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.
Fruit and soup. There was once a time that fruit was only for breakfast and soup was for lunch or dinner. Colombia has shown me that both are perfectly acceptable at any time of day, and even better if eaten together. I love to eat caldo de costilla (a broth-based soup made from beef ribs with potato and cilantro) for breakfast—it’s a typical dish on any Colombian restaurant menu. As for fruits, between the stands dotting the streets and the amazing quality, you’ll want to eat it all the time! A friend of mine said that she grew up eating fruit at every meal, especially at dinner. And the both together? Practically any other soup you order (mondongo, sancocho, ajiaco) will come with a banana on the side. Just go with it, 48 million Colombians (and one gringa!) can’t be wrong.
I may have adopted some girly colloquialisms. I mentioned this before in my discussion about learning Spanish—you’re bound to take on a few sayings and the intonation of the people you’re learning from. So, I apologize to all of my friends in the U.S. if our conversations are punctuated with ayyy, no! and oosh.
I always have extra empanadas on hand. The relaxed mood regarding time baffled me when we received our first invitations but now is second nature. What’s that have to do with empanadas? Well, let’s say you’ve been invited to a lunch that starts at 1:30, you should eat one of your empanadas before you go. Because even though you arrive a half hour late, chances are you won’t eat until 4. And while we’re on the topic, don’t even think of leaving before 8:00. Similarly, I always have extra empanadas on hand when I invite people over for dinner. We’ll have drinks until nine and sit around talking for so long after we’ve eaten that we’re all hungry again! It was a hard adjustment coming from the U.S., where you show up and eat right away and leave as soon as the coffee is served. But Colombians have this one right—there’s a different type of relaxing that comes from not having a timeframe on everything.
I’ll wear a scarf and gloves anytime I feel like it. When you compare Bogotá to the rest of the country, yes, it’s cold. But do we really need to be wearing puffy coats with a fur rimmed hood when the temp drops to fifty? Who cares! I love gloves and have happily joined my fellow rolos in donning cold weather gear when it’s inappropriately warm.
I drink at least three cups of coffee a day. This all started because of the altitude (which makes you tired) and the fact that you’re hard pressed to find a cup bigger than 7oz. However, due to the addictive nature of caffeine, I don’t think this is a habit I’ll be able to leave behind…
Traffic and Rain are the perfect excuses for everything. Shortly after we arrived in Bogotá I was headed to a dinner hosted by a classmate from the U.S. After moving about eight blocks in thirty-five minutes (and panicking a little more with each moment I was late), I simply paid the driver and walked home. Lesson learned! Now, before even RSVPing yes I consider the time and location of an invite because traffic in this city really is that bad. It’s the cause of 90% of my (very few ok?) cursing slips. If I’m running late, duh, it’s because of traffic. If I don’t feel like going out, well, the rain is the perfect excuse to stay in.
I never show up on time. Ok, well this isn’t 100% true. If I’m going to an event principally attended by Americans or Germans, yes, I’ll show up pretty much on time. If it’s a party hosted by Colombians? I’m not calling a cab until a half hour after I’m supposed to be there.
I’m not sure if it will ever again be possible for me to greet someone without touching them. When you say hello you kiss on the cheek, or both cheeks, or both and then back to the first one—some kind of physical gesture when greeting others is common in most Latin and European countries. This was not how things were done where I come from, and required a lot of deliberate movements on my part because my left-handedness meant I was always going for the same side as the person I was greeting. Moving in for the cheek is now such a knee jerk reaction that I have to remind myself not to drift towards people’s faces when I visit the U.S.
Do you now say y’all? Eat your salad course at the end of your meal? Share some of the cultural quirks you’ve picked in the comments section below!