7 unexpected things about Colombia

Differences between Colombia and the United States

Colombia and the United States are really very similar in so many ways. While the two countries are separated by language, heritage, and history, life in Colombia is in many ways the same as life in the US. This article, however, is about the differences.


7. The Tiny Man on the “Walk” sign is wearing a Panama hat.


Tell me you can see the little hat.


While in the US our little green walking man shows a disconcerting lack of decorum going about bareheaded, in Medellín at least they’ve given him a nice little hat.


6. You don’t have to be a fat cat or robber baron to regularly hail a cab.

Most of my cab rides cost between $2-$4 dollars, and the cost is around 50 cents per kilometer.


5. Botero is everywhere.

The artist Fernando Botero is a native son of Medellín, and his work is on display everywhere. His paintings hang in the museums, his sculptures decorate the parks and line the streets. At the age of 82 he is a living legend for his innovative style and, after a long career, for the gift of several of his sculptures to the city, each of them valued at over 2 million dollars. some of them are pictured above. Even his works of still life display a heroic plumpness.


4. Everything is fried



Traditional Colombian street food is the best: empanadas, pastel de pollos, pescado tortas, chicharron, and arepas. The only thing is it’s all fried. I’ve taken to buying a crown of broccoli every other day just to get some green stuff in my diet.


3. Everything is cake

There are more bakeries per square kilometer in Medellín then any other city in the world. You see, I just made that up to prove a point- there are panaderías (bakeries) everywhere. I’ve taken to getting all my fruit in the form of jelly filling. Oh, and that pudding with a layer of icing-covered cake topped with a jello dipped strawberry. I forget what they call that.


2. The people with the least money have the best views.

Not to make a statement about the plight of the poor in Medellín. I’m sure there is a lot to say on the subject and I’m not the one to ask for in-depth sociological or economic analysis of the city. Still, I haven’t experienced a better view yet then from the massive Spain library park in Santo Domingo Savio, built along with the cable cars to enable the poor living on the mountains surrounding the city to have more educational opportunities as well as access to jobs in the interior. I think that’s why as we stood beside the library around sunset a Colombian friend remarked to me that “poor people have the best views.”


1. Most of my friends here are English or Australian.


This is not so much because of Medellín as it is a symptom of expat life everywhere. While I’ve met a ton of really cool Colombians I am currently rooming with all English speakers and we’ve ended up doing everything together. Most expats are backpacking or otherwise on the move, and staying in your comfortable expat circles will mean many friends soon turn into pen pals. Don’t forget to keep in touch.