10 reasons why I love Colombia

This article is overdue. I already wanted to write in when I was still in Colombia. But sometimes things don’t work according to your plan…

Before I went to Colombia I already know that this country is going to be very special for me. Why? The first interesting latino men I met in my life is Colombian. And then I only heard exciting stories from people who traveled to this lovely country. When I planned my trip, Colombia was on the must to do list. I have been and I really, really liked it. Why?

1. The people – los colombianos
Colombians are very friendly people. They are very, very helpful – I guess because they’re happy with themself (Colombia is one of the most satisfied countries of the world). Somehow it seemed to me that they enjoy their freedom and safety, they did not always have due to the drug cartels influence, in a very particular way. For many latinos, only “the here and now” exists and they don’t think about tomorrow. The Colombians are even more in “the here and now”, they fully enjoy it, but still they don’t forget that much about tomorrow (see point 5 “The culture”). Still they have that ability to fully glory the moments of “the here and now”.

They easily make friendships, which are not that superficial as with people from other nationalities (ex. many people from the US). They listen what you have to say, but they don’t just admire (your education, your status, your money etc.), they contribute. In many countries I had the strange feeling that I’m not on eye level with the local people because they underpositioned themself as if they feel being less worth. The Colombian’s happy, doesn’t complain even if he’s a hard life and above he’s proud, he’s something to say, to share. Of course you have the typical questions like “where are you from” but after those, the real conversation begins (you don’t even have the time to roll your eyes on that very typical question which became so enoying after traveling for a while). The feeling is so much different than with other latino nationalities. I really, really love that. I’ve met so many amazing Colombians and they all welcomed me so much in their country…

2. The landscape – el paisaje

Colombia is such a huge country – the third biggest in South America – and it has everything to offer. Stunning views because of beaches (from white sand to black sand), the sea, lakes, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, volcanos, coffee plantations etc. – and it is mostly green. There are a lot of resources, many parts of the country are quite unpopulated, the nature is alive. It’s so amazing just sitting in a bus and driving through this amazing country seeing all the greeny hills around.

3. Every place is different – cada lugar es distinto

Every place, every city is different. Once you move from one place to another, you learn to know a new place. You never get the feeling that you absolutely know the country, its culture, its landscapes etc. You have the very touristic colonial style city of Cartegna with buildings in many colours, whilst Medellín’s buildings are unspectacularly made of orange bricks. Bogotá is somehow as you’d imagine a Latin American capital and Popayan is again built in a colonial style but white is the dominating colour. Then the food is different but also the people. Medellín is full of working “paisas” when Cali has a lot of Salsa fever and friendship to offer. Overall it’s such a good mix.

4. Salsa (Cali)

Not to be missed in this list is the Salsa. We don’t talk about the Spaghetti or Barbecue salsa. It’s the music style, the dancing. Colombians are famous for Vallenato, Cumbia and of course – Salsa. The Colombian Salsa is different from other Salsa styles, it is more interesting to dance (if you have a good dancing partner and know some steps), more challenging. Yes, it is! But it’s not only about the style, it’s the great Salsa music and the feeling – the fever – you have everywhere. Salsa is part of the culture in many places. Salsa is going out, having fun, drinking, being with friends, maybe meeting people… And the music can be everywhere – in buses, on the street… I’ve only experienced something similar in Cuba, but when I write about dancing, I have to talk about the men…

…because Salsa is danced in pairs. The dancing level and the turns a guy gives you are one thing. You dance with a latino, so he’ll try to approach you. And I love the way the Colombian men do it, it’s much better than the Cubans do. The Cubans are very straightforward, the chance that the guy wants more than just to dance is much higher with a Cuban than with a Colombian. Or at least, the Colombian has more charm, tactfulness, sense of decency and respect to approach you. And what I really like is that with some Colombians you can just have a nice, even hot dance and that’s it! No need to excuse or explain yourself if you don’t want to go further…

5. The culture – la cultura

As the country is so big, there are even different cultures or styles within one country. Some parts of the country are stronger influenced by natives. Others are just Colombians and of course last but not least, Latinos. As in every Latin American country the family is the most important part in ones life. And then there are the friends. And when Colombians are together with their friends they share what they have to share. Food, drinks – it’s all to share.

Colombians love to travel. You can see many students on field-studies or graduation holidays and they love to party as all Colombians do. Their friendly attitude and sharing culture can be seen when you’re together with them on a trip or a boat. They drink Aguardiente (an alcohol made of sugar can) and they invite you to share it with them. Wow! Such an amazing experience. And don’t wonder if Colombians on their holiday ask you for the way or some recommendations. It never happend to me before in any country of the world that locals ask you for that sort of precise information. But it’s another sign that they communicate on eye level with tourists.

Last but not least, I liked that Colombia is closer to Europe than other latin american countries. Central America has a strong influence from the United States. Naturally, as I’m from Switzerland, Europe, I like the European influence.

6. Cheap food and fruit shakes – comida economica y jugos de frutas

No day in Colombia spent without a fruit juice or shake. They are everywhere to find, always fresh and they’re cheap. Colombia even has fruits such as the Lulo you don’t find in any other place. Colombian fruit salad? Amazing! A good coffee and in a more touristic place a brownie or a decent cake? Delicous! Every other block has a bakery where you can always find some nice snacks. I really, really loved the “Pan de Bono”, a bread made of yucca and corn flour in the form of a bagel.

Almuerzos (lunch) is available in many parts of Colombia for about three/four Dollars. And I loved them when I was at the coast and could have one with fish or trout inside the country.

7. It’s not yet that touristic… – ya no esta tan turistico…

…and this will definetely change soon (see my points). Due to the drug cartels and the kidnappings of foreigners, Colombia wasn’t a safe destination, it just changed within the last ten years. There is a lot of touristic infrastructure and it’s very easy to get around, people are helpful etc. But the big crowds aren’t there yet. Except of Cartegna, where some cruiseships stop, you usually don’t have a lot of package tourists. Most tourists are travelling indivudually, mainly as backpackers.


8. Security and safety – securidad

You hear those stories about the kidnappings of foreigners and the drug war. For many years I thought that Colombia isn’t safe at all. At the same time I always heard from other people who nice the country is and that they felt absolutely safe. So was I. There is a lot of police and army presence in the touristic areas, as now common in many countries all over latin america, and they really, really help to give you a better feeling. Well, those police and army men are usually very young, standing in corners of cities is their first job. If there would be a serious incident, do they know how to act? Somehow no, they’re too young, somehow yes, because they’re educated and we shouldn’t underestimate that the bloody past isn’t that far away so they stay calm which is the most important in extraordinary situations. But it’s a fact that where the police is around, there are less incidents like petty theft…

Besides those police are very warm people (of course they’re, they’re Colombians). They are open to have a chat with you and more than willing to explain the way (they really know it and are the best source to consult if you’re looking after something).

There was not any moment when I felt unsafe in Colombia and I haven’t heard any story from somebody being robbed or things getting stolen in Colombia! And I definetely can’t say that for many other countries.

9. There is all you need – hay todo que uno necesita

Colombia is a country I could definitely live. There are nice and colourful houses, a lot of culture, amazing people, stunning landscape and nice and fresh food. What else do you need? There is enought comfort but still the latino way of living. In many places in Colombia you can drink the tap water – yes, you red correctly. And the taste of the water isn’t that bad as in other places.

You want to go shopping? Colombia is highly recommendable. I’ve never seen so many colourful shops with pretty good quality for cheap prices. You want to try some drugs – in Colombia everything is possible. You have peaceful nature and great nightlife. And of course amazing people!

10. The mix – la mescla

There is not much more to say about this point (see points above). Colombia is just amazing and it’s such a good mix. A mix that makes travelling this country a special experience. If you have been there, once you’re leaving, you’ll definitely miss something…

 

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