This is a guest post from our friend Aaron Richards, who is an English teacher in Bogotá. The opinions shared are not our own, but shared in order to spark open debate.
I love Colombia. I love the culture, I love the music, I love the people and I love to travel Colombia.
Doesn’t mean things are perfect, though.
There are grievances wherever you go, especially if you’re a moany Brit. What are the top among these that I’ve found when talking to Colombians and foreigners here? (I should note that these things are from living in Bogotá, although from what I’ve heard many are to be found all around the country).
People not getting out of the way.
I want to get off the bus/transmilenio/into a building. While Colombians may be some of the friendliest in the world, many people find it annoying to have their exit blocked by a group of people that have located themselved in the most inconvenient place possible. That is to say, I want to get off the bus, just move out the way.
Drivers skipping lights.
Colombia is far from the worst country for driving in the world, but seeeeriously, how frustrating is it to consistently have your route blocked by a bus that has thought it smart to skip the red light, only to get stuck in the cross-section so the traffic the other way can’t move. Things would improve so much on the roads if people just stopped doing this.
Hearing the food is the best in the world.
I hear ya, Colombian food is good. It’s hearty, homely, it’s often well cooked and by golly is it filling. It isn’t, however, world class. It doesn’t compare with Italian, French or Japanese. It’s getting better though, so keep your eyes on the gastronomy scene here.
Gap between rich and poor.
Not just economically, but psychologically, too. Obviously there are countless exceptions, but you just get the feeling that there is no real connection between the two, and people feel they exist in different worlds. Things are improving, and the future does look brighter.
Costs compared to standards.
Colombia isn’t expensive, but many times you’re shocked by how much you’re paying for subpar service/food. Sometimes you feel you’re paying to be seen to have enough to pay, rather than the service itself. Not to mention that, for example, hotels have no system for grading themselves and may call themselves 5 Star when a 2 Star would be more accurate. You’ll still pay the full whack, though.
Inability to queue.
There are some queues here, like the ones at the banks. Sometimes, however, I get so frustrated by people pushing in front of me I just want to WRITE A COMPLAINT! If I’m being served at the counter of a tienda and someone comes in and asks for a Coca Cola and an empanada, nevermind the fact that they should just wait politely until I’ve finished, the person serving me should not just pause my order, serve them and then come back to me! Tell them I was first and you’ll be with them as soon as you’re finished! Gah!
Lack of planning.
There is always traffic in Bogotá, so anyone that says ‘sorry I’m late, the traffic…’ is basically saying ‘sorry I’m late, I didn’t manage my time very well’. Admittedly, there are times when the traffic is more extreme than usual but, generally, you can account for it. Same goes for making dates a week from now. Often I’ve found that a meeting set up for one day gets moved about 10 times before it takes place, because people have made other plans and double booked themselves…
Lack of commitment.
…Which leads me on to lack of commitment. Not everyone is guilty of this, but far too many times I’ve heard people guarantee they’ll be somewhere, and then just not show up. Rain is not an excuse. If you had another commitment, you should have phoned. I’ve even heard of people just get up and leave their jobs with not a word said, and then when the boss phones to ask what’s happened, the response is merely ‘oh, well my partner got a job, so I don’t need one now’. Frustrating.
Still, this is a country that is growing, developing and improving at an incredible rate. No doubt in a few years if someone sits down to write a similar list, they’ll struggle eeeeven more than I did.