Conversations You Will Have in Colombia if You are a Foreigner (Opinion Piece)

Sara B

If you are thinking about coming to Colombia, these are some conversations you will have with locals.

Necesitas tener cuidado or You need to be careful.

Every Colombian will tell you this. I completely agree with this; you are a stranger in a strange land, and they know their country’s history.

The times when neighbors turned against neighbors and children held guns and killed others. Even though Colombia is home to some of the kindest humans, they also have a deep dark history they will never forget, but they do not want you to experience it.

If someone tells you that area is dangerous, listen to them, and go the other way. It may be obvious, but it took me a while to understand this; I was cocky and thought I was always careful; what did they mean until I learned that the gorillas formed from everyday people, and when they dispersed, went back to everyday life. (too much to explain in this article)

Your neighbor could have been in the gorillas and killed people. Here the trauma runs deep, and you must be respectful that they are correct, and you do need to be careful.
Cocora ValleSara B

¿Hablas español? or Do you speak Spanish

If you speak Spanish, even the basics, they will be shocked and thrilled. Especially the Paisanos, the area of Antioquia, love to talk. If you speak Spanish to them, expect them to begin asking and telling you with excitement.

It happened to me in the cab on Tuesday, I never speak in English unless someone does not speak Spanish, and even though I am not fluent, I can have a conversation, and when I don’t know a word, they will use Google Translate and teach you a new phrase.

Usually, it is Colombian slang, such as ¨bacano¨ -cool. Then they will invite you to go out with them, that is where I draw the line, refer back to the first one, you never know!
Barichara, ColombiaSara B

¿Qué piensas de la comida aquí? or What do you think of the food?

Colombians know that many foreigners coming to Colombia have no idea what the food is like. Most think it is similar to Mexico and spicy; many people group South America into Mexico; I had no idea.

I also did this at one point because we knew little about our neighbors to the south, except Mexico. But it may be changing now. Your world changes when you live somewhere and assume no news is new. Like my sisters don’t know what an arepa is, Que Pena!

I love the food here; simple home cooking is the best way to describe it. Plus, I love rice and beans, so my face lights up. I say the fresh fruits, the juices, the menu del día; I love it all.

If you do not like the food, as they know most do not, hence the question, I recommend picking out one thing to say that you enjoy. For example, who does not love empanadas, a buñuelo, or coffee!! Which is a Colombian breakfast!
Acai BowlSara B

¿Qué piensas de las mujeres? or What do you think of the women?

I have had many conversations about this with taxi drivers, and foreigners are obsessed with the women here. The fact is that Colombian women are beautiful, and women from all over the world are beautiful.

It is a positive stereotype they are known for, and considering the violent history of this country, and usually, no one likes the food, why are you here? Kind of a question, right?

Men come for the women, and it is a dangerous business. Also, NOT ALL MEN!!! Please do not misquote me; it is a stereotype that happens to be true. Yet with that said, it is a big business; they took something they have and monetized it; every country does this, right?

Except I caution you to be careful, tourists end up dead, please no bumble, no tinder, no going back to the room alone with a woman you just met; it’s a trap. Especially if she’s a ten and you are ….not. Sorry.
moving on…
Tatacoa DesertSara B

¿Qué partes de Colombia conoces? or What parts of Colombia do you know?

They ask where you have traveled, and be prepared for them to tell you that you have seen more of their country than they have. I often rattle off about 20 places, and they tell me, wow, you know more than me, and then, of course, I tell them wherever you are, their city is fantastic, and you understand why they do not leave.

Well, you don’t have to, but I do; if you continue giving names, I feel bad, as travel is a luxury, and most do not. I often end the conversation by asking where in their city is the best for coffee, food, or visiting. They are happy to oblige and for you to know the best.

If you do not speak Spanish, they all have google translate so you can communicate with any of these questions.
Plaza BoteroSara B

De dónde eres or Where are you from?

The most common question. Everyone will ask you where you are from, so this phrase is a good one to get on your list of questions to memorize. They want to know you and will ask you questions about your country, and if you are from the US, they will all know Miami or someone who lives there. It is a fun conversation to have.
Sara B

¿Por qué estás en Colombia? or Why are you in Colombia?

They want to know why you have chosen their country; if you are a man, the conversation will go toward the women. It will be an auto follow-up without you answering.

They are curious and know the traumatic history of Colombia; I often wonder why tourists visit. Since the news and reports of Colombia say how dangerous it is, you chose here?

That is what they are thinking, but a Colombian is kind and will never say that. I always tell them that their county is the most beautiful country in the entire world, and it is true. It is a paradise. I could go on about the kindness you will experience, the diversity, and the uniqueness, but also take caution.
PopayánSara B

They say yes, my country is a paradise, and usually welcome you to their country. But, warn you to be safe, as it is a beautiful country; sometimes, you forget the underlying dangers that can lurk behind any tree.

Colombia is a magical country, and you will be welcome with open arms when you have the right intentions when you come. Embrace everything, including the food, even if you hate it.

Listen to the locals; if they say don’t go somewhere, don’t go there. It is a slow living, and things move slowly, do not try to change their ways, as it will frustrate you.

Download these phrases onto your notes app and have an answer prepared in Spanish so that you can practice your conversation skills. Do not be afraid to speak; they will also practice their English with you.

Enjoy each encounter’s kind hospitality once you pass the immigration officer!

Bienvenido a Colombia

Originally published here.

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I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news. Living nomadically since 2018, currently in Colombia.

Pasadena, CA

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