What’s in the head of a Colombian?


Here is a quick (I tried to be brief at first but there are just so many nuances..) post about my experience plus my logic to explain the behaviours I have come across in Bogotá, which I hope would help ease any foreigners’ potential frustration when working with Bogotanos.

Have you ever wondered why your emails never got a reply? It seems that when Bogotanos don’t have the answer, they simply prefer not to get in touch. If you have been waiting for a week or two for an email, most likely it’s because they haven’t got any idea what to say! In that case, it’s best just to call them up and understand the situation.

Then you’ll notice another problem. Your phone calls are not getting through!

You may have tried 5 times throughout the day and you just can’t get through! At this point you automatically come to the conclusion that they’re ignoring you.

The key is to know when to call. Because of safety reasons, when a Bogotano is on the go they most likely won’t pick up the phone in the streets. Or they could be in a meeting, as they always are, since meetings here are often scheduled in 2-hour blocks, let alone over-running. Given the various factors that prevent any phone calls from being picked up, it’s very unlikely that you will reach them on the phone in the first instance. Keep trying. Leave them a voicemail or message about when to talk.

Then you may realise that your messages are also being ignored..

Your WhatsApp messages may have got the reassurance of the 2 magic ticks. But still it’s been 2 weeks and your Colombian friend has been as quiet as a mouse, although you can see that they have just come on the app in the last 10 minutes. You keep wondering what you’ve done wrong and why you deserve to be ignored. Do not despair. At this point I usually just tell myself ‘this is Colombia. I shouldn’t try to understand the logic here otherwise I’ll go crazy. There is no logic. Shit happens here. Take a chill pill.’

Then before you knew it’s been 3 months since you last spoke. The worst thing you’ve been fearing happens. You bump into each other in the streets. You think it’s rather awkward to meet. What are you supposed to say? ‘Oh, I emailed you by the way.’? ‘Did you ever get my voicemail?’ Or is it ‘Oh, it’s been a while!’? You look away, pretending you didn’t see them.  But they continue to walk towards you with the biggest smile on their face and excitedly give you a big fat hug, which suggests they’re very happy to see you, and they give you the usual greetings e.g. ‘how are you?’ ‘how’s everything?’. They act as if they had never received a single email from you and nothing had ever happened, which makes you wonder if there had been a technological glitch. Otherwise you find yourself secretly wishing that you’d also love to have the ‘Amnesia Colombiano’ condition, which can make life simpler for you.

#ThisIsColombia

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5 comments

  1. hahahah i echo too much from the post

  2. […] this here. Critics of my blog have complaint that I only give Colombia a bad rap, that I only complain, that I should just go home (jaja!). Rather, I am more about telling the truth and saying what I […]

  3. […] make it simple and not talk about work ethics, time spent around the water cooler or time lost in calling, texting, and emailing for answers.. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn about what […]

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