Little ways I’ll always be Bogotana

becoming bogotano

You know how they say that pets resemble their owners or couples who’ve been married for years start to look alike? Well, the same can be said when you live in a foreign country—it’s inevitable that you’ll pick up a few new mannerisms and cultural quirks from your newly adopted home. It’s been no different for me in Bogotá!

Keep reading for the little ways I’ll be taking Bogotá with me when we leave.

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Cultural lessons…from the gym

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If you’ve traveled at all—even from one part of the U.S. to another—you probably have a funny story about a cultural difference or misunderstanding.  Moving abroad is no different, though when facing a new language and reconstructing your life from scratch, it’s easy to brush aside the idea that you’ll soon be navigating through a mire of cultural differences as well.  Sure, there are books and blog posts about avoiding big blunders, but it’s impossible to prepare for the little day-to-day differences that will catch you off guard.

A few weeks ago I was in a spin class sprinting to an EDM version of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On when I found myself surprised by one of these strange—but common—moments. As we started a 90-second sprint, the instructor dismounted and began weaving through the bikes to check our RPMs and shout out general encouragement to the class. He stopped at my bike—where I was furiously pedaling—and asked my name. He then took my hand and said, “Danielita (little Danielle), my heart, you must return to my class, you work so hard!” Hmm, that was different. The thing that stopped me from running for the hills is that he continued through the ranks of spinners, talking to the other ladies in the same manner. Later that day I was thinking of all the funny little differences with which I’ve been confronted at the gym, and how they trickle over into other parts of everyday life.

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Adventures in eating, the Colombia edition

A few weeks ago we were ordering appetizers with some friends at Bruto, a lovely tapas restaurant, when they said they were a bit surprised at our choices—we voted for the morcilla and octopus, which a couple of years ago I would have completely brushed over in search of sliders.  It got me thinking how I’ve really changed at the dinner table since we’ve moved here: I would never have considered myself a picky eater in the past, but then I remember how often I’d refuse to try new things because I always wanted to go for the option I already knew I liked.

Eating out in Bogotá—or any country where you’re not a native speaker—is a bit like culinary Russian roulette.  I quickly got used to thinking I ordered one thing but having something completely different appear in front of me and I can’t count the number of  times I’ve eaten something with unknown ingredients because I didn’t understand what I was ordering (see my blurb below about mondongo…).  Sometimes I’ve eaten things I wasn’t so sure of because I didn’t want to offend a host.  

Learning to just enjoy the moment and whatever comes is a lesson I’ve learned again and again since leaving my native country, but doing it in a food-y way has probably been the most fun. Keep scrolling to see my most pleasant surprises.

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Expat advice: A few tips on that first visit ‘home’

expat visit home

When I wrote about culture shock and how to settle into your new home, I mentioned not going back too quickly after your move. After the shock of the initial visit, I opted out of joining Cody when he went back to San Diego for business until I really felt settled.  We are hoping to do this whole expat thing for a couple more years, so it was important to me that I took my time and didn’t rush through this huge life change.

When it came to how I was feeling, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t look back on this experience and realize that I spent most of my time just ‘getting through’ to the next visit.

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Colombia’s Páramos

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This weekend some friends invited us to go hiking with them. We didn’t know what to expect, only that we’d be seeing a special type of landscape that exists only in Latin America (and principally Colombia) called the páramo. We had a guide with us since hiking is just now becoming popular in Colombia and many of the trails are accessed through farms or private property and the ‘trails’ aren’t exactly maintained.

Hiking is just now becoming popular in Colombia and many of the trails are accessed through farms or private property, so we had a guide leading us that day. He explained that páramo ecosystems exist in elevations above 3,000 meters and within the latitudes of 11°N and 8°S. This narrow strip around the equator provides a special climate that allows vegetation to thrive because outside of these latitudes there is little to no vegetation, only bare rock or snow.

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Ciclovía: Holiday Edition

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As I mentioned in a previous post, we were really excited to take part in a special night time ciclovía. Each Sunday and national holiday, from 8am-2pm, the city of Bogotá close 121 km of roads to vehicular traffic so that pedestrians, cyclists, and rollerbladers can get out and enjoy the city.  Not only that but the entrepreneurial spirit of the city is in full swing as folks come out to sell fresh juice and snacks.

This past Thursday there was a special ciclovía nocturna, lasting from 6:00 pm to midnight, to fully enjoy Bogotá’s Christmas lights and decorations.

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Expat advice: Ship now or shop later?

Could you imagine spending $55 for a set of sheets that you can see through and feel like they are made of fine grade sandpaper?  That was almost us!

Being a crazy planner, one of the first things I did when I found out we had just a few months to prep for our move was to research things that we wouldn’t be able to get in Colombia or that would be heartbreakingly expensive. I would recommend that anyone facing a long-term move do the same and soon. Because as your move date approaches, the last thing you’ll want (or have time for!) will be comparing prices, visiting multiple stores or making good decisions. In fact, as the days ticked down I found myself saying more and more, “oh, I’ll just buy it when we get there.”

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