Burn-out and disillusionment is a real part of life here. Let’s open a can of worms, and talk about How to Have a Happy Life in Colombia.
First of all, this is a country of 52 million people with a popular culture that draws to flash like a moth to a flame. I think Colombia has been quite wealthy – depending on how you define it.
Even though the technology has been simpler, the people have had richer lives due to natural remedies, exotic super fruits, cultural lifestyle habits, more walking, riding bicycles, cheap food, beer/alcohol, and hiking up mountains.
The answer we are going to give you will make sense if you actually live here, but can also apply to people who are wondering what it is like to life here.
Don’t kid yourself about doing research on Facebook groups and commenting in expat forums, that you are ever going to be fully prepared for arrival – you won’t. NOTHING can prepare you for the different cultural norms of Colombia, unless you are Latin.
But, here are a few tips on how to have a happy life in Colombia…
How to Have a Happy Life in Colombia
Each of us have to find happiness in our own way. Part of finding happiness is self-examination and consciousness to really see what it is we want in life. Unless you have a goal, or general idea – it is harder to create a concrete reality.
- Be Patient. Nothing in the US/Canada/UK/Australia et. al., can prepare you for Colombian bureaucracy – except maybe the more socialist/communist countries, maybe you will like it here better. By learning to let your sense of time relax a bit, you will probably have a happy life in Colombia. Carry a book, practice meditation, or take some time to think.
- Learn Self-Defense. This isn’t about violence or fighting in the streets. Actually, a high quality martial arts program will help you learn a confidence that will make you a less desirable target by walking with more alertness, and learning to control your body/emotions. Learning and studying emotional control, or intelligence, has served me well for doing business in Colombia.
- Less is Always More. If super-lux, high tech, and car-driving convenience is your style, but you will be earning in pesos, you may have some struggles here. But, if you are happy going to farms, drinking at little corner shops, and hanging out in pueblos, you will find healthier friend situations and even some great lifestyle opportunities.
- Be friendly. In the region where I live (Paisa culture), people who say “hello, good afternoon, and how are you?” will be received better. THEN, you can ask your question. Don’t be rude to men who are catcalling, if you take it in a positive way, wear a slight smile, and greet them without stopping or making eye contact, then you are just part of the crowd. A little bit of honey will always draw the bees.
- Don’t talk badly of others. In past times people have been shot dead in the more lawless pueblos for speaking badly about another person. Today, people are opening up about their stories, but there is still a general sense of caution which will protect you from future problems if you can avoid telling more than the necessary amount to only the people who need to know – and in a diplomatic way.
- Find foods you like – but it must include Tipico food. This is a culture that connects through gastronomy. Especially if you are in the smaller towns, people are sensitive about rejection. Unless you have an allergy or doctor-specified condition, accept the coffee or tea you are offered, and be open to trying new foods. You have no idea how delicious duck eggs can be!
- Don’t invite too often or wear too much bling. In this country it makes you a target, or signals that you are dangerous. Fossil watches are great quality, but not as high profile as a rolex, but both are luxury items here. Go for elegant quality, but without too much bling. Let other people buy you a coffee, but try to invite them only as often as they invite you. If you go too overboard “because you want to do something but your friend doesn’t have the money” – after a while they become a drag on you.
- Seriously, Relax! Not all, but a lot of people here understand English on some level. Culturally, they don’t like to “meter la pata,” or stick their foot in it, unless they feel extremely confident in their speaking ability. However, you can offend, or even cause problems for yourself by ranting in English thinking that people around you won’t understand. There is always that one person who lived abroad but doesn’t practice his English, who understood everything and is either pissed, or feeling really bad.
- Be 100% invested in your WHY. In the end, you have to have a strong idea of why you want to live here. That reason is your fallback position. If it isn’t a good enough reason, eventually you might throw in the towel and go home. When you invest yourself in a country, you will be better off by studying the history, culture, language, and the people. Here, if you can emulate them even a little, they will connect with you easier.
- You must have a hobby. Learning a new talent, involving yourself in a hobby like dancing, or simply finding time to go for a walk, can give you a fresh perspective. If you simply came here to work hard and go home, you are stuck in the same trap as your home country. Even if your hobby is an entrepreneurship activity, find time for it. Mine is Cabalgatas, or weekend horse rides. Learn more >>>
All self-help guru’s seem to come back to the same basic points of interest = the happiness is more inside your head than in your surroundings. Too many foreign residents have come to Colombia and lived as the same unhappy, frustrated people they were in their home countries.
A Life Abroad Can Help You Find Happiness
On the upside, moving abroad is a great way to break bad habits and create a healthier lifestyle when you are taken so far outside your familiar surroundings. But it still comes down to you making a conscious decision to begin making changes.
If you are the kind of person who feels that deep need to recreate your reality while tweaking it like I was, then finding a happy life in Colombia might be for you. As long as you have an average monthly income of $1,000 USD or more, it is possible.
Working is not as highly recommended. Having to work here will mean you live in the same time-trap as you did back home as you put in the hours, go home, sleep, then rinse and repeat. People work longer hours for less in most situations.
If anything I said in this article made sense, and you want guidance on establishing yourself in Colombia, contact me. My strong point is the Coffee Axis (departments of Risaralda, Quindio, and Caldas) where the cities are smaller, yet closer to nature – I can help. Don’t make the mistakes I made, it doesn’t mean you won’t make new ones, but at least you will be farther along on how to have a happy life in Colombia.
Erin Donaldson – Lifestyle Consulting – Colombia
Email me at email@example.com for more information.
Happy Life in Colombia Step #2: Don’t date the wrong guy!!
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