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The Challenge of Cross-Cultural Relationships in Colombia | Lifestyle

The Challenge of Cross-Cultural Relationships in Colombia | Lifestyle

Culture, Life Abroad

Relationships in Colombia are hostile to the well educated, intelligent women (and dare I say men too?) of more developed nations. Nothing new to an educated, intelligent Colombian woman either – although they seem to bear it better. You might want to prepare yourself for this by banging your head against the wall – followed by a fortifying shot of aguardiente.

Relationships in Colombia

You’re traveling or living abroad. One day, someone will cross your path who sees you, the real you and you will fall madly in love with them. Or was it just the alcohol talking? And despite language and culture barriers, you go for it! Because life is an adventure. And life abroad can be lonely. You don’t consider whether you will understand their sense of humor, and they yours. Right now all you see is the intensity of this moment. The passion. The feeling. The sense of finding someone special.

And maybe, just maybe – you will find your Media Naranja, or that perfect relationship situation. (Hat-tip, to the reader who corrected my understanding on this one)

My relationship with Jaime, my husband, is strong. But, that doesn’t mean a day doesn’t occasionally come along where I am pulling my hair out and wondering if its strong enough. And its always the little things:

  • Religious beliefs and approach to the meaning of life.
  • Attitudes and culture norms which affect hygiene and personal care.
  • The food they desire/eat. The food they don’t desire and refuse to eat.
  • Sense of humor, and understanding how to interpret an expression or gesture.
  • The in-laws. Google the term “Hijo Bom Brillo.” And then run away from this type.
  • The language barrier, or being unable to express feelings coherently in the second language.

This is a pretty small list of the little things, but you will notice that many of them are even present in your home culture too. And, more often than not, they drive us crazy! That’s my list. Let’s see what others have to say…

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The International Community Weighs in on the Debate

Cultural norms, family issues and more. I spoke to other foreign residents of Colombia, and here’s what they had to say about the joys and challenges of their cross-cultural relationships…

“Colombian men are in love after 3 days, North Americans are in love after 3 years. Take my advice and run away screaming!

– Bev, Canada

Perspective #1: Mollee’s Experience

Likes: Latin men are way more expressive and passionate. They generally treat their women like a queen…which is nice if you are someone (maybe a middle child) who loves attention 🙂
Also I think communication is a big deal in every relationship, and being in one with a second language really forces me
to plan what I say before I say it, which is not always the case when I am speaking English.

Dislikes: Long distance is hard, green cards are expensive, and everything takes time. Sometimes I think about how
easy people have it who are from the same country!
Its also difficult when I’m with his friends and almost all jokes are lost on me.

Mollee, Age 26, USA

Perspective #2: Dales’ Experience

 There are several key takeaways from my experiences dating Colombian women. I think the first any gringo will need to have when dating a Colombiana, is patience. Patience is everything. Many women will tell you they just want to be friends first. Some will want to bring a friend or family member on the first date. Many women will show up late, or will want to change the plans at the last minute.
Because of this, the initial stages of dating Colombian women can be more than a little difficult and confusing for Extranjeros, or foreigners. However, once you are “in” with one, they make for fabulous lovers who will care for you, look out for you, and treat you with tremendous respect.
One last thing. Yes, the women are beautiful here, but this does not mean that they are easy. In fact, the opposite is true. A man wanting a relationship with any self-respecting woman, is going to need to put in the time and work to get to know her. If you had a difficult time with relationships in the US, your move to Colombia will likely not change that. Put the time in, smile, be a gentleman, be patient, ask questions, make her laugh, learn salsa, take her to dinner and a movie.
If you are good you will find someone good, because there are plenty of single women here.
Dale, Age 35, USA

Perspective #4: Jorn’s Experience

Accept and respect each others roots, they do not go away, and there is no winner.

Biggest challenge is to overcome family pressure in basically any direction: 
  • Your partner does not speak our language
  • your partner does not understand our religion
  • your partner is so different and eat strange things
  • your partner needs to work
  • your partners family is strange
  • why do you have to live so far away?
 One thing in cross cultural marriages which is worth noticing is that one or both have to move. That is just logistics, but hard to overcome for the one(s) who move since that tear away your comfort zone. It si worth it and can add great zest to your lives if you embrace it instead of fighting it.

Jorn, Age 58, Denmark

Perspective #5: Angela’s Experience

“What I do love about Colombians in particular is their open heartedness, their uninhibited displays of love and affection. Men in North America are just not as open… a little more cold-hearted I’ve found.

On the other hand, there are definitely differences that are sometimes annoying, like not getting the same kind of humor (that was more in the beginning)
Not being able to communicate effectively with my in-laws (that’s my problem because my spanish still sucks). 
I’m lucky because Ivan spoke English perfectly when I met him, but had it not been that way, I’m sure it would have been way harder!
I would have struggled with expressing my philosophical and deep thoughts, because that can be tricky in a second language.
I think the language barrier would be the hardest obstacle to overcome, but luckily I didn’t have to deal with that
As far as the cultural differences go, I actually prefer Colombian culture.
for the most part”
Angela, Age 38, Canada

Perspective #6: Martha’s Experience

I was with this guy and everything was good. What I think about American guys when they come over here. It’s like they have the power. So they feel so good, so great “I am the American guy”  they think. And, actually, I didn’t want to go out with an American guy before, because of that. And I know a lot of Americans here.
They come and they are told they are handsome. They just walk in and are like, “I’m here!”
The girls, they are like “Oh, you’re American?”, they don’t know if the guy speaks Spanish or what, they just jump! I rejected guys like 10 or 20 times because I didn’t like it, especially because of that.
So finally , this one guy did a lot of good things, that were amazing. So I was like, “ok let’s have a date.” We did it, and it was good. It was not so tough to have a relationship with him. He forgot that he was American, and he started to be normal. “You are just a normal guy in another country, so just – be normal. This is supposed to be a relationship,” I said (to him). And, because I rejected him a lot of times and he was like “ok, I get it.” If we don’t have communication problems, its easier to have a relationship with a person from another country.
Her advice to women: Just be patient. And learn from the other person.
Martha, Age 30 Colombia
 Editor’s Perspective: Erin’s Experience

Relationships are hard. Even with people from a culture that we DO understand. They require massive amounts of time, effort and communication. The pay-off of dating a Colombian is beautiful children, a completely different experience and maybe even your soul mate.

Dating a Colombian can feel controlling or restrictive. The cultural norms here do not accept or appreciate women who have guy friends. Women are not allowed to go have a beer or meal with a guy who isn’t their boyfriend/husband…unless they are the mistress or doing business. Even businesses can draw a lot of fear and jealousy from the spouse. This is a very typical situation.

Unfortunately, most relationships which are cross-cultural, will become apathetic or dissolve. Men in Colombia aren’t even considered men unless they have 2-3 girlfriends, within their own social circles. Their jokes are even more sexist than some Americans I have met. Think about this for a minute. That Machismo permeates everything. I have seen women in Colombia sacrifice their dignity and intelligence to find a guy willing to marry them, then they will jealously guard him – even as they look the other way regarding “la moza,” or the mistress. This is insane… I even had this guy from Bogota explain to me how he loves his wife and kids so much, but when he isn’t in the same city – he will take love where he finds it.

But, look at me – and to be fair, I am quite happy with my husband, most of the time. So am I a hypocrite? Absolutely.

Colombians can be very caring, responsible and hard workers. As lovers, they can be passionate and full of creativity. And they are beautiful people.

Know yourself. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Be willing to compromise, and then compromise some more.

Erin, Age 32, USA

Conclusion

For every horror story – I’m sure – there is a story of success where the guy and girl ride off into the sunset. I have seen many men who love and cherish their wives and vice-versa. There are plenty of cross-cultural relationships which endure. And my hat is off to them.

Cross-cultural dating and Relationships in Colombia,  aren’t for the weak of heart.

Truly, it can be a bigger challenge than dating in your own country/culture, especially once the “new” wears off. Even worse, if you hit that culture or communication barrier. If you allow that conflict to grow, it could even ruin your Relationships in Colombia.

Once the new wears off, reality comes into sharp focus.

And, it won’t always feel good. In fact, it can even make us question our life or travels abroad.

Now that you understand a bit more about Relationships in Colombia. Check out my article about Sex in Colombia. But you have to read the whole thing to understand my message – peruse if you dare: Sex in Colombia

 

About the author

English Teacher, Freelancer, Chocolate Entrepreneur and Traveler!!

2 Comments

  1. jorn ludvigsen
    June 5, 2017 at 8:22 am
    Reply

    One thing which we need to touch upon as “expats” or foreigners in any culture. Look at relationships around you and observe if the “foreigner” in place is alienating him- or herself. It is very normal that people in a new or other country try to persuade themselves that life is a walse on roses in the new place. If they persist that everything is soooo much better here or consistently try to convince everybody that life in their home country is soooo much worse they may have a huge problem. Denying your roots does not bring you anywhere close to better adaptation in your new environemt. Be proud of where you come from – do not deny your roots of upbringing – respect that you are who you are and NOT what you are. Embrace the new culture you are in on better and worse experiences. It will not change just because you pouch about it. YES there are huge differences between your life experiences before and your reality now, but learn the new reality before you start complaining about it. Show the way you want to go and accept that it takes enormous amounts of time to make people from this culture actually understand your aims and methods.
    Allow yourself to be frustrated about how things do not work or sometimes how they actually work. But do not let the frustration turn into anger or impatience – NEITHER will help you survive and endure your stay here.

    • openmindedtraveler
      June 5, 2017 at 9:30 am

      Great advice! Thanks!

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