Katrin: Cartagena Gringa
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Colombia, etc.
I’m Katrin, and I’m from Toronto, Canada. I’ve lived there all my life, until in 2011 I decided to take a 3-month trip to Colombia to learn Spanish. I loved it so much that after my 3-months was up I went back to Toronto, sold all of my stuff, and moved to Cartagena, Colombia.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about my experiences about a year after I moved to Cartagena, Colombia. At first it was therapeutic for me to write down everything I was experiencing and seeing for the first time. When I started to publish it online, people began to contact me and ask questions. It felt great to connect with other like-minded people so I continued.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my favorites is about the Colourful slang of Cartagena. It was fun to research and write about, and it was very local to Cartagena.
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?
Yes, it was difficult for me to adjust, and I continue to learn new things everyday. It is always eye opening to see all of the comfort that many people take for granted living in North America. And it’s nice to see all of the great connections that I sometimes lacked living back home. I think the key is to always be aware that you haven’t seen it all, there’s always something new to learn.
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 was only nineteen and it was my first time travelling alone. I don’t think I could’ve done anything more to prepare myself for what was to come. I had enrolled myself in a Spanish school and was staying with a host family, so having that support helped me a lot. Also just having common sense and being aware of surroundings.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I was lying in bed with my boyfriend, talking seriously about future decisions. All of a sudden, there’s an eerie silence as he stops talking in mid-sentence. The next thing I remember is him screaming AAAAAAAAHHHH, rolling over me and throwing himself across the room while knocking me off the bed. Apparently, a rat had fallen off the ceiling beam and right onto his chest. Needless to say he couldn’t live it down for weeks after that he hadn’t tried to protect me from the rat!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Colombia?
- Patience goes a long way. Don’t expect everything to work out like it does back home.
- There is bad and there is good everywhere you go. Just because you may encounter some bad experiences eventually, don’t let it paint your outlook on everything.
- Have an open heart and an open mind.
How is the expat community in Colombia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There are many expats in Cartagena because it is a touristic city. A lot of them are there for a short time and may not want to do things you want to do, but those that are there for a longer stay are great companions.
How would you summarize your expat life in Colombia in a single, catchy sentence?
Cartagena Gringa living in el barrio!