Mistakes expats make in Colombia

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to Colombia? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in Colombia to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Priscilla

Priscilla :

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to Colombia? What were they?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in Colombia to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

Don't drive on intercity roads in southern Colombia and any other questionable areas at night.

Due to heavy rains, slow truck traffic and other delays .. I was still on the road on my first day of driving in Colombia (last December) late at night, south of Popayán, headed north on the Panamericana.

Moto-bandits attacked from behind, throwing rocks at my Chevy Sail during a rainstorm.  The rocks destroyed the rear windshield and the delincuentes screamed at me unintelligibly, possibly trying to get me to pull over.  Fortunately, they fled on their moto when my car spun out on the slick roadway as I tried to escape by accelerating.  I was fortunate only my car was damaged.

Do intercity night-travel outside the Coffee Zone and certain coastal roads .. only during daylight when possible.  Or better yet, do air travel. 

See the U.S. State Department's short list of safe intercity roads at the Colombia travel-warnings page of travel.state.gov ....

cccmedia in Medellín

Priscilla :

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to Colombia? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Some Expats think they're supposed to blend in.

To try to speak in a way that attempts to perfectly mimmick local speakers.

To know the locally-observed holidays.

To live only in ungated places where they're the only Gringo around....

I don't buy it.

What happened to 'be yourself'?

A.  You're never gonna talk like a local -- too many idioms, too much Gringo accent.

B.  You won't remember the holidays until one hits you.  If it's an important holiday, you'll know because the store you wanted to go into .. was closed.

C.  If you want a good night's sleep, the best place in town will probably be in a gated community.  The dogs will be barred or under control.  Three-day parties with unimpeded loud music will not be tolerated.  You may be able to get an interior unit away from the buses, the barkers, the panhandlers.

Embrace your Gringo-ness!

FYI, this is not license to skip learning Spanish.  If you live in a country where Spanish is the main language, learning is highly recommended and will enrich your life (even if you can point out the fruit you want to buy and hold up three fingers).

cccmedia in Medellín

Pretty funny ccc! And true. My spanish sucks but even the gringos i know whove got a good handle on it are NOT mistaken for a Colombian by  a Colombian. I dont live in a gated community but still a nice neighborhood i can walk around day or night by myself. medellin? Ive never felt all that safe there even in Poblado. When my espanol improves maybe. But id rather live here in San Antonio a barrio of rionegro and not worry...well i watch my back but hell i did that in the usa.

It's hard to learn a new language as an adult, granted.  But there's no reason IMO why English speakers at least can't have a near-perfect Spanish accent if they are willing to work at it and practice (taking into account the regional variations and dialects that vary from "perfect" Spanish).  The vowel sounds in Spanish are pure and short except when lengthened for emphasis.  The pronunciation follows pretty inflexible rules.  English has all the sounds found in Spanish, but the reverse is not true.  Spelling bees are basically unknown in Spanish speaking countries because how a word is spelled is almost completely obvious from its sound, there's so little room for error (although you may see errors because of lack of education, like people writing "tube" for "tuve" and "haber" for "a ver").

"A e i o u, y el burro sabe más que tu" as schoolchildren learn in many Spanish countries - learn those vowel sounds and the rest is easy (with a lot of practice).  Not bragging, I don't look hispanic at all (although many hispanics don't either), but I often receive many puzzled looks from native Spanish speakers when I speak Spanish because they often can't quite figure out what Spanish country I'm from and they're not quite sure I'm a gringo as first as a kid I was exposed to Ecuador Spanish, then Mexico and then later Puerto Rico with sides of Cuba and the DR thrown in gratis, along with almost 20 years of being married to a colombiana.  My Spanish accent is good enough to fool them for a while, anyway, and when I can throw in a few appropriate dichos it keeps the deception going...

I still often have trouble understanding though - because I speak well they don't cut me any slack and speak too quickly for me to catch everything!

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