Parts of this post first appeared on my former blog, Red Wine and Lipstick.
Colombia is known for its stigmas and stereotypes. Usually, they are far from the truth, but you won’t know that unless you see for yourself. Here are some things that Colombian’s are tired of explaining.
“Why does Siri say it’s 59 degrees and raining in Bogota!? It’s July. Anyway, I thought I was going to a HOT country!?”
Yes, you are going to a “HOT country”. However, Bogotá is a city, not a country. And while the climates vary remarkably throughout the beautiful country of Colombia, Bogotá rests above 8000 ft. elevation. The higher a place is, the cooler it is. That is basic atmosphere understanding. It is also just north of the equator, therefor the weather patterns get wonky and a stagnant-seasonless climate occurs. That is basic geography.
Another thing: Any filmmaker who based their film in “rural, jungle, palm tree filled Bogotá” should be banned from cinematography for lack of basic research. It takes one google image search to see what Bogota looks like. It has mountains, not palm trees.
In short: Bring a jacket. And for the love of god, please don’t try to wear shorts in the city.
“Damn, is the blow (cocaine) like really amazing or whaaaaaat?”
Bogotá (and Colombia, for that matter) is not a drug city, despite what history may have you believe. The people do not lock themselves in their offices at 1pm Scarfacing a mountain of coke. Bumps of cocaine are not found on everyone’s keys and most people don’t have hook ups on speed dial.
Sure, like every major city with nightlife, you will find select party-goers indulging themselves in certain recreations in nightclub bathrooms and dance floors much like you would in LA or Barca or London. That doesn’t mean its universally accepted here; nor has it ever been.
Cocaine is taboo here, but the foreigners flock to hostels in El Centro to try and find some. In my honest opinion (and you know I love a some good fun), cocaine is not worth all the hype. It’s shady and not very “fashionable”. Basically, it’s trashy.
On the same note, the weed here is alright. Lots of sticks and twigs. I just spent 6 years living in Colorado where the green is legal and arguably the best in the world so maybe I’m biased.
In short: ditch the day dreams of “doing as the locals do” (because the locals don’t do that) and drink more guaro (aguardiente). It’s more fun than cocaine.
“Omg you’re probably so tan! How far away are you from the beach??”
Far. I live far from the beach. About a 20 hour drive actually. People who live in Bogota try to maintain a tan by getting out of the city to tierra caliente for a long weekend. However, since it’s nearly always rainy here, plan de piscina (pool days) are kind of out.
I’m in the mountains far away from sandy beaches and coco locos. I do, however, love the la costa (Cartagena, Baranquilla, Santa Marta, Palomino,etc etc) and would gladly accompany you to the beach! It’s a short flight (about one hour) and they are fairly affordable if you buy in advance. Check out Avianca for the best deals and flight service.
But the coast isn’t the only beautiful place in Colombia to enjoy some sun and water! There are plenty of places like Prado, Tolima (a massive man-made lake) or the rivers of Los Llanos, or poolside in Girardot.
In short: Bogotá weather is not conducive to bronze-ness, but Colombians have about 1-2 long weekends a month which allow for quick escapes to the beach via plane.
“Do you have internet in Colombia?”
Wtf. I’m not going to even going to get into this because it’s just dumb. And mostly because the person who asked me this was actually chatting with me via AIM (it was 2004).
Another hilarious one I’ve been asked: “do they have work out classes in Colombia?” After I had just spent five minutes talking about how I love taking Zumba classes at my club’s gym… This person worked for Goldman Sachs.
In short: Yes. There is internet.
“When we stay with you, are we going to be like, sleeping huts?”
When I told people I was moving to Colombia I received a couple good natured comments about fields and cows and other farm stuff. Much of the country is rural and some areas are jungly with indigenous people living off the land. Many of the people who live in rural country have a cow or horse or a few gallinas; but there are also many major cities which are nothing like the countryside.
Bogotá, Medellín, Calí, Cartagena, Bucaramanga (to name a few) are all major modern cities with high-rise buildings, cafes, museums, private schools, parks, and corporate buildings. People take Uber and drive BMWs, Volvos and Hondas. Some enjoy fancy spa days and country clubs and macro supermarkets. They talk on cell phones and use paved roads to get around. Kids are glued to their iPads just like in the U.S. and watch cartoons on Saturday.
Personally, I don’t live in a hut. I live in a beautiful apartment in Bogota with a view of the mountains.
When people want a moment of peace, outside the city– there is an endless list of beautiful rural places to go!
In short: Like most countries, Colombia is extremely diverse. You will find everything from country living to very American-ized lifestyles.
“God, we’re not going to get kidnapped are we?”
Once upon a time, Colombia was dangerous. When I was six years old, I remember dropping my dad off at the airport here in Bogotá and seeing eight armed men with insane guns surround one man and escort him to a waiting car. Whether I witnessed a kidnapping or an insane entourage of bodyguards, I’ll never know. Those days are (hopefully) long gone and Colombians and tourists can live and roam pretty freely around most of the country. With a peace process now in place, it’s many people hope that very soon the entire country will be safe to live, travel, and work for everyone.
In the last 10 years I have been on more cross country road trips than I ever imagined and have seen the most beautiful places and people because of it. I’ve been to places that most Colombians have never been and never once have I felt threatened or uncomfortable while exploring them.
In short: While precautions should always be taken when traveling, I don’t believe in letting fear dictate your experience or your home. Embrace the good with the bad, the beautiful and the ugly and learn something from them.
“Colombians are soo gorgeous. I bet everyone looks like Miss Colombia or a model.”
Alright this isn’t a misconception or stereotype. This is a fact. The people here are beautiful.
Disclaimer: This post is obviously poking fun of some of ignorance I’ve seen from people about Bogotá and Colombia, however, I understand that the media depicts a lot of “untruths”. It’s my hope that through this post, and my blog as a whole, (and maybe a quick google search on your part) we can begin to debunk those misconceptions and people can start to see beyond the stereotypes and find all the beauty and experiences Colombia has to offer. They call this place the land of Magical Realism for a reason and I hope you won’t be afraid to come see for yourself!
I say this from the heart:I love Colombia for everything that it is. From the beautiful and delicious to the scary and rough. It’s all part of what makes this new home of mine so unique. So full of character. The adventure and life experience that present itself here is once in a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world. For those of you thinking of traveling here, please come! For those who are on their way, I can’t wait to see you!