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Naomi: How to 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'm Naomi from south-east London, UK, and I moved to Bogotá, Colombia, in October 2013 for reasons of the heart (his name’s Javier J). I am now settled in Bogotá and work as an English teacher at the British Council, freelance translator, proof-reader and writer.

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

During the first month or so in Bogotá, I felt disorientated and overwhelmed, to say the least and I really could have done with a 'Bogotá handbook' to help me find my way in this chaotic metropolis! So once I was more or less settled in, I decided to start this blog about life in Bogotá, offering up tips and commentaries on my experience here which I definitely would have found useful in the beginning!

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Based on the questions I’m asked by my blog readers, I think these would be good ones to start off with on the blog:

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?

Moving away from London, my friends, and my family was a big change for me, and Bogotá, apart from being a big city, is different from London in many ways. The language, the food, the music, the sky, the streets, the cost of living were all different; some things for better, some for worse. It took me a long time to adapt to my new life in Bogotá and to start to feel settled. Culture shock, I realized, consists of various stages, and I think I can say I went through all of these, which I discuss in my post on the Stages of Culture Shock.

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 knew it would be a big change and that I would need time to adapt and orientate myself, but it did take me longer than I thought it would to figure everything out, and come to terms with the challenges I faced — travelling every day on public transport, having regular stomach upsets because of the change in diet, navigating the city and remembering which areas to avoid, working out how to deal with banks, realtors, taxi drivers, doctors… It was a huge learning curve which I was mostly unprepared for, but I’m not sure I could have changed anything beforehand to have made myself more prepared. It was the main reason I decided to start my blog, as a way of helping other newcomers!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

All I will say is: Never let a doctor inject a large dose of penicillin into your backside unless you have a life-threatening bacterial infection, and certainly not for tonsillitis. Unless you want a pain in the a** for the next month.

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

  • Be prepared to be very patient — the pace of work (and sense of urgency… or lack thereof) is very different in Colombia.
  • Learn the basics in Spanish; most Colombians do not speak English, so it will help you out a lot.
  • If you plan to work here, bring notarized copies of your degree certificates; it will save you a lot of hassle later.

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

There is a large expat community in Colombia, and particularly in Bogotá where I live. InterNations is a great place to start if you want to meet people, and they regularly organize social events, including nights out and wine-tasting! Gringo Tuesdays at La Villa and the Wednesday Speakeasy at El Candelario are also great weekly events for meeting people — and to practise your newly-acquired Spanish phrases!

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

Character-building! 

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. "

Expat Magazine