So, you decided you want to leave the U.S. and possibly live in another country, huh? Have you done all your research? What did you find? Well, I discovered things that are strange in Colombia. Let me share them with you.
With most people like me, your first search is YouTube. There, you will discover all kinds of information about the country or countries you are contemplating.
When I began my search on Medellin, I discovered through videos, articles, and online magazines that Medellin was a cosmopolitan city, that had transformed itself since the Pablo Escobar days of drugs, kidnapping, and murderous cartels.
I saw images of smiling faces of expats in clubs dancing salsa, walking through sun-drenched parks, hiking in mountains of the coffee triangle, and digital nomads collaborating in remote workspace cafes. I listened as retired couples talked about how they found their dream condo, living only on social security or maybe investing in an apartment or two because of the great cost of living. Aaah, yes, it was paradise.
So I packed my bags and off I went, thinking I had all the information I needed to know.
Even though most of those descriptions were true, it wasn’t complete. They left a few things out I wish I had known beforehand.
Hot Water – I never thought much about it, but Colombians don’t use hot water all over the home. Some of my apartments had hot water in the shower, but not for washing dishes, hands, or clothes. I learned to inquire when booking on Airbnb to ask if hot water was available everywhere, if not, I go old school and boil water on the stove or kettle to wash my dishes.
Air Conditioning – Amazing, even though Colombia is a tropical country, for the most part, they don’t use air conditioning. Unlike the U.S. where a/c is required everywhere, especially during the summer in all establishments, Colombia does not. Even though Medellin is considered the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ it can be quite warm with temperatures reaching about 85 degrees at the highest point of the day. Fans are used quite frequently, or they just open the windows.
Window Screens – Speaking of opening the windows, oddly enough, even though Medellin is warm all the time, I’ve found very few, if any insects such as mosquitos. However, there are flies, ants, and once I had a praying mantis on my wall. But I found it strange they have no screens on the windows or balcony doors. Since a/c is rarely used, most keep their windows or doors open. You would think they have insect protection from outside elements, but for some reason, not so much. I’ve learned to keep insect spray on hand.
Spanish – all those videos neglected to emphasize this one thing. Little did I know, Colombia is NOT a bi-lingual country. Unless you stay in a high tourist, affluent area such as El Poblado, finding others who speak English is few and far between. It’s a good idea if you are planning to stay for a long period of time, to learn some Spanish before you come, or be prepared to take Spanish lessons once you arrive. Also, have your Google Translate handy, it will save you lots of frustration.
Traffic – Whew, traffic is off the chain! There is no such thing as pedestrians having the right of way here. They WILL run you over. Especially in high populated areas like Poblabdo or Laureles. There are motorcyclists on a kamikaze mission that you need to be aware of, so pay attention.
Mozzarella Cheese –
Colombians are infatuated with mozzarella cheese so much, they put it on the most unusual things. If you go to an outdoor vendor and ask for a fruit cup, don’t be surprised when you see cheese spread on it. Same thing with hot chocolate, yes, HOT CHOCOLATE!!! I tried it, it wasn’t bad but I could do without it.
These are just a few things I’ve found strange that would have been great to know before arriving, so I’d know how to prepare. It takes a little adjusting, but once you do, you’ll be living like a Colombian.
Are you living in Medellin? What have you found unusual that can benefit someone visiting or planning to stay? Let us know.
by: Gail Turner Brown