Just like any place in the world, Colombia has many things about it to love and to not love. Conversely, being a foreigner living abroad, these expressions often accompany limitations (“Will this be the last time I say/do/eat this?”), as well as disparagement (“I can’t wait until I never have to deal with/try to/experience this again”). Usually, each day brings at least one declaration of “This is my favorite [fill in the blank]!” only to be followed later by “What I can’t stand the most is [fill in the blank].” For now, this post is about the positive, with the negative to (possibly) follow in the future.
Five Things to Love About Living in Colombia
1. The Best Fruits and Most Amazing Juices. Imagine a place where lush, colorful tropical fruits, grown in abundance, are harvested daily by local farmers, and made available to you to savor as whole pieces, combined with others in fruit salads, or whirled together with icy water, sipped lovingly through a tall straw. This is the world of fruit and juices in Colombia.
With delectable offerings and curious names like guayabana, maracuya, lulo, nispero, uchuva and zapote, it is often difficult to choose just one. Some people make it a habit of drinking fresh juice every day. On a recent visit to the US, eight ounces of fresh-squeezed juice at a restaurant cost $5.00. Here, the average price is $3000 COP, or $1.00 USD, for about 16 ounces. Though tantalizing tropical fruits may not top your list of reasons to come to Colombia, it certainly may be one deliciously-tempting reason.
2. Public Transportation and Easy Travel Options. Many people live in Colombia without owning a car their entire life, never knowing about car payments, insurance payments, gas and maintenance expenses, potential for an accident or sitting in traffic… yet they are able to travel easily where they want or need to go.
The public transportation system of Colombia (and many other countries in Latin America), has been around for decades, meeting the needs of commuters with inexpensive options, including daily buses of both inner city and distance routes. Add to this the option for inexpensive taxis, collectivos (shared taxis), moto-taxis, moto-carros, and in some cities even a metro cable system, and it’s easy to see why some people never miss driving (or even want to learn).
3. It’s Always Warm (on the Coast). Colombia boasts over 3,208 kilometers (1,993 miles) of coast, from the top of the country in La Guajira to the tip along Chocó near Panamá, lending itself to balmy, sun-filled days and breezy nights in many areas. Of the five regions in Colombia, the Caribbean region boasts an average temperature of 30° C (86° F), although some areas in La Guajira can reach more than 40°C (104° F) at midday.
While some days living in places like Barranquilla can feel like baking in an huge oven under a wet towel of unforgiving humidity, there is also no snow, no black ice roads, and no digging your sidewalk out from under ten feet after a winter blizzard. Instead, there’s days in tank tops and shorts, taking public transportation with the bus windows open or sitting in the shade, sipping fresh fruit juices. Simply put, for those who hate being cold, the coast of Colombia is a great place to be.
4. 18 Holidays a Year (Life Itself is a Celebration). In a wonderful video made by Colombia Unknown ©2015, the two filmmakers from Bogotá mention that the country has eighteen holidays, possibly one explanation why the people are considered the happiest in the world: because there is always a reason to celebrate or take time off. Although TimeandDate.com shows Colombia as having thirty-eight holidays, many of these have only recently been adapted, like Valentine’s day or the June Solstice.
More popular days include Dia de la Madre (Mother’s Day), Dia de la Mujer (Women’s Day) as well as some regional days that are celebrated in their origins, such as the Battle of Boyacá and the Independencia of Cartagena. Whatever the day off brings you, from time off to relax at the beach or simply closing your business to spend time with family, Colombians happily embrace their holidays and make the most of the day.
5. The Most Delicious Coffee in the World. Real Colombia coffee has a flavor that is distinct and aromatic, a delicious treat that must be tasted (and experienced) in order to be truly appreciated. Colombians drink coffee throughout the day, most often served black, in little cups with several spoonfuls of sugar. This drink is called tinto, and once you taste it, you may never think the same about your Starbucks dark roast. You can find coffee in tiendas (corner stores), at business meetings, and even peddled in the street by guys carrying thermoses full of its dark delight.
Nearly all coffee lovers of the world have heard of Juan Valdez, the fictional icon created in 1958 by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, who brought an international interest to the country with his swagger and expertise. While his most popular reign was on television commercials during the 1970’s and 1980’s, Juan Valdez lives on today in cafés throughout Colombia and other countries, including the US (hooray Miami and New York!). Whatever the production, and however it is prepared and promoted, most people agree the flavor of true Colombian coffee is superior to all others.
So now you know: five things to love about living in Colombia. While there are dozens more where these come from, as well as some things to not love, this list will hopefully entice you to discover more about this amazing country. If you’re still searching for facts and ideas, watch this awesome video from 2015 by CNN about the changes happening in Colombia (including more great public transportation).