Life abroad is a unique investigation of how the rest of the world gets by day to day. Sometimes we find out that life is different in other countries and sometimes better. Being open minded becomes much more important in these situations. And, not all of us react as gracefully as we wish we had. So, we live and we learn. Here is my top 10 list of the most annoying things about life in Colombia.
Top 10 Most Annoying Things About Life in Colombia
10. Trying to Find an Apartment One word: Fiador. In Colombia, they have a plague on humanity which makes it almost impossible to rent houses and apartments. If you are going to live here, buy a house, or go to Medellin, because nobody is going to be your Fiador. We have dealt with this multiple times and lucked out enough to find an apartment in the area we want to live in without a Fiador.
A Fiador, is someone who signs for you, who owns property. If you don’t pay, they will pay, or lose assets. It is the dumbest shit. No one in their right mind will sign it. Everyone has been burned. And, you probably wouldn’t sign for someone else. There are houses sitting empty because of a requirement of 2-3 Fiadors. It sucks.
9. Rude, Annoying and Crazy, Taxi Drivers They probably exist in all big cities but here in Colombia they have fine tuned the art of getting you to your destination while avoiding (barely), 5 or more accidents or casualties along the way. If you are on your bike be wary! I often find that I have sudden onset of Turrets Syndrome when I am crossing a street being traversed by one of these yellow car cowboys. On the other hand, some of the nicest people I have met are taxi drivers. They come in all types of personalities.
8. Stuff Which makes Me Itch Not necessarily something unique to Colombia, it is something that can happen to you at any time during travel. It’s a type of fungus or infection that comes from public bathrooms or dirty toilet seats. This is a bit of an issue, especially when traveling 12+ hours without being able to shower properly. It will show up as red bumps on the inside of your leg and itch like the dickens. The cure: put honey on it at night, try not to scratch it (too much) and use toilet paper on ALL toilets outside your own home! But, do watch out for plants in the forest….many jungle/tropical forest plants are not friendly.
7. Trying to Find Favorite Foods: Nothing is more frustrating than getting a craving for something like grapefruits, or blueberries. I could write poems about how much I miss eating some Texas Ruby Red grapefruit. Blueberries are available, but super expensive. Nuts too.
6. Paying Bribes This one set me back 70,000 Pesos ($35 USD) one time, but it was necessary, the cop who stopped us was probably low on sugar or beer money. The alternative would have been something out of a B-Rated movie which would have found us staying overnight in some small crappy pueblo. Don’t argue, just pay. They know who the gringos are, and they will exact their tax from you!
5. Beggars/Scammers This is a problem in many parts of the world today. And, it is unfortunate that poverty at these levels still exists. Remember, as people we all make choices in life, and sometimes we are the victims of unfortunate circumstances. In Colombia, beggars can be separated into 3 categories: The Unmotivated, The Mentally Ill, The Indigenous.
- The unmotivated are the most dangerous because they are people who choose a certain way of life. Never allow people within arms length of you on the street. Someone could hit you with scopolamine, and for the next 12 hours you are theirs. It has happened, even in Pereira. Many of these types of beggars are actually scammers and probably supporting a dangerous drug habit like heroin or huffing glue. They may or may not be connected with cartels or organized crime.
- The Mentally Ill are often found homeless and on streets due to lack of care, lack of family, lack of education and facilities. These people are the saddest and also some of the most-loved too. Many restaurants here in Pereira offer after-hours meals or leftovers to the homeless, which does help. I always give these people food, if possible.
- The Indigenous are a complicated group. Not all indigenous are beggars, but many have learned it and lost motivation to try harder. You will see mothers in flip flops with 2+ children playing around her. In Pereira, there are housing facilities for the indigenous communities. Many of them come out of the jungle due to civil war displacement. Compared to their lives out in the wilds, living under a bridge is luxury, and many choose to live that way. Watch out for the ones you encounter who invite you to be a “god parent.” Its an indigenous scam to call you and ask for money. But, if you can afford it, you might be invited to their community – which can result in some interesting cultural exchange. I have never done it, but it does sound interesting.
4. Power Outages There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a really good movie, at the cinema, and losing power. Especially if you are at the most exciting part, and the lights suddenly go out. True story! We have also suffered a month of Sundays, without power due to some maintenance. My building unfortunately does not have a generator so out come the candles.
3. Classism In a nutshell it’s a sense of entitlement, or even the need to look down on someone else. This is especially prevalent in South American countries like Brazil and Colombia, where there exists large wealth disparities. Classism is a lot like passive discrimination. People like this treat anyone with less social status or money, as being “beneath them” and treats them that way. Not all of the upper class suffer this malady, but it is more common among social climbers and new money. Truthfully, not everyone is like this. But, I had some difficult experiences while teaching English for a private school. It was very hurtful and frustrating.
2. Colombian Food A well known dish of the coffee axis region, the Bandeja Paisa will give you an artery clogging mountain of greasy fried goodness. Ground beef, chicharron, sausage, avocado, arepa, beans, fried banana and rice. Do not ask for steamed vegetables, or expect a “real” salad, they will laugh. The Bandeja Paisa is not for the faint of heart. Good for sharing. After a few years of this, you will feel bored with their bland and subtle flavors, or you won’t.
1. Culture Shock The clash of one lifestyle or mode of beliefs which comes head to head with another. Side effects include: feeling of insecurity or homesickness, arguments/disagreements/fights resulting from the intermix of culture habits. You might feel strange, upset, anxious and worried. This is totally normal for expats or travelers. The symptoms range from mild disappointment, to crying on the phone to mom. For me culture shock hit in the form of a room-mate who always said “I know you Americans….and then “x,” before giving me her opinion and telling me a rule. The woman was crazy, but it made me a lot tougher, and taught me a lot about culture shock.
There it is. Things that annoyed me in Colombia. Remember, this only a list of interesting facts so take it all with a grain of salt. The strange things which happen to us on our journey through life inspire, annoy, teach, and remind us to always try to stay open minded. Feel free to comment below about experiences you have had. Because sometimes the best therapy, is to just get it all out there, forgive, then move on. Go ahead!