3 Tips for Living in Colombia

Colombia is quickly becoming an appealing destination for multinational corporations, expats, and North American tourists. This country offers upscale living among the Andes peaks, the Amazon forest, and along the pristine coastline. Colombia is built for any kind of lifestyle, whether that’s a sophisticated city life, a relaxed beachside life, or backpacker’s life. No matter the style that’s most appealing to you, these tips will help you better adjust to the country during your stay.

Top Places to Live – According to Expats

If you’re relocating and not sure which city to call home, maybe this information can help. The four most raved-about cities are: Medellín, Santa Marta, Bogota, and Cali.

  1. Medellín – This city earned the title, “World’s Most Innovative City” in 2012 by Citi and Wall Street Journal. It offers endless spring weather and a cosmopolitan lifestyle that attracts expats and entrepreneurs alike. This is the city for you if you’re hoping to thrive in IT or draw inspiration from a well-developed art scene.
  2. Santa Marta – Santa Marta has it all – a Caribbean coastline, snow-capped mountains, and even access to the tropical rainforest. These landscapes are protected by the Tayrona National Park, and to top it off, Santa Marta is one of the oldest cities in all of Latin America. It offers choice, developed real estate in an environment full of old world charm.
  3. Bogota – You can lead a metropolitan lifestyle in Colombia’s capital city. It has a population of 13 million and it’s a major business hub for the country. Conveniently enough, it’s also only a five-hour flight from many of the United States’ major cities. The best thing about Bogota is that you can thrive in the fast-paced, developed part of town during the week and then wander into the old district and slow down while meandering along cobblestone streets and exploring museums on the weekends.
  4. Cali – Cali is the only city in Colombia with access to the Pacific coast. In this city you can get a mix of city and beach life. It has 3 million inhabitants and is the second largest city after Bogota. It’s an economic hub with one of Colombia’s fastest growing economies.

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The People

Many expats offer advice to those wondering what to expect when mingling with the people of Colombia. They are said to be some of the friendliest, most welcoming people there are. Along with that friendliness comes an eagerness to converse and ask questions that you may not be used to people asking. If you are more reserved, you may not click too easily with the rest of the population. They want to be friends and they want to get to know you.

Another point that is often made is that the people of Colombia operate on a slower time scale. That is actually true of much of Latin America, and so it’s something you’ll have to get used to if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in any country south of the United States border. The truth is, many operate on what is known as “island time,” or according to “beach living,” even though they may not technically be located on a beach or an island. If someone tells you they’ll meet you at 4, for example, don’t be surprised if he/she shows up after 4:30 instead. One expat described an experience in which she ordered a refrigerator to be delivered to her home at 4pm. She called after the time had come and gone and there was no delivery, and they told her they’d definitely be there by 8pm. Then the refrigerator was delivered the next day.

It’s important to keep in mind that the timeliness that is so valued in the United States is not always the way of life elsewhere. Plan to relax and learn to allow things to happen all in good time if you wish to relocate to Latin America. Colombia is no exception to this rule.

Safety

It’s always a question among those who haven’t traveled to Colombia, or haven’t done so in a very long time. How safe is it? We’ve all heard stories from the 80s that may have caused us to carry a stereotype about the country that may not be so fair today. Many cities, including those named above, have turned a new page since those days and are actually much safer. Since Forbes named Colombia on its list of Coolest Places to Visit, Colombia, in turn, experienced an increase of visitors and increased its safety measures in the big cities. Some of the more rural areas outside of the cities may not be so savory, but stick to the busy areas and apply a bit of street knowledge (the same as you would in New York City or San Francisco) and you’re golden!

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