Welcome to the first in our series of Colombia Portraits. These are a series of interviews we have conducted with expat professionals here in Colombia. Why Colombia? What investment opportunities are there? Should you, dear reader, consider the move?
Our first interview is with founder and manager of Bogotá Business English, one of the best English schools in Colombia’s capital city.
Introduce yourself… What’s your name, where are you from and what do you do here in Colombia?
I’m Eric R. Tabone, originally from Fort Worth, Texas. I am the owner of Bogota Business English, a program that works specifically with business executives in improving their English communication
And how long have you been here?
I’ve been here since March, 2010.
Why Colombia, and why, specifically, Bogota?
I first travelled to Bogota in 2008, and instantly fell in love with it. To me, it is one of the best cities in the world. After a brief stint back in Texas working at a job I hated, I decided to make the move (temporarily). Originally, I was planning on being here for 6 months. One thing led to another, and I now find myself in Colombia running a business. I’m proud to say I’m here for the rest of my life.
What did people back home say when you told them you were moving to Colombia?
For everyone who knew me, they weren’t surprised. I’ve been traveling my entire life, and my parents were quite supportive of the idea. At first, several people thought I was a bit crazy. But, this wasn’t because of going to Colombia. It was more from the fact that I actually choose to follow my dream of living in another country. People dream of doing it everyday, yet very few people actually do it.
What keeps you here? What is it that makes it a place you’ve stayed for so long?
Bogota is a modern city in a developing world. I have everything I can dream of wanting here (perks of a large city), and even more. The nightlife and gastronomy in Bogota are some of the best that I have personally experienced, with the ability to find options for every type of budget. The mountains along the eastern side make for picturesque views, yet you can go only 30 minutes and find yourself in the countryside. I personally love the weather (and the rain). The rainy season is only here a few months of the year, and when it’s not raining, it’s blue skies with 70 degree weather… aka, perfection.
And what would you change? What do you find frustrating?
For Bogota, the traffic gets quite frustrating. Often times, walking 20 blocks (30 minutes more or less) is quicker than a taxi or a bus. Also, one thing that truly bothers me is the lack of focus on maintaining the environment. People often throw trash on the streets and out their windows, and public buses don’t have anything to help defer the carbon monoxide they emit.
On a national level, it’s very frustrating to see the lack of transparency, especially in the political and business process. As a business owner, it has sometimes been difficult to get projects off the ground since I do not know the “right people.”
What piece of advice would you give to a newcomer?
If someone was coming to Colombia for the first time, the best advice I could give is to do things besides the principal tourist attractions. Of course, see them, but really give yourself some time to explore and take in the surroundings. Some of my favorite parts of Colombia are cause of random exploration and stumbling upon something I could have never dreamed of.
What has been your favourite trip inside Colombia?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one trip, because every place I’ve traveled has been a completely different experience. Last Christmas, I spent time on the coast and headed up to Guajiria. I really enjoyed it up there since it was so off the beaten track, and the scenery was to die for. A few months ago I traveled through the coffee region. We stopped at the most popular points, but my favorite memory was passing through small towns and spending a few hours checking them out and drinking some local aguardiente. This upcoming Christmas I plan on spending a week in the Amazon and wresting with Anacondas in Leticia.
Any final comments?
The slogan “The only risk is wanting to stay” turned out to fit perfectly with me. I came here, never planning on having a future, and now, never want to leave. Don’t listen to the media, but rather, come experience Colombia for yourself.
Eric Tabone is the founder and General Director of Bogota Business English, a program that works specifically with business executives in improving their English communication. Originally from Fort Worth Texas, he now calls Bogota his home and looks forward to his life there. Check out BBE at www.BogotaBusinessEnglish.com, or get in contact with Eric via Linkedin.