Let’s be honest, one of the best parts of learning a language is slang, local phrases, and swear words. Even after five years in Colombia, I still find myself learning something new! So let’s dive in and I will share a few local phrases that will have you feeling less lost when you arrive in the beautiful country of Colombia.
Slang Word #1
No Dar Papaya: One of the first phrases I learned when I arrived in Colombia is No Dar Papaya (yes, like the tropical fruit). We can’t translate it literally because one doesn’t give papaya; it really means “don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation where you could be robbed or taken advantage of!” Remember to use common sense when you travel! Keep your phone somewhere safe, wear a money belt, don’t flash your valuables and you will keep yourself out of a pick-pocketing situation.
Slang Words #2
Parce / Parcero / Parcera: Parce (both masculine and feminine) is Colombia’s way of saying ‘friend’ or ‘dude.’ As friendly as Colombians are, you will soon feel at home.
Slang Word #3
Mono / Mona: While we often hear the term Gringo when referring to foreigners, in Colombia it is common to hear Mono (male) and Mona (female) for light-colored people. This is not only for foreigners but also for Colombians. As a tall, light-skinned, green-eyed woman, I often get called Mona. Don’t worry, no need to be offended; it doesn’t carry any negative connotation.
Slang Word #4
De Una! This one took me a while to catch on to, but it can be translated as Let’s do it! or Right away! It is a great phrase to incorporate when your friend invites you to a party you can enthusiastically respond with, Si, de una!
Slang Word #5
Parche / Parchar: Speaking of parties, instead of saying the common word fiesta, parties are often referred to as parches.
So don’t get confused when you get invited to parchar and share some polas (beers)!
Slang Word #6
Tinto: As one of the top producers of coffee in the world, I couldn’t leave off one of my favorite beverages – tinto. Tinto simply refers to a black coffee, not to be confused with vino tinto (red wine).
Slang Word #6
Guaro: One of Colombia’s other popular drinks is guaro, short for aguardiente. A drink that is commonly consumed at parties, it has an acquired taste (like black licorice). You’ll just have to try it to decide!
Slang Word #8
Guayabo: Not to be confused with the fruit guayaba (guava). If you have had too many polas and guaros the night before, you might find yourself with a guayabo the next day; you guessed it, a hangover!
Slang Word #9
Que Pena: Que pena is a phrase I have quickly incorporated into my vocabulary, which translates to “I’m sorry.” You find Colombians use this phrase often “Que pena por la demora” (sorry for the delay), for example.
Slang Word #10
Puente: While puente literally translates to ‘bridge’ something, one thing I love about Colombia is that there are many puentes—three-day weekends. Colombia is one of the countries with the most three-day weekends which allow plenty of time to travel and enjoy the country.
With these ten phrases, we are merely scratching the surface of the local slang in Colombia, but as I mentioned before, one of the beauties of learning a language is all of its nuances and endless possibilities for learning. What are you waiting for?
Colombia te espera parce!
by: Erin Colton-Enberg