Bogotano Politeness

Talking about politeness, perhaps kids should come to Bogotá to learn their manners. They will definitely have a very fruitful journey.

I can say Colombia is one of the most polite countries that I have ever been to, if the judgement is based on their propensity to say hi to strangers.. Wherever you go, strangers will imminently greet you, ‘buenos dias’. You get into a lift and someone inside will more than likely say ‘buenos dias’ or ‘buenas tardes’  to you. Then when you leave the lift, they’ll say ‘que te vaya bien.’ (‘I hope all goes well with you’). Weird, right? If we hardly know each other why would you be interested in my well being?! (Of course that’s just a literal translation. I believe the expression is more like ‘have a good day’ when spoken in an English context..) This doesn’t happen anywhere else. Only in Colombia. Normally in other countries (or at least those where I have been to), you don’t say hi to people in the lift or people in the toilet. You may nod to acknowledge the presence of the other or smile at most. Here you do. And no matter how close your relationships are (or rather, now not close they are to you), they’ll say ‘que te vaya bien.’ when you part. Even the receptionist and the security guard.

The extreme case to illustrate the extent of Colombians’ politeness is on the buseta. The buseta, as I have said before, is the worst kind of transport you can ever imagine. From the way the minibus drivers drive, it’s telling that they most likely don’t have a licence. They have bought it. These raging minibuses roam around the city and freely collaborates with vendors, beggars and buskers (or perhaps they just didn’t know how to say no to these people who think they have the perfect right to get on the minibuses to harass ordinary people). Very often, the first thing the vendors/buskers say when they get on is ‘buenos dias’, waking every dozing commuter up at that instant. This is nothing special, and quite the obvious thing to do to get the passengers’ attention. The funny thing is that the whole bus will, very obediently, and coherently, respond ‘buenos dias’! It’s a very strange sight, a scene that normally occurs at the morning assembly of a school or in a classroom! Bogotános seem to think that they should say hi to violators who force themselves onto you.

And after a busker’s cheesy romantic take on a feel-good song or a rap or a folksie tale, they will get an ovation from the passengers as if they were an A-list performing in a world-class concert hall..

I can see Colombians will surely have a problem in Hong Kong where people would jump in their incredulous faces if ever greeted in the lift..


  1. […] Actually you want people to see you do it! It’s the way to show that you’re proper and polite, that you respect others, that you have the minimum sense of decency.. […]

  2. […] el blog de ‘One chinese in Colombia‘, la autora dice que “hablando de la cortesía, tal vez los niños deben venir a […]

  3. […] Actually you want people to see you do it! It’s the way to show that you’re proper and polite, that you respect others, that you have a minimum sense of decency.. […]

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