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Karen: Flavors of Bogota

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Colombia makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Colombia, etc.

I am from the United States, from Philadelphia. I moved to Colombia in 2012, although I’ve lived in South America for about 20 years now.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I started blogging three years ago as an extension of my work as a writer, particularly a food writer. I also realized that there is little detailed information in English about the food scene here in Bogota. Also, as a food writer I talk with chefs, I get to look into the kitchens of the big restaurants in the city, and I attend food events, all of which gives me a different view of the food scene than what most people have access to.  

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Well, I love coffee, and Bogota is a great place to feed that love, since there’s a coffee house on nearly every corner. I talk a bit about coffee houses in this post:  Coffee House Route in Bogota

I recently talked about a restaurant, Mordida Bistro, that’s in the hip and ever-expanding Quinta Camacho, which is the restaurant scene that no one is talking about yet.

Tell us about the ways your new life in Colombia differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I’ve been in South America for a long time, and the difference between Venezuela, where I had been living for years, and Colombia is not that big, so I didn’t suffer from culture shock. In my opinion, real culture shock for a lot of expats starts after they’ve been in a place for two or three years. For the first year or two there are many new things to explore, so every day is fun. But after some time you start to notice the difficulties.

Since I’ve been in Bogota for three years now, I’ve been noticing the bad traffic (it’s legendary), and the rain can get me down at times. But on the other hand, the transportation system will take you anywhere you want to go in the city (and cheaply), and there are no blizzards or steamy hot summers, so I shouldn’t complain.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Colombia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for a move to another country. It’s a matter of keeping an open mind and being flexible in the face of difficulties. I was more prepared when I moved to Colombia than when I made the move to South America, and I have no regrets about my decision or the way I did the move. I would say, though, that if a person has never lived outside of their country before, one of the most important things they should realize is that yes, it will be hard. And yes, it will be worth it.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Colombia?

  • Enjoy the people. Yes, they’re always late, and rarely tell you ‘no’ even when that’s the answer you’ll have to live with. But they have big hearts, and your friends will help you in unbelievable ways.
  • In Colombia, you will get robbed. Perhaps in little ways, by a taxi driver who charged you a few pesos extra, or the water company that charged you double one month, or someone who slips your wallet out of your pocket. Just be prepared, take the necessary precautions — and don’t be surprised.  How not to get robbed in Latin America
  • Remember that Colombia that is still at war, a very long war, and no one knows when it will end. In most cities the war is not felt, but some towns have been hard hit in the past. Take that into account when choosing a place to live or travel to.

How is the expat community in Colombia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

There are plenty of expats here, as well as Colombians with an international point of view. I have never felt lonely. I attend an English-language congregation where I have found plenty of friends, and expats can be found through language groups, English-language newspapers that have a thriving community, or the many expat groups on InterNations.

How would you summarize your expat life in Colombia in a single, catchy sentence?

Living in Bogota is a good reason to never move back to the United States. 

Pablo Garcia Ramirez

"I was so lucky that a friend told me about InterNations before I came to Bogota. I had the chance to contact many expats there from home."

Michelle Guillemont

"I was a little bit afraid before moving to Colombia - a new language, security issues, no friends. InterNations helped me settle in, though. "

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