I hate stereotypes and stigmas, but we all have them and they all exist. One of the things that I’m so excited to do during this trip is explore cultures and people in order to understand how they differ from cultures that I’ve experienced. While much of the following has been discussed with locals, other info I’ve simply noticed along the way.
(The following two categories Chelsea and I discussed with a 25 year old from Cali, the friend of the owner of the hostel we stayed at.)
Family life: Colombians typically live with their parents until their mid-20s. Not unusual for grandparents to live in the house as well. Men generally hold high in the house but women are gradually starting to make their mark in contributing to family funds. And more on this via observation, family is huge. We happened to be on the Caribbean coast during a holiday weekend, meaning it was vacay time. I sat on the beach for hours just watching the kids interact with parents, grandparents and what I’m assuming were cousins, aunts and uncles. It was warming to know that it’s such a big part of their culture, and comes across in how they interact with tourists.
Dating Life: It depends on the type of girl. If they’re a “mudjera” (no literal translation, but an ‘easy’ girl) take to bar for drinks for the first date. Other than that, he said that he would take a girl to a cheap restaurant that seems fancy (because apparently there are a lot of those readily available). It’s rare to date outside social class lines. In coastal areas, it’s common for men (and women) to cheat and have affairs–just a part of the culture. Divorce in Colombia is similar to the States: many getting married so young and soon finding it’s not the best match.
Food: This one’s a bit touchy. From observation, it seems like Colombian food is regional. Think the Philly cheesesteak, Chicago deep dish or New York pizza. While arepas, rice and plantains are certainly staples in the South American diet, it was difficult to find truly authentic food. (Perhaps because we were generally in the touristy areas?) On the coast we ate a lot of seafood for obvious reasons. In Salento, I had trucha (trout) con ajillo (garlic sauce) and it was phenomenal. In Medellin and Guatape, I had mondongo: a potato and chicken stew served with rice, avocado, banana and a salad. Ask a Colombian? They start to list off a few dishes, but the amount of pizza, hamburger, Italian and Westernized-restaurants certainly override most. And finding a decent salad or veggies is rough. Fried food for days.
Religion: This is certainly a big part of most of Latin America, but it’s interesting to see such an importance on Catholicism coming from the States and my generation. Churches are a plenty here. Most interestingly, there have been a few where I’ve seen individuals hop in and out, as if checking it off of their daily to-do list. As with Thailand’s spirit houses, statues of saints line roads, tunnels, streets and are all over.
Country Pride: Colombians are proud and happy to be from this incredible country. And rightly so. The turbulence from the 80s and 90s has turned 360 degrees. Some government efforts, but mostly a country-wide investment has turned this country from the most dangerous to the most amicable. Not only does the Colombia soccer team receive support, but many Colombians have asked how I’ve liked the country and the people. They want tourists to understand that this isn’t the country the media portrays and want to share the culture with others. Viva Colombia!
Remember, take this with a grain of salt as I’ve only experienced 11 days of Colombian culture. But just know that the people are the nicest you will come across–and every traveler I’ve spoken to whole-heartedly agree.