Colombians’ time perception translated – for the benefit of newly arrived foreigners who are still acclimatising to the culture here.
I’ve often been deceived (perhaps unintentionally, in their defence?) when meeting the locals, when the person I’m supposed to meet says ‘ya voy en camino’ (I’m already on my way). The expression actually means something really different in Colombia.
Once, a friend and I agreed to meet. I texted him at 5.40pm that I had finished work. He replied, ‘ya salgo.’ (I’m already leaving the office) I panicked because he’s just one block away. Immediately I dropped what I was doing to meet him.
I rushed out my flat, got outside, and waited around for 5 minutes.
No one turned up.
I texted, ‘When are you?’
‘Ya voy en camino.’
Oh.. I see!! So what about 15 minutes ago when you were ‘leaving the office’? What was that?
Then, it wasn’t another 10 minutes until he turned up.
This goes to show that the said actions are to be executed 30 minutes later.
So when you hear ‘voy en camino’, expect to wait for 10-20 minutes.
A translation of Colombian time frame:
On my way 1 = having shower / getting ready
On my way 2 = putting on the shoes
On my way 3 = leaving the house
On my way 4 = calling a taxi
And when it starts to pour it could be that they never turned up in the end..
‘Ya’ (already) is also promiscuously used in Colombia.
If you ask when something will be ready, you’ll get ‘ya’ for the answer but in most cases what you need isn’t actually ready until at least 10 minutes later.
You may also get ‘5 minutitos‘ (5 small minutes). If you have already seen the pattern, you’ll know that it really means 15-30 minutes. No joke.
The rule of thumb is doubling the estimated time that was given to you – that will usually give you a more accurate time frame. Of course, as with everything in life, there are always exceptions. Indeed, there are lots of Colombians who will respect your time perfectly, but they remain the minority and therefore should be greatly glorified.
In general, time seems to have different definitions here, where
10 minutes = 0 minute/in no time
15 minutes late = on time
30 minutes late = normal
The ‘consolation’ I get for these peculiar situations are, ‘come on, it’s not as bad as Brazil’, ‘in all fairness, this city isn’t conducive to being on time’. Well I’m sure that compared to many other countries we’re rather civilised here.