Expat Observations: Passive Aggressiveness, Xenophobia and Making Plans

22
216
Medellin

Medellin

The following is Part Four of a four-part series by John Knox Seagle, an English teacher and five-year Medellín resident from the United States. Read Part Three here, Part Two here and Part One here

The purpose of this article and series is to talk openly and honestly about the common things long-term residents of Medellín find frustrating about living here.

Not every paisa is guilty of committing one of these faux-pas, but in my experience each of the following things is fairly common. This article is in no way intended to paint Medellín and the paisas in a bad light.

In addition, like all foreigners here, I love Medellín, and I could easily write a many more words about the things that one can admire and love about this city. But that’s for a different article.

Passive Aggressiveness

Reluctant to engage in confrontations and possibly afraid of how you’ll react, it is rare to have a local tell you something disagreeable directly or to your face.

It’s almost a given that this individual believes that it’s better to communicate something negative to you slowly and subtly, than disappointing you directly and immediately.

If a friend or significant other has a problem with something you’ve done or said, don’t be surprised if they keep it secretly bottled up inside for a long time and slowly punish you without you knowing why.

Likewise, if you’re dating someone and they lose interest or decide to end things, don’t expect them to tell you directly to your face.

Rather they’ll simply stop calling you or responding to you, assuming you’ll eventually figure it out for yourself, or they’ll create a situation in which you are obliged to end things yourself.

If your boss wants to get rid of you, expect them to make you miserable until you decide to quit, or to gradually cut down your hours until you start to question whether you’re really wanted there.

And if you receive a job offer or the hiring manager seems very interested in you, don’t believe it until after you’ve finished your first day at the job.

Ironically, when you speak to most locals about the concept of passive aggressiveness, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.

Sin Tetas…

How many foreigners thought it was a joke the first time they heard that it’s not uncommon for parents to buy their daughter breast implants on their 15th birthday? Unfortunately it’s not a joke.

Not content enough to already be considered among the most beautiful women in the world, countless young (and older) women join the ranks of multitudes before them and go under the knife with hopes of “perfection.”

Numerous young girls dream of becoming a famous model someday, or grow up with a false sense of entitlement because their entire life everyone has always told them that they’re gorgeous.

They’ll be called “reina” or “princesa,” told that they’re perfect, can do no wrong, and don’t need to work or get an education because their looks will take them through life.

Women are fiercely competitive and jealous of each other for how they look or what they possess, and it’s unfortunately rare to see a paisa woman with many true female friends.

Entire generations of young men grow up striving to own the nicest clothes and flashiest car so they can obtain the perfect paisa prototype or someone who they can show off to their friends.

Parents will even have their infant daughter’s ears pierced to make them more attractive or presentable… as if babies needed accessories.

While every culture has its own concept of beauty and no one really has the right to judge what a different culture considers to be aesthetically pleasing, there’s no doubt that many a foreigner will stop dead in their tracks the first time they see a prosthetic nalga that juts out like a shelf.

Medellín is a major fashion center, so perhaps this goes with the territory.

Still, it can be very disconcerting to see how obsessed paisas are with appearance, image and one-upping each other in terms of physical beauty, and how recent generations have grown up believing that there is a connection between physical attractiveness and upward mobility.

The general inclination is to point the finger at the narcotraficantes who started lavishing riches on their surgically altered girlfriends beginning in the 80s, which then caused many of Medellín’s young women to take note and start believing that if they too could look like that, they’d be set.

A generation later, one has to wonder why so many people continue to embrace an aspect of the culture that everyone considers to have originated during Colombia’s darkest days.

Macho Men

I would hate to be a woman here.

Nobody would argue that Colombia is a very machista society, and the amount of respect that many men show to women leaves a lot to be desired.

From catcalls and hissing, to blatantly staring as a woman walks by, to nicknames such as “mamasita” and “bebe,” the way that numerous local men act toward their fairer counterparts is often cringe-worthy.

Retaliation or castigating the perpetrator of such blatant disrespect is imprudent, as at best it will encourage them and at worst be met with hostility.

And that’s to say nothing of the general expectation that local men will have various girlfriends at a time, or at least a mistress. And if these individuals are so “macho” and “manly,” what’s the deal with the multitude of single mothers in the city?

Is it any wonder why many foreign men often find themselves an object of desire?

Some might say it’s due to a misconception that gringos equal money.

I would argue that because in comparison to most local men, most foreign residents in Medellín treat their women better, often know how to cook and clean and will do so happily, don’t live with their parents until marriage, and aren’t nearly as likely to cheat or maintain several women at a time.

Are you Coming?

This one is for the foreign men in Medellín.

I recently underwent uncomfortable flashbacks to my own previous traumatic experiences while recently trying to coach several recent arrivals through the concepts of time, commitment and accountability, or making plans, as perceived by a large number, but by no means all, of the local women.

Even if you make a fixed plan to do something well in advance, the plan will remain invalid unless you reconfirm shortly before the meeting, and if you don’t, expect to hear that it’s your fault when you subsequently see her out with her friends or another man during your planned date time.

It is not uncommon for someone to cancel literally minutes before a reunion with no explanation, and if that should happen you should count yourself lucky, as it’s far more common for your date to simply not show up, or if she does, she might well have her cousin or friend in tow.

Perhaps she didn’t arrive because it was raining… paisa hair evidently melts in the rain.

As with many things here, a near-to-complete lack of consequences might be to blame. When a woman does this, most of the perpetrators of this heinous lack of respect have been treated like princesses all their lives and have never been told by anyone, ever, that they’ve done anything wrong.

They are raised with a sense of indemnity and a complete lack of understanding that it’s not correct to treat someone like this.

Women like this are unfortunately drawn to gringos like a montañero is drawn to chicharron, and sadly give the vast majority of women in Medellín, who are decent, hardworking, sincere and honest, a bad reputation.

Forget trying to make them understand that it’s bad class, poor education and a lack of common decency. They’ll never be convinced that they’re fallible. Seriously, they just won’t get it.

Friendships and Relationships

One has just to look at the differing definitions of “platonic” in English as being free from sexual desire, and “platónico” in Spanish, which carries the meaning of unrequited, secret love for someone close to you, to suspect that you’re in for some drama.

If you’re a woman and you have a normal male friend, don’t be surprised if he makes a pass at you after a few shots of Guaro, or secretly harbors feelings for you and sulks when he sees you with someone else.

If you’re a man and have a normal female friend, don’t expect to see her again once she gets a boyfriend because he will likely be so jealous that he won’t permit her to hang out with you.

Alternatively, don’t be surprised if your female friend contacts you to inform you that your new girlfriend is really ugly, and your girlfriend becomes convinced that you have something with your female friend.

If you’re a woman who has a female friend, likewise don’t be surprised when she turns out to be jealous (or overly critical) of your appearance or how happy you seem with your boyfriend.

If you’re a man who has male friends, be careful about whom you introduce to your girlfriend.

If you’re a foreigner with foreign friends, be prepared to say good-bye to a lot of them over time, start again and repeat.

Numerous friendships and families have been damaged by loaning money which is never repaid. There’s perhaps nothing more tragic than realizing that your friendship was worth less than 200,000 pesos ($100).

Local women are often irrationally convinced that all men will cheat on them, generally expect them to have several lovers at a time, and often use this as an excuse to do the same, resulting in a never-ending vicious cycle of mistrust and heartbreak.

Many people have a Plan B or C and keep all of them active at once due to their fear of temporarily being alone. Even in the case of men who do not have a proper mistress, there’s a huge sex industry to cater to their every desire.

It’s difficult, but not impossible, to establish healthy, long-lasting friendships or relationships here. It’s unfortunately very common for envy, jealousy and greed to ruin many friendships, relationships, and even families.

Tread carefully here.

Shoot the Messenger

Not literally of course.

I’ve experienced numerous people fervently claim that Medellín has the best weather, food, transportation and women in the world, but when it comes to the topic of violence, homicides, drugs, gangs and poverty, they switch gears and go on about how problems like that exist everywhere in the world, that Medellín is not “special” in that regard.

While it’s normal and in fact admirable for people to be proud of their city, many here take it too far and blindly claim to be living in the best city in the world while ignoring that it still has some very serious social problems and attacking those who try to bring those problems to light.

In reality a lot of people here are very sensitive and defensive, and love to dish out criticism but can’t take it themselves, even when it’s constructive.

I’ve also had numerous “friends” eliminate me from their lives or tell me off after I openly complain about how the taxi drivers here don’t respect pedestrians or other cars and drive dangerously, or trying to explain that instead of Colombians blaming Hollywood movies and foreign media for its negative reputation abroad that they need to understand and admit that the depictions of their country abroad are based on Colombia’s real track record and actual problems.

Few would argue that misconceptions presented in foreign media do a better job of harming Colombia’s reputation than do Colombia’s own newspapers, TV programs and feature films, nearly all of which focus on violence, drugs, prostitution and poverty, and are eaten up by most Colombians.

But you know what?  The taxi drivers here really do lack respect and drive recklessly. And there are lots of “grillas” in Medellín and they do in fact lurk in Parque Lleras like gringo-predators.

Find me one local who would honestly disagree with these statements.

Mentioning these faults of this beautiful city doesn’t make me negative, but a realist, and I fear that until more people are capable of openly admitting that Medellín does in fact still have some serious issues to tackle that these things will continue.

But for now, woe to the unlucky traveler who doesn’t praise the City of Eternal Spring with every ounce of gringo gusto they can muster, or those who sing the praises of Bogotá, a city that every paisa will immediately claim to hate even though most haven’t even been there.

Go Home Gringo

It’s a knee-jerk reaction to suggest to a complaining foreigner that if they don’t like it here, they should leave. It happens in every country, but that doesn’t make it less ugly.

The number of foreign residents in Colombia pales in comparison to the two million Colombians in the United States, 500,000 in the United Kingdom, and hundreds of thousands more between numerous other countries. Most Colombian families have at least one member living overseas.

Like those Colombians abroad, every foreign resident in Colombia who is living and working and paying taxes has as much of a right to complain about certain aspects of the local culture which rub us the wrong way, as each of those Colombians abroad.

In many cases it’s necessary in order to maintain a good sense of humor and our sanity, and it should not be taken to mean that the individual actually dislikes living here.

And instead of immediately reacting to any type of criticism by suggesting that the individual leave, why not pay attention to what they have to say?

A different perspective on things can in fact be very valuable, and it wouldn’t hurt Medellín to hear some fresh observations.

If you should happen to experience a friend, significant other or acquaintance telling you to leave after hearing your thoughts on the challenges of living here, or find that expressing your feelings about xenophobia are falling on deaf ears, you certainly have my sympathies.

Like this story? Read Part Three here, Part Two here and Part One here

______

About the Author: John Knox Seagle is an English teacher and five-year Medellín resident from the United States. 

Like the story? Take a second to support Medellin Living on Patreon!

LEAVE A REPLY

22 COMMENTS

  1. All of your points here are absolutely true and resonate fully with my experience as an expat in Medellin. As you say, there are many wonderful aspects of the culture and the paisas have many admirable qualities, but spend enough time here and you’ll find things like you’ve mentioned that are confounding or downright ugly.

    For anyone planning to move here, fair warning: yes it’s a beautiful city with friendly and polite people…but your patience and ability to adapt WILL BE TESTED.

    The last part about the attitude that gets copped anytime you mention something negative about Medellin is especially irritating. The standard reply is “Spirit flies north every day” or “go back to your Gringo suburb”. Truly annoying.

    I can sum up my feelings about Medellin with a Colombian dicho: Si quiere la rosa, hay que aceptar las espinas.

    • Vincent, I really like your Colombian dicho but isn’t there more: “Si quieres la rosa, tienes que aceptar la espina, si no sabes del dolor, no sabrás de la alegría.” I completely agree with this!

      My opinion is that some expats I have met here who have been in Medellin for quite a while still haven’t really adapted to the culture here. They are still experiencing bitterness, resentment, etc. — and some really haven’t made much of an attempt to learn Spanish.

      This series to me seems to have too much of a negative undertone that that makes me wonder if the author is enjoying life here. I believe this series could have been more balanced and pointed out many of the positive aspects of the culture.

      My experience in Colombia has been completely different – I have grown accustomed to the quirks covered in this series and I have worked out ways to overcome some of them. In fact, when I go back to the US I now am starting to experience a bit of reverse culture shock.

      • Jeff,

        I don’t think the purpose of this series is to extoll the virtues of Medellin or the Paisa culture, but discuss some of the quirks, nuances and common frustrations that we may face as expats living here. This is a valid topic whether or not you agree with the author’s point of view.

        I reject the notion that we can’t discuss the not-so-pleasant aspects of the culture without apologetically including what we love about it in the same article. The blog’s editorial voice comes from the sum of its content, not from one article or series. On the whole nearly every blog out there (mine included) that covers Medellin is extremely positive and highlights all that we love about the place we’ve chosen as our home. I can’t speak for the author, but someone who has lived here for years must not dislike the place on the whole. I’ve made Medellin my home and I’m very content overall but there are things about the place I would change if I could.

        You’re right that one should adapt to or at least accept these quirks if they are going to live here. No Gringo is going to change Colombian culture to suit him or her. But acceptance does not mean agreement. I can accept that my female friend chooses to date a dirtbag without agreeing with her decision. And as that Colombian dicho goes, if you want the rose you must accept the thorns, to know the joy you must know the pain. It doesn’t say that you have to pretend the thorns and the pain don’t exist, just that you have to tolerate them.

        I love living in Medellin. But when my baby has finally fallen asleep, and is startled awake by some jackass shooting fireworks in the street right outside my window, I’m allowed to say to myself, “this is bullshit” even though there is nothing I can do about it. And being irritated in that moment doesn’t mean I want to go back home, much less that I ought to.

        • Thanks for pointing out that the “blog’s editorial voice comes from the sum of its content, not from one article or series.”

          It’s for this reason that I felt as though it was finally time to tackle some of the thorny topics John wanted to highlight.

  2. So let me make sure I understand..

    If a girl calls me baby/bebe through text or on a first date and almost every time after…it’s ok. But if I call her bebe/baby then, in your words, it’s a sign of “blatant disrespect”? Come on.

    I think you have your own warped views of how men and women should act back home and Medellin men just don’t fit what you think men “should” act like.

    “often know how to cook and clean and will do so happily”. How many readers here really believe that foreign MEN will cook and clean, HAPPILY?

    Not to mention…I’ve had just as many girls tell me that they are more cautious about gringos here because of the gringo “reputation”, which is of course to come down here and simply sleep with as many girls as possible, hookers, etc.

    Foreign men find themselves an object of desire simply because they are different, and different is much close to sexy than “normal”. Not because they are so “faithful”.

    Many women won’t even date a gringo for this reason alone, even if they are intrigued.

    Your entire post has such a large amount of resentful undertone band bios in it that it’s hard to even get through. If I were a foreigner and read your posts, I wouldn’t even want to come here. And that’s sad.

    • I waited 5 years to post stories that speak of the frustrations foreigners may experience living in Colombia, and specifically Medellín, but even though I haven’t always agreed with the tone or word choice John has used, I do identify with most, if not all of his main themes.

      With regard to terms of endearment, it’s all about the tone and context. John can correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s referring to strange men calling random women “mamasita” on the street. I’ve been in taxis where the driver has done this numerous times to women en route to my destination, and it leaves me embarassed and feeling awkward. I can’t imagine how the women feel.

      In private, one-on-one conversation via text or on a date, I follow the woman’s lead. Many will start using words like “amor” or “bb” in early conversations, at which point I begin using them in return. Some women use them more frequently, and earlier, than others.

      “How many readers here really believe that foreign MEN will cook and clean, HAPPILY?”

      I use to love cooking back in the US, but have become lazy after years of travel and eating out in restaurants. My Colombian roommate cooks for me here, which has spoiled me further. But, I still know how to cook, and if I really like a girl I’ll invite her over for dinner, and cook to show I care.

      A guy may not like to cook, but many bachelors will make sure they can cook at least one or two dishes well to impress the woman they’re dating.

      On the cleaning tip, I’ve had friends here who’ve said they’ve had a girl stay the night and SHE is the one to wake up the next day and clean HIS room or apartment. They’re very big on cleanliness here, and any guy that pitches in and shows some initiative in his own place or hers will gain points (I don’t think that’s any different than in the US).

      It all depends on the woman, and her experiences, with regard to her amount of caution with foreigners. A woman who has personally tried to have a relationship with a foreigner and only seen it become a physical thing will be bitter, whereas some girls are curious and looking to be with a foreign guy because it’s new and different, and they actually seek out physical relationships (nothing more).

      • I must admit I did have a chuckle to myself about the statement that foreign man happily cook and clean (and presumably Colombian men don’t). I can vouch that Colombian men have many faults however cleaning/maintaining cleanliness is not one of them. I have never had to ask a Colombian man to take a shower or please go back and clear up his cr*p (literally), hair shavings, toenail clippings etc from the bathroom, wash his clothes that are stinking in a pile etc whereas I don’t know any foreign man who hasn’t had to be repeatedly reminded of at least one of these basic acts of courtesy. I am sure they are out there, they are just not in the majority whereas I think Colombian men are generally respectful in this aspect – as you say they are big on cleanliness here and that applies to the men too. And maybe it’s out of fear of having to eat my food instead but the Colombian men I’ve met have been excellent and enthusiastic cooks AND they’ve washed the dishes up afterwards (unlike most foreign men I know)!!

        Yes there is a lot of cat calling and hissing here, which is not pleasant, but there is plenty of it too on the streets of London and other parts of the world, believe me! I think most women have learnt to just ignore it.

  3. I have lived several years in Medellín and can tell you that much of my experiences have been very positive. I’ve lived in estratos 2 – 6 (in 7 different neighborhoods) and I can say that much of your experience in Medellín greatly depends on which part of town you live in and with whom you surround yourself (like any place on earth). My friends and the girls I dated in Medellín are incredible people and have given me overwhelmingly positive experiences. I even married one of them and we have been together for five years 🙂

    It is stressful living in a new country at time but look at travel like a cultural buffet; try a little bit of this and that and when you go back for seconds, fill your plate (aka aspects of the culture) with the things you like and disregard the rest.

  4. As someone who recently visited Medellin and is very seriously considering a move there, I was excited to see this series. However, as one post became 2, 3, and 4, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth.

    I appreciate that every city has its good and bad sides, but this – to me at least – had the overarching feeling of being written by someone who wasn’t happy. Someone who after five years was more disparaging of the society they had found themselves in than glad to have found a new life.

    I hope that if I make the same move I will maintain my sense of humour while getting to grips with the intricacies of Medellin life.

  5. Maybe i the only one french gringo who read the blog, but i can say after what you describe and what i can saw when i have been twice in Medellin, Paisas are still so sweet than French people, especially from Paris… 😉

  6. I think these series are refreshing and recognizable, but I you should try to watch out that you don’t reel to much rejection towards the new culture you are living in. I do recognize a lot of these frustrations as a foreigner living here for a long time. But I also think that a lot of the experiences depend on the people your surround yourself with. For example, none of my paisa male friends behave in the way you describe towards women. Although for sure there are many men in medellin (and Colombia) behaving like this. Also, all female friends of my wife are hard working, university educated peope that are very serious in their relationships. The type of girls that do not expect a man to pay the bill (I am always kind of surprised that a lot of people think this that it is the norm here and that a man pays everything. Again, this depends on the people your surround with).

    I once read an article on the different stages of immigrating to another country. I can remember it was something like this: 1) idealization of the new culture, 2) rejection (after the novelty is gone), and 3) adaption. I can relate very wel to this, and I think I am somewhere between stage two and three. I can relate very well to most of the frustrations outlined in these four articles, but I also try to adapt more while maintaining some of the values of my own culture. For example, in the Netherlands we are very direct, which I think is a good thing. However, you will find out that this directness is not really apreciated here in Colombia, since the norm is being extremly diplomatic. What you have to realize is that you cannot change an entire culture. So in this case I tried to adapt by being less direct instead of rejecting their diplomacy as I was used to do.

    Jan

  7. The jealiousy in Colombia, especially in Medellin is incredible. As someone who has lived in Colombia (Cartagena) for 2 years and travelled to Medellin numerous times. I find it amazing, how paisas in general, can only talk about how good their city is, how good the food is, how much better their city is compared to Bogota, Cartagena etc… When they learn you live in the old city, they go blank in the face. When they hear that if you did not live in Cartagena and that you would rather live in Bogota and not their beloved Medellin. They generally look at you with confusion.

    The only reason for me to go to Medellin is to visit my ex-pat friend.
    Why else would I go?

    • I know the paisas’ sense of pride in their city can be a turn off, but I’ve always compared it to New Yorkers who believe NYC is the greatest city in the world (being from NY, I think it’s certainly up there). I see it as a positive. I’d rather people be overly proud of their city and culture than talk poorly of it.

        • I’d love to hear more about Manizales. I’ve heard some very positive but vague things about the place but never anything specific. If you’d care to share I’d love to know what you like about it.

          • Hey Vincent. To make a long story very short there is something about the mentality and culture of Caldenses that I find very appealing. When I lived in Medellin I found myself going there every 3 weeks or so to be with friends and enjoy the scenary. Manizales is a fantastic location for outdoorsy types like myself and I prefer the cooler climate. The Colombian department of Caldas is the most mountainous department in all of Colombia and the views are fantastic (you can actually see the sunset).

            If I ever run into you we will discuss why I enjoy it more than Medellin.

            Disclaimer, a huge part of my heart is in Medallo (Campo Valdez-Manrique represent!) and I love visiting my family there. I just think there are better options regarding quality of life in other towns in Colombia.

          • Hey Vincent,
            Kevin covered it, for the most part. Manizales is incredibly beautiful and I love the people there. As I said, nothing against the people in Medellin, they are great, but a lot of the ‘cons’ to Medellin in this series are traits that I haven’t found in Manizales. Most of it is small city vs big city though-I prefer a smaller place than Medellin and Manizales is perfectly sized to have plenty to do, go out and party on the weekends, yet be outside in the city in the mountains within a few minutes.

  8. Reading this series has made me realize how different Medellin can be to other parts of Colombia. I’ve spent around six months living in Manizales, and many of the things you mention I’ve never experienced. Others definitely sound familiar, and have happened to me, but with far less frequency than it appears they happen in Medellin.

  9. I enjoy reading these articles as well as the others on Medellin. My main disagreement with this series is that almost all the traits shown by paisas are not limited to Medellin. They apply equally to other major Latin cities and countries. During my years in San Pedro Sula, there was no such things as orderly lines. If you want orderly lines, try Canada. Certainly there is not the influx of gringos in San Pedro Sula as in Medellin so the flip-flops, backpackers and so forth is not part of the scenery. Physical enhancements are common though out Latin America while truth is a bit of a stranger.

  10. I have to agree with John`s article. I can not comment on relationship with local colombian women.
    I am married to a colombian woman (colombian exception) who I met in London 10 years ago and were living in UK and Spain until May 2014. I have known Colombia since 2004 and was coming to Colombia usually for three weeks holidays every other year.

    In general Colombians are nice people who can offer you their house and treat you as a member of their family. They are very kind and friendly. They can sacrifice their time to make you feel good and comfortable. But sometimes family can be too much close to its members and it can be difficult to `escape` from that circle for a while and do some of your private things. On the other hand for foreigners living in Medellin can be difficult to spend time with their colombian friends for this reason. A family THING.

    Fiestas – here is always plenty of food and drinks. Not like in some EU countries where you have to bring your drinks with you. Everyone is happy, chatting to each other and of course later on some dancing which is typical for Colombia.

    Awareness – lack of trust is what I feel from others unless they know me. It is probably due to crime, etc. A lot of people look at me with suspicion which later on changes but still there is some kind of hesitation. Kids are being taught from very small how not to trust strangers, etc. Colombian society is missing confidence, trust and security.

    No doubts about family orientated culture with a big influence of catholic church but with many contradictions. Where family should be a basic stone but being unfaithful is somehow tolerated (generations of grandmas having siblings all over the region was not exception at all but rather a rule and women got from their husbands or boyfriends a little or no support whatsoever).

    Woman is clearly in many cases a sexual object and is still missing a big tolerance and a recognition in society. Barbie culture (from narco culture). Always excellent look for getting man, a dream job or just to compete with other women (for me very poor)? Women should be more proud of themselves.

    Macho society which is connected to catholic church (still seen the rest in Spain) and many ways supported by `like nanny` behavior of mothers that take care of their boys until their 30`s and way after (do not let hem clean the toilet, etc.). When married women (or with partner) would not leave home on their own to go for a drink with their friends, etc.

    Conservative society (Medellin) for professionals where even a professionals can hardly penetrate the local professional clans. You have to know probably an ex president Uribe to get a good job.

    `Tumbis turumbis` and `dar papaya` speaks a lot about people that take advantage of you and probably do not even feel they do something wrong. But should I be surprised in the society where only 2,4% of population is consider being well to do with wages from 2,7 million pesos? The others are fighting for their survival.

    Everybody passes a driving course (missing tough tests) and the consequences are seen daily. Anybody from farmers riding donkeys until yesterday to little tiny girls age of 17 getting DL today and driving their hugh SUVs who have a big problems to park it in in the shopping centers. And I am not talking yet about drivers of tractomulas!

    It is difficult to relax on colombian road. A basic driving rules and behavior are partly or completely missing and here is time when praying before any journey is really handy. General state of colombian roads is poor (there are a few exceptions) and in many cases dangerous.

    Overtaking in any kind of queues as in banks, etc.(remind me Spain) is probably a national sport and people seem to me do not even realize they do something wrong.

    Going to bed (with hens) before or at 8pm is a big change for me coming directly from Spain. It is true I do not wake up before 6am but anyways, I miss seeing chatting people in front of the restaurants until late night.

    Working on Saturday? Shouldn`t USA or Germany be the first in time spent at work? Competing with Joneses? Getting bigger car, house, school for kids or holidays? Fear of losing job? Working for peanuts but working anyway `cause there is nothing else? I am probably spoiled european.

    Like a cast society of India seems to me separation of `lucky` and `not so lucky` – `los doctores`and `the others`of Colombia. Speaking of this it reminds me Egypt which I visited in `98 and where doctor was enjoying a social status as if he was a half God. For this reason kids are probably told from early years to study hard and become a doctor to have a good life otherwise no life at all and hard work until you die!

    One just wonders if all those posh and luxury houses and apartments in Poblado were bought by legal made money by all those doctors :).

    Don`t you have a palanca? Then forget about getting a good job. No matter if you studied and have a title from Uni. It is here more than anywhere else important more who you know than what you know. Family ties can play a very significant role in it. You are not from here? Good luck!

    `Like gringo look` can be disadvantage. Locals usually try to charge you more than colombian citizen. It is difficult to explain that you live here.

    `Being late culture` does not surprise me after coming from Spain. Plan well ahead and do not be surprised if meeting cancelled.

    Most of the services are private. From motorway tolls to good level clinics, schools, coach companies and even natural reserves. That is why living on considerable good level is more expensive than in Europe. State companies and social influence are missing.

    Traveling even within country is a luxury thing (when earning local currency). That is why most of the people stay in the city.

    Food is very plain as John wrote. In my home I cook indian, spanish, italian, thai and some beans :). When colombian I prefer food from coast than from Antioquia. Beans could be a good source of protein and delicatessen in Antioquia but this is probably because most of the Paisas do not travel and have no idea about other cuisines (proper and original cuisines – not prepared in here. Hey, bring some Italians, French and Spanish over here!).

    Centros comerciales alias Shopping centers are The churches of nowadays – well at least for many of us (not me). And so thousands of people in their cars are slowly moving through few tapped avenidas in Poblado to Tesoro, Santa Fe or Premium Plaza for shopping and spending `fantastic` weekend in shopping spree. Influenced by US culture Colombia seems to me as if it discovered America. Consumerism is a new religion that did not miss this country. The inflated prices of just about anything can be seen daily thanks to this madness of a cheap credit. But how long time is it gonna last?

    Who the hell planned the present look of Poblado? With (they say) its 130 thousand inhabitants when families own more than two cars but there are only a few roads through this urban jungle it is difficult not to think of giving up driving. I do walk if I can. For shopping, going to cine or just for a walk. But no people in the streets of Poblado except of mades rushing from and to work. People of Poblado walk more!

    Security – one of the biggest obstacle to enjoy just about anything. Don`t go there! Take taxi! Call me when you arrive! Parque Berrio, are you crazy? Hiking in the mountain? Kayaking on rio Cauca? No, No, No! I miss freedom of traveling, camping and hiking.

    Nature – fantastic! Something that does not lie, does not take advantage and is real. I love colombian nature where you can discover both coasts, llanos, cordilleras, Amazonia, etc.. I hope I have more time to travel around and enjoy this natural church of paradise.

    But otherwise good.

  11. After reading your comments about Colombiana’s it seems they’re high maintenance.I’ve got a very simple question.Why date them have them as friends or any of the above?Why make any plans at all? I’ve lived in Medellin for about 16 years now only for the weather,nothing more.I ignore women it’s easy even though many have approached me with interest NO is the shortest word in Websters dictionary and has the most meaning.People around the world understand the word NO.I use it quite often actually.Never forget even Medellin is a third world country even though it’s modernised the mentality hasen’tcaught on yet and chances are it never will.It is what it is,enough said.