still opt to buy one, only to feel annoyed about your decision a couple of hours later.

12. Queuing is optional

Quit hanging around, just jump to the front

As a Brit, I love a good old queue. Standing in line, knowing that there is order to your day, patiently awaiting your turn. However, more often than not in Colombia, you will see someone jump to the front of the queue to ask a ‘quick question’ which in fact takes longer than what most people were planning on doing anyway. I’m not quite there yet and am not sure if I ever will be – little by little I’m beating the Brit out of myself, but this might well be the final frontier.

13. You knowingly give the wrong directions

This is perhaps the only flipside to Colombians being so friendly and helpful. So strong is the desire to help people out that Colombians will often respond to a question even if they don’t know the answer. And this is most annoying when it comes to asking directions, walking for half an hour and then realising that the place you were looking for is on the other side of the city.

14. You genuinely love aguardiente

Nectar? Really?? Who are you trying to fool, here?

Nectar? Really?? Who are you trying to fool, here?

While most foreigners’ initial impression of aguardiente is that it is fairly disgusting, let’s call it an acquired taste. Now I find it difficult to start a night without first killing off a bottle of Nectar on someone’s sofa. I guess it makes it easier for me to bust my awful salsa moves without caring.

15. Minutos

You’re out of credit on your phone. There’s a shop selling credit across the street. Yet, instead of topping up your phone, you decide it makes more sense to find one of the numerous ‘minuto’ people on the street to make a call, confusing the person on the other end of the line with yet another random number. This also leads to the strange moment when you receive a missed call from a number you don’t know, call it back and end up chatting to Doña Cecilia on Calle 53.

16. Local Pride

Colombians are a proud people. And quite rightly so. But this pride can so often spill over into animosity between regions and cities. Take me, for example – I have lived in Bogota for almost two years now and I am something of a proud rolo. At the same time I am well aware of the many benefits of other places in Colombia but I’m blinded by my love for Big Bad Boggie. Get me in a conversation with apaisa about Bogota compared with Medellin and it will not be pretty. Even though I love Medellin and think it is an incredible city. Strange that.

There are of course plenty more Colombian customs that we notice on a daily basis. Fear not, we’ll keep compiling our findings for a rainy day.

***TAKEN FROM THE BLOG “http://seecolombia.travel/blog/

Almost all of these are now true for me. I still, however, do not like Aguardiente. It tastes like a mix between mouthwash and rubbing alcohol. 



A Day in the Life of Xena

Even the simplest things that I take for granted, now, are part of a routine that I take for granted. I figured I may as well share some of it:

On Friday mornings I wake up at 5 AM. Some mornings I’m rushing out to door to stop at an internet café to print out some worksheets for class, but since none of those places is open that early, I have to prepare all that the day before LIKE A RESPONSIBLE PERSON. Ugh! Fortunately, I prepared myself pretty well the night before, prepping the lesson plans, my breakfast, and my clothes for the day, so I could afford to hit the snooze multiple times. The sun doesn’t come up until about 5:50, so it can be really hard to get out bed that early. I got ready and was out the door by 6 AM. At this time, one of my neighbors a block down lets his roosters (about 10) roam around the tremendously cracked, concrete street. The move out of the way as I walk past, looking down, carefully, trying not to trip on the rubble and holes that are all too common throughout the city. Most of the little shops along Calle 57, the major avenue I always walk up to get to the Transmilenio, are still closed; except for a few bakeries. The street is considerably emptier than it is during the late morning or afternoon, but there is still action. As you approach Las Caracas, a major avenue that the Transmilenio runs on, you’ll begin to find coffee and fresh-squeezed orange and mandarin juice venders; usually they’re women with latex cloves and strong arms. When you pay them, they will often respond, “A la orden, Reina.” — At your service, queen. If you smile, they often will refill your cup. I never order these things when I’m on the way to class, though, because the Transmilenio would cause any drink to spill and one never knows when the car you need will be completely full.

I usually take the B18 to get to this class, which is at the end of one of the lines, at a station called Centro Commercial Santa Fe. It’s often packed by the time you board, but empty half-way through the trip and it makes the fewest stops between my station and the last one. The station I always use, conveniently called, Estacion Calle 57, runs in the middle of the avenue, like all the Transmilenios do, and the platform spans two, long, city blocks– one entrance is at the 57th block and the other at 55. The B18 is at the WAY other end of the platform, closer to the 55th street. The rickety metal platform always shakes and makes this unstable, metallic sound when you speed walk (or run) across it. I would walk down the sidewalk to the 55, but that WHOLE stretch– from 57 to 53– is a pet-shop district; full of adorable puppies in tiny, glass cases. They are adorable and it is super duper depressing. I do my best to avoid that whole strip.

For some reason, this morning the B18 was just NOT coming. Other Transmilenio buses do go to the end, but many of them don’t and some of them stop at every single stop in between– about 10! I opted to take a series of buses, transferring when necessary, rather than waiting. It turned out fine. There are maps at each station that show which buses stop at which stations. Not so hard!

This class is with a Mercedez Benz dealership. I got there right on time. The class is a basic level and made up of two women and one man. The class was mostly grammar oriented today: we talked about subject and object pronouns. It’s not the most exciting topic, but the students are always fun to be around and I it often comes with a coffee! We go up to a conference room and I write on a whiteboard. It’s great. I love whiteboards. Today, it was like 65 degrees and I KID YOU NOT, these students were shivering and complaining about how cold it was about every five minutes. I was in a long sleeve shirt and FINE: they were in coats and scarves and SHIVERING. So silly. I stayed after class for an extra 20 minutes, drinking coffee and chatting with the students. I bought a banana from a little fruit and vegetable shop and headed back to the Transmilenio. About four of five stops later, I got to the station Pepe Sierra, and walked the few blocks along a narrow stream and a park to my next student’s house.

As usual, I ring the bell, the doorman lets me in, greetings are exchanged, etc. etc. My student is the principal of a bilingual middle school and trying to learn English for her profession, like the majority of Colombian English students. We sit in her sun-lit study, filled with pictures of her children and grandchildren and husband. Most of the pictures are of them riding horses or near horses or at some equestrian event. We’ve been practicing a lot of grammar on paper lately, so today we talked for the whole class, instead. Apparently, one of her sons is a veterinarian and she asked me how to say pacientes que son caballos. “Ugh…. ‘Horse Patients,’ I guess?” I replied, at a loss, never in my life having had the need to combine those two words. Now that I think of it, though, Horse Patients would be a great name for a band, don’t ya think? ….. Eh, I’ll sleep on it.

It being holiday right now, I don’t have that many classes, so these days I only have one or two a day. Once the second week of January rolls around, work should pick up a bit. I left class, took the TM back home and made some lunch: I had prepared a typical caldo last night– a broth– with potatoes, onions, green beans, carrots, garlic, celery and fresh cilantro. I heated it up and cracked two eggs into it– also, very common!

I knew since yesterday that I wasn’t going to be in the mood to go out tonight, especially since the city is still pretty darn quiet with many people out of town, so I’m probably going to spend the rest of the day making lesson plans and doing some art. Also, my students at Mercedes Benz asked if could teach class tomorrow and that gave me just one more excuse to stay in tonight! I’m such a nerd! Fortunately, my form of hibernation doesn’t involve frostbite! The internet at the house isn’t working, so I’ve been sitting outside at a café for the past hour or so, taking care of internet business. Oh right! And here’s a picture!


Walking home from the Transmilenio at about 5:45/6 in the evening. This is a block and a half away from my house. I love my neighborhood!

OK, that’s enough for now. OVER AND OUT!

Looking Back on the Year

Happy 2014!! Can you believe it? It seems like a year that would never come, like all the calendar companies were bluffing.
“2014? Sure, I’m looking into a crystal ball and it looks as it you’ll live in….. ((throws a dart at a map)) Bogota, Colombia in 2014.
And on March 32nd at 1:62 in the afternoon, you’ll meet a man named Gdansk who will offer you a job working at his greeting card company.”

This past year was full of some tremendous experiences: it was my first year of being out of school, I had my first solo art show,  spent time with some great friends, met some incredible people, did some interviews for MPLSTYLE as well as a bit of writing for the MXDWELL website, worked my butt off in the summer and, of course, made the move to Colombia. Moving to Colombia was one of the biggest if not biggest decisions of my life and I couldn’t be happier with it. I can’t say what’ll happen in the future or how long I’ll be here, but I’m so happy to have picked myself up and made it happen, rather than freezing my butt off over there right now! This past weekend at the wedding of my good friends Laura and Aaron really reaffirmed that, hanging out at La Mesa, Colombia, an area about 2 hours outside of the city. It was hot, gorgeous and a wonderful time amongst new friends.

_DSC1479b_square _DSC0097-sm _DSC0169sm

As you can see, everything is awful, here.
I’ll upload more pictures and try to be better about updates soon, but I have to get some sleep in before waking up at 5 AM for class tomorrow. Eep!