Whether it is for finding love, a job, or simply the quality of life that Colombia has to offer, I have found myself being one of the many who fall in love with (and in) Colombia. It is true; there is a danger of wanting to stay in Colombia.
Five years ago, I packed my bags and moved to Medellin, Colombia with a ten-month contract to teach English in a program called Colombia Bilingue. I arrived in the country knowing no one person, moved to a city I had never been to, and started my first teaching job in a classroom of 35-40 students. At the time of my arrival, I spoke basic Spanish, just enough to get by at the local supermarkets, navigate around the city, and ask for directions if I got lost. But in no way did I feel being myself when I spoke my second language.
Not yet confident in my Spanish skills kept me initially from being brave enough to go on a date. I thought, ‘how could someone possibly get to know me if I can’t fully express myself in my second language?’ For this reason, I held back from dating for several years, occasionally going out with people who were predominantly English speakers.
Getting Out of My Comfort Zone
To be open to dating someone took time, about two and half years to be exact. As I slowly reframed the story I had created that my Spanish wasn’t good enough to date, I put myself out there more and date. I tried Tinder, language exchanges, even speed dating, and while I didn’t immediately land a partner, my Spanish and thus my confidence improved.
I unexpectedly met my current partner through Facebook (the new dating application, perhaps?). When I received a message from someone I didn’t know, I was wary at first but noticed we had some friends we shared. It is very common for people to meet on Facebook in Colombia, and some see it almost as another dating app. To make a long story short, we met, hit it off and have now been together for over a year.
Navigating an international relationship
Navigating a relationship in a second language in a country that is not your own is both beautiful and challenging at the same time. My partner has lived some time in the States, and we switch between English and Spanish, even mixing the two languages in the same sentence to create our own Spanglish.
One of the greatest challenges we have faced is that he has moved his business to France, and I remained in Colombia to start my foundation Proyecto Florecer. Compounded with the pandemic, we were apart for nearly a year, maintaining our relationship by distance. When my visa renewal was denied in Colombia, I made the decision to be with him and France, and will soon apply for a student visa and study there for some time.
There are so many things I love about being with someone who grew up in a totally different context, and who sees life through a different lens and a different language. We are always learning about and from one another and finding our way, as we both settle into a new country where neither of us has community.
What does the future hold?
As an expat in Colombia, we often joke about marrying a local for a visa and for immigration purposes. There are many uncertainties in our relationship still, especially with the pandemic and not knowing if and when I can be with him in France, but we are committed to exploring the unknown and seeing where things go; whether we end up in France, Colombia, or my home in the United States, only time will tell!
Have you had a similar experience? Have you found love as an expat in a foreign land? Share your experience with us!
By Erin Colton-Enberg