Here are some first impressions of Colombia:
– You hail a bus, but not a taxi. Most of the bus system in Bogota does not have a schedule or stops. You just go down to the major calle or carretera and hail a bus as it is going by. To get off, you just pull the chain to signal you want to stop. I’ve been told, this is why you hold on tight when you’re on the bus, and you never know when the bus will be stopping. You don’t hail taxis because many are fake and will rob you or worse. Instead, you call for a taxi and they text you a secret code number which you you’re your driver when you get inside. For this reason, I purchased a phone for the short time I’m here, feels pretty necessary. And it was only $49,444 COPA ($28)
– Coffee is beyond a pastime, it is a necessity and generally enjoyed at multiple points throughout the day. Traditionally, there used to be men that carried canisters full of coffee through the streets, on their backs like a backpack, and selling coffee this way, but it is far less common than it used to be.
– Bogotá tiene todas las estaciones en un día. Bogota has all four seasons in throughout a single day. It’s always warm and sunny at noon – that’s my favorite.
– I learned a new expression that I love: “Esa situacion es un chicharon.” – This situation is a mess! Chicharon is actually a piece of pork meat, which is often sold by street vendors. It is fried and very greasy, so after eating it, you’re a mess from the juices. For this reason, Colombians use the term to describe situations that are messy.
– The safest place to get money out of an ATM is inside a shopping mall, which have plenty of ATMs all over and many security guards. Most shops have a security guard out front as well, but I have been surprised that none of them seem to have weapons of any kind. Not sure exactly who they are trying to keep out.
– General custom when you meet someone is to hug them and put your cheeks together with a whiling kissing the air. Like air guitar, it’s an air cheek kiss. And even when you meet for the first time, people don’t say “hello” but rather “Que tal, como estas?” Tu (the informal you) is very common when you first meet people, which threw me off a little, I’m used to using the formal version until invited to use the informal.
– I have never been to a friendlier place, especially when the locals are dealing with a bumbling American foreigner like myself. I’m constantly amazed at how nice and patient people are with me… of course, a smile goes a long way!