How to...Bogota

  • How to...Bogota
Blog of the month
Published 3 years ago

I’m Naomi, I’m from South-East London, UK, born and bred! I studied modern languages at university and am now working as an English teacher at the British Council in Bogotá, and as a freelance translator and writer on the side.

I’m Naomi, I’m from southeast London, UK, born and bred! I studied modern languages at university and am now working as an English teacher at the British Council in Bogotá, and as a freelance translator and writer on the side.


When and how did you decide to move to Colombia? Is it complicated to settle down there?

I moved to Bogotá, Colombia, in October 2013 because my boyfriend is Colombian; we met while he was studying in London, but as he had to come back, I decided to move to Bogotá to be with him. Bogotá is a complicated city, mainly because of the traffic and the logistical nightmare of getting from A to B! Once we moved into an apartment which was close to where I work, things became MUCH easier!


Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

I’ve lived in Argentina and Mexico for a while, and have visited many other countries, so moving to Colombia didn’t feel like too much of a huge change for me.


What do you like the most about


I like waking up to a view of the mountains every morning; I like the ciclovía on Sundays, when all of the main roads are closed to traffic until 2pm, and people are free to cycle, skate or stroll along the traffic-free roads. The city is much more peaceful on Sundays, which provides some welcome respite from the chaos! The park at the Chicó museum is really pretty, and has a London bus/café in the middle of it! It’s always nice to be reminded of home, so far away from home! Most of all, Colombians really make newcomers feel welcome here (and will also expect, in return, that you make an effort to get on in Bogotá, meaning not criticising it too much when you feel frustrated, and taking advantage of all of the opportunities it offers!).


How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with the UK, your home country?

Some time after moving to Colombia, I realised that culture shock is a 5-stage process that involves going through many different experiences and emotions. I actually wrote a blog-post about my experience of culture shock… culture shock is all part of the adaptation process of moving to any new place. Adapting to the food (which in Colombia is usually meat and a whole variety of carbs on the same plate!), the language (luckily I already spoke Spanish when I came here, as few Colombians speak good conversational English), the transport system (which is usually complete chaos in Bogotá, compounded by countless cracks and holes in the roads), finding a job and a place to live (and bureaucracy always takes a lot of time here). Nearly a year and a half later though, I do feel I’ve mostly recovered from the shock of moving here, and am happy with my new life.


Do you miss anything from your homeland?

I miss having a decent functional public transport system (the TUBE!), the choice of cuisine London offers, London shopping (Oxford Street, H&M, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Topshop), Spitalfields market, London-town in general, and of course my friends and family (though my sister and a friend have already visited me here).


Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

My best souvenirs have definitely been my wayuu mochilas, hand-woven bags made by women from the indigenous Wayuu tribe from La Guajira in northeast Colombia. For me, they’re more than just bags; they’re pieces of art, take between a week and a month to make depending on the exact technique used and the patterns and colours, and are not made anywhere else in the world. I have quite a collection now, and I love them! La Guajira is also home to one of the most special places in the world – El Cabo de la Vela – a remote, peaceful, beautiful, desert-coastal region, and a must-visit if you’re in Colombia.


What does your typical day as an expat in Bogota

 look like?

I work as an English teacher at the British Council in Bogotá, so my days are mostly spent planning lessons and teaching, or doing freelance translations. There’s a big take-away culture in Bogotá, so I’ll often order a takeaway from the internet on a busy day, or go along to one of my favourite restaurants with my boyfriend, and have a pasta dish from El Boliche, some sushi from Wok, or an ajiaco (a typical Colombian soup with chicken, potato, corn, rice and avocado) from a typical Colombian restaurant.


When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

I started my blog in December 2013, a couple of months after I arrived in Bogotá. During the first month or so here, I’d felt disorientated and overwhelmed by the city, to say the least, and I really could have done with a ‘Bogotá handbook’ to help me find my way in this chaotic metropolis! So once I was more or less settled in, I decided to start a blog about life in Bogotá, offering up a few tips which I definitely would have found useful in the beginning, as well as general musings and commentaries about my own personal experiences of and feelings about the city.


Did you make new friends with your blog?

I’ve had a number of people contacting me through my blog saying that they’ve found it helpful, which has been really encouraging, and I’m happy to know that my blog is helping others. Recently I’ve even been thinking about organising a monthly ‘How to Bogotá’ meet-up, as a way of bringing people together!


Why did you register on and what do you think of the website?

I think the expat-blog website is a great concept; more and more people are deciding to move abroad nowadays to gain new experiences and explore the opportunities which might be out there, and it’s really useful to have a hub to go to, to search for blogs by people who have already done what you’re thinking of doing. I also like the forum feature which allows you to post questions, and to get answers from the experts! (i.e. the people who are living in the country you want to go to!).


Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Bogotá (or in Colombia)?

Come with an open mind and know that Bogotá in particular is a chaotic and difficult city to live in, for anyone. Be prepared for the fact that it will take time to adapt, but also know that there is a big expat community in Bogotá who will be more than willing to invite you to and include you in the regular expat events. If you are thinking of staying here for a longer period of time and see teaching English as a possible form of income, I recommend taking the one-month intensive CELTA course, as it will open doors to jobs with better pay and working conditions. Before signing a contract for a room or apartment, wait until you know where you will be working, because living close to work makes a huge difference to your quality of life. Nowadays I can walk to most of the places that I regularly need to go to, and not having to rely on public transport has removed a lot of stress from my life! Above all, be very patient – things take time to get done here; and try to maintain a positive attitude, explore the city and find the things that you love about it – it will really help you to feel more at home!



How to...Bogota