There is nothing worse than having buyer’s remorse. You know, like when you thought you found the love of your life, only to discover it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Yeah, that’s not too cool, is it?
In a way, moving to a different country is like getting married (if I can remember back that far). You need to know exactly what you want, who you are, what you are willing to tolerate, and then be willing to date before you take the plunge. Otherwise, be prepared, or you’ll be running for the divorce court.
That’s some of what I’ve seen occur in Colombia. People get really stoked about the travel literature and videos because they only show the ideal side and are ready to go on a honeymoon. Hold up! Before you swipe left, let’s dig a little deeper and take off the filter, as you are making your decision.
What’s Your Type?
Are you a city slicker, a suburbanite, a mountain dweller, or a rural recluse? Once you know your type, you can move accordingly. I’m a suburbanite, and when I initially arrived, I was hanging out in an area that was like Manhattan, New York. There were tons of people, high traffic at super speed. It was very overwhelming, and I was ready to bounce!
After asking around, I found an area that was more suitable to my personality type and the things I was accustomed to. The best thing is, Medellin has an area for every type.
You Need to Be On-Time!
People in the U.S. tend to assess good service based on promptness. In Colombia, not so much. They have their own time. Bottom line, things are just not as rushed here. If you schedule a date for a service or a get-together, you may get downright irritated when they arrive an hour late. If you are OCD about time, this could really set you off.
No Hablar Ingles?
He doesn’t understand me! Have you ever said that to someone? That’s how it feels. Colombia is NOT a bi-lingual country. Most of its residents are not English speakers except for maybe in the more affluent neighborhoods. You need to have some Spanish.
I have friends who had cell phone issues and encountered a health problem one week. Because they couldn’t speak Spanish well, after trying to resolve the problem for a day between using an online translator, their small amount of Spanish, and hand signals, they decided they had enough and went back to the States. It was just too much when you want to find solutions quickly. This could make you want to break up if you’re not willing to learn the language.
What? I’m Illegal?! What Now?
Man, this was me! When you enter Colombia, you get a tourist stamp (this is not a Visa). It’s usually for 90 days, starting from the date you arrive. You can then opt to get an extension for an additional 90 days or apply for the many long-term Visas Colombia offers.
The mistake that most foreigners make (like me) is staying past their time. I didn’t realize that day one started the stay count on the day I arrived instead of the following day. Result: my stamp expired by one day and therefore I was ‘irregular’. aka illegal. The problem went further because I didn’t realize it, and by the time I found someone to translate for me and go to immigration, I was waaaaay past my time and had to leave the country just paying a fine.
It’s like someone saying, I’ll date you for 90 days, but after that, you’ve gotta go! I was lucky as they allowed me to return. If my expiration had been much later, I could have been deported.
Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes people are so busy trying to be a cool expat, they don’t realize what it takes to stay connected to those back home. The internet here can leave a lot to be desired. Colombia has not quite gotten up to speed, pardon the pun! From doing Zoom meetings to those working online with blogs, video, and podcasts, it can get a little discouraging when your internet goes out or is sloooooow. Also, make sure you have a phone that can convert to a Colombian SIM, so you’re not paying through the nose.
I Wanna Go Back Home
Sometimes we just want to stay in our comfort zone, like that significant other that you just can’t quit even though you think playing the field is cool. You can’t wait to get back. That’s how some people feel. They miss all the things of the U.S. or their home country they had been accustomed to. Their friends, family, and community. But it’s all good. The fact that you did it was good enough because at least you now know what it’s like. Every experience is a success!
If all goes well, congratulations on your new marriage country!
Are you ready to make a move? Ready, GO!
by: Gail Turner Brown