As I’m getting ready to head back out to Colombia, I’m getting all sorts of amazing, thought-provoking questions about the Colombian culture that makes me hang my head in shame at the education system in the USA.
So here are the top 11 misconceptions people have about Colombia besides the fact it’s spelled Colombia, not Columbia, and it’s in South America, not South Carolina.
1. EVERYONE IS IN THE COCAINE BUSINESS
Not everyone is a coke head, coke trafficker, coke farmer, coke producer, or coke mule. The USA consumes something like 90% of cocaine in the world. Although you can find it in Colombia, most people don’t do it. And no, it is not legal.
2. ALL WOMEN ARE HOT
Although there does seem to be a slightly (ok rather above average) amount of beautiful women in Colombia, not everyone is a super model. It’s like everywhere else in the world, people come in all shapes sizes and looks.
3. COLOMBIAN WOMEN ARE EASY/SLUTTY
Hahahahahaha…I love this one. To me, Colombian women are less likely to sleep with you because they seem to have more pride and self-esteem than girls in the USA. Of course, there are a few girls who are, but really, just because you may be the hot, exotic foreigner while in Colombia, doesn’t mean Colombian girls are stupid whores who can’t peg your sleazeballness from a mile away. Guys who come just to hook up with Colombian girls, usually don’t. A sleazeball is a sleazeball in any country.
4. THE COFFEE IS AMAZING
Actually, no. Like most coffee producing countries, the best coffee is exported. That’s how they make money. We wouldn’t all clamour for Colombian coffee if we got the sucky beans. In Colombia, instant coffee made with agua panella is very common, and when you do have roasted coffee, it is usually not as good as what we get in the states. Not to say you CANT get good coffee in Colombia, quite the opposite, but you will pay for it.
5. EVERYONE IN COLOMBIA IS POOR
That is about as true as the stereotypes “All Americans are rich” and “All American women are whores”. SOME Colombians are poor, some Colombians rich, and many fall in between. Yes, their average monthly wage is what some people in the USA make a day, but their cost of living is WAY less than ours. When people in Colombia ask me how much I make, I reply with what our utilities cost, often to their stunned disbelief. We often pay more just for electric than all their bills combined. In the end, it all works out about the same. It’s the currency conversion where Colombia has a staggering disadvantage.
6. THEY DON’T HAVE ROADS/HOSPITALS/DOCTORS/MOVIE THEATERS/ETC. ETC…
It’s Colombia. Their cities are the same as our cities, just with less English and more motorbikes. In the poorer areas and small towns, you will get smaller doctors, local shops, and more horses than cars, but you aren’t going to find a megamall in the middle of rural Maine either. And as for the health care, it is just as good as ours (or better because they treat patients , not just push drugs), but costs little or nothing. It’s a healthcare system that ACTUALLY WORKS (which is a very foreign concept to those in the USA, but it is possible).
7. COLOMBIANS ARE BASICALLY MEXICAN
Colombians are NOT Mexicans. They are also not Venezuelans, Chileans, Ecuadorians, or Brazilians. Saying that all South Americans are the same, or the same as Mexicans, is like saying all Europeans are basically Turkish. Mexico and Colombia aren’t even part of the same continent. It’s ridiculous. The customs, music, food, and way of life of Colombians are their own. And they are nothing like Mexicans. Which brings me to my next point:
8. THERE ARE LOTS OF TACOS AND SPICY FOOD IN COLOMBIA
Ok, even I thought South American food would be more spicy like Mexican food. I know Brazilian food is totally different, but I was surprised to find out that it’s really only Mexico that uses all the spicy peppers us in the USA have come to know. In Colombia you also won’t find tacos, unless you are at a Mexican place. The more traditional foods in Colombia are things like arepas, empanadas, and sancocho (a unbelievably delicious soup you have to try when in Colombia). There are also regional dishes, but these 3 seem to be everywhere in Colombia.
9. COLOMBIANS ARE PSYCHO OVER FUTBOL (SOCCER), AND WILL MURDER THE TEAM IF IT LOSES.
This one also makes me laugh, because I remember this coming out when I was a kid. After Colombia lost in a World Cup or something, the team got murdered when it returned to Colombia. At least that is what the story morphed into. In reality the team captain DID get murdered, but that is because he was in with some gang dudes, and lost them a lot of money when the team lost. So they killed him. Moral of the story: Stay away from gangs kids.
10. ALL COLOMBIANS ARE EITHER GUERRILLAS, CARTEL OR BOTH.
That is about as ridiculous as the “All Americans wear cowboy hats and own guns”. SOME people in Colombia are part of these groups, but by no means all. And the number that are are becoming less and less as Colombia keeps putting efforts into cleaning up their reputations (which we gave them. Go USA!) and their streets.
11. COLOMBIA IS DANGEROUS.
Yes, and no. Parts are. Parts of New Orleans, Las Vegas, Detroit, and every major city in the world are too. There are parts of Colombia, Colombians don’t even go to, but in reality, most tourists have never heard of these places. Tourists want to go to Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin, and the coffee area. Those places are relatively safe, as long as you don’t do anything stupid (read my post on Tips On Not Getting Mugged in South America). You will want to listen to locals, and keep up with the local news if you decide to explore outside of these areas. Some areas (like in the southeast) are still heavily controlled by guerrillas. But, on a good note, it’s pretty unlikely they will kill you. They’ll just kidnap you and hold you for ransom for an undetermined period of time.
So these are the major misconceptions I’ve heard non-stop since I returned to Colombia. And though some people are just being insensitive and racist, many are innocently ignorant about the Colombian country. Hope this helps clear up some stuff about Colombia.