10 Things to Hate About Bogotá

(Originally published on Medium.com)

I recently saw an article on Bogotá in the Financial Times about what an awesome place it is. This article, I submit, was written while looking through a thick bit of pink glass.

The FT piece is a typical example of what you’ll find on travel blogs and other “20 Awesome Things to do in Kazakhstan”-type stories. However, as J.R.R. Tolkien said in “The Hobbit”:

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.

With that in mind, and given that my year in Bogota is almost up, here’s my list of 10 things that drive me crazy about living in Bogotá. I know this will upset many Bogotanos (and delight their rivals in Medellín), but these are my gripes. In the interest of fairness, 10 great things about living in Bogotá will follow later. So, in no particular order:

Traffic: If you ask your average rolo, this is the No. 1 thing that drives everyone crazy in Bogotá. It’s a big, sprawling city of almost 8 million people and it has a truly soul-crushing traffic “flow.” You’re lucky if you spend only an hour or two each day just to go across town. Various schemes to improve it, such as different days for even- and odd-numbered license plates, just means some Bogotanos buy two cars — one for each day. The public transportation system is a joke. Transmillenio, the city bus system, is a horror show at rush hours, with packed buses, long waits and a surfeit of pickpockets and ass-grabbers. One reason Bogotanos work such long hours is that staying in the office for 12+ hours a day is preferable to battling traffic. They’re waiting for rush hour to end.

Crime: Anyone who says, “Oh, but you have crime in every city” in response to someone’s talk of robberies, muggings, etc., in Bogotá doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Bogotá is a cesspool of crime, from muggings to identity fraud to plain, old rip-off artists. And let’s not get started about government corruption, which is rampant, thanks to its status as the capital city. I’ve been mugged at gunpoint and my bank account cleaned out by hackers. Friends of mine have been mugged multiple times. And the Bogotá police are laughably inept. Parts of the city are no-go areas to them because they’re afraid and usually you see them fiddling with their mobile phones on street corners before they’ll get involved in preventing crime. They also seemingly unable to enforce exisiting traffic laws. If you need to make a police report, expect to get three different explanations of what you need to do before you figure out the right answer.

A climate of fear: And speaking of crime, it has led to an overall climate of fear in Bogotá. This is a city where no one trusts one another or tries to help one another very much. The general attitude towards the criminals is that there’s little to be done about them, so the best course of action is just to avoid trouble. And the best way to do that is keep your head down and scurry home after dark. It’s also embodied in a favorite saying in Bogotá: no dar papaya, or “Don’t give the papaya,” which means don’t make yourself a target. But it’s really a way for Bogotanos to say that if you got robbed, it’s your own damn fault for walking in the street, being gringo, flashing cash, whatever. It’s essentially a surrender to the criminal elements of Bogota, and it’s because people are afraid to try to change things.

A bus sends up a spout of smoke in downtown Bogotá. (Photo courtesy of Mike's Bogotá Blog)

A bus sends up a spout of smoke in downtown Bogotá. (Photo courtesy of Mike’s Bogotá Blog)

Pollution: Speaking of climate, Bogotá’s is horribly polluted. I’m not talking Beijing levels of smog in the air, but the city’s streets are choked with cheap and dirty mini-buses that belch black smoke into the street-level air. Mike’s Bogota Blog has done a great job calling attention to the problem, and no one in Bogotá would say the air is good. In fact, it’s in the top 40 most polluted cities in the world, given its size and ungoverned growth. Pollutants include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead and dust. And a full 70 percent of that comes from vehicles (see traffic, above.) There are emission regulations for vehicles, but they’re routinely ignored. I’ve had a hacking cough for months from the polluted air, and the use of surgical masks in the street is common. For years there’s been talk of building a metro or removing the cheap Asian colectivos from the street in favor of newer, cleaner vehicles. But the transportation mafias have a stranglehold over the city government and no one has been able to persuade Bogotanos to give up the swerving and overcrowded busetas for the new ones.

Food: Guide books will often talk about the great food options in Bogotá: you can get great Italian, Peruvian, Brazilian, French, etc. Notice a pattern there? None of those options are Colombian. Colombian “cuisine”, if you can call it that, consists of unseasoned meat that is fried, or grilled, to within an inch of charcoal, usually. Arepas, those starch-laden, inch-thick answer to the tortilla, are like eating cardboard. The idea of spices is a completely alien one. I once went to a major supermarket and asked for black pepper. They didn’t sell it. Most of the food consists of potatoes, rice, arepas and a paper-thin churrascoof chicken breast or beef (which is usually horribly fatty and gristly.) In truth, there are a few tasty dishes, which I will laud in my next post, but overall, it’s a bland, tough slog through a traditional Colombian meal. No wonder they like juices with every meal: they’re the only things on the table with some flavor.

Playing Chicken on the Sidewalk: This is a weird thing I’ve noticed:Bogotanos have no idea how to walk on a crowded sidewalk. Friends will usually advance down a sidewalk like a phalanx, taking up the entire space, giving no ground and giving off an air of obliviousness about anyone else around them. If someone approaches them, they either have to force their way through the offensive line, give way and press themselves against a building or step out into the street. If you are on a particularly narrow sidewalk, one of you will have to give way at the last minute, and it’s not always clear who’s going to do that. I can’t count the number of times I’ve almost had my toes run over by delivery guys pushing trolleys or been body-checked by businessmen who damn sure aren’t going to make any space for some grubby gringo. Once, while walking with a friend, some guy walked right into me and poked me in the eye with the brim of his cap because I was talking and not looking straight ahead of me. He was alone, staring straight ahead and refused to make allowances for anyone else. This is pretty much the mindset of Bogotanos in every situation, now that I think of it.

Few No Friends: Traveling can be really lonely, and Bogotá, paradoxically, doesn’t help. Colombians, in general, are really friendly and warm, but making real friends in Bogotá is almost impossible. For starters, despite their amiable image, they can be flakey as hell. Dinner parties will be cancelled 10 minutes before you arrive. Rendezvous will be moved across town after you’ve already arrived in the initially agreed-upon place. Calls, emails and text messages will go unreturned. You can meet someone at a party, exchange information, make concrete plans for coffee the next weekend and then never hear from them again. Many expats — and even a number of Colombians not from Bogotá — have complained to me about this. I have a number of theories about this. 1) Family is paramount is Latin culture, and especially so in Colombia. Friends are always secondary to family, and most people are taught from a young age that the only people you can really rely on are family. Most Bogotanos spend their weekends hanging out with their relatives rather than going out with friends. 2) Colombia is a mountain culture, and mountain people tend to be really suspicious of new people. I’ve seen it with the Kurds in Iraq and Pashtuns in Pakistan. If you’re in, you’re like family and they’ll literally take a bullet for you. But if you’re not accepted, good luck. And it takes a lot of time and trust-building to be accepted. 3) Bogotanos work like donkeys. This city keeps farmers’ hours, with lots of time at work. Late hours, high crime and bad traffic all conspire to keep people from going out with friends very much.

ADDENDUM: This section seems to have really struck a nerve among Colombians I know and consider friends. I should make clear that I think making friends in Bogotá isn’t impossible, but I found it very, very difficult. And the 1-2 friends I did make are great. But most of the people I consider friends are either from other parts of Colombia or expats. I’m sure others have had better experiences than I did, but I found it much easier to make friends in many other parts of the world such as Thailand, Pakistan and even Iraq.

Few Work Opportunities: Are you a foreigner? Do you like teaching English? How about starting a business teaching English? Unless you’re being assigned here as part of the Colombian division of your multinational, teaching English is about it as far as work opportunities go. And most teaching gigs are not in a classroom where students come to you. Instead, you’ll be traveling around Bogotá all day (see traffic, above), going from office to office and getting paid almost nothing. It is possible to get a gig teaching at a university, but that’s a coveted position, requiring serious contacts and competition is fierce. Other work opportunities are working as a movie or TV extra—I’ve played a cop twice—a bartender or some kind of sketchy entrepreneur in Medellín. For all the talk of the Colombian economy being the tiger (jaguar?) of South America, there just isn’t a lot of work in Bogotá for extranjeros, especially if you don’t speak Spanish well. Fluent Spanish seems to be a requirement for anything more challenging/rewarding. Oh, I suppose if you’re a backpacker just marking time and earning some scratch to support your weed habit, it’s great. But if you’re at all ambitious and want to move ahead in life, Bogotá is a black hole, work-wise.

Low Pay: Adding insult to injury, the work opportunities are low-paying. While the English institution I work for pays well in comparison to other such places, it’s still barely enough to cover rent each month. And I’m lucky. Colombians usually get paid even less. I know of Colombians who work hours away from their homes, gets a few hundred dollars a month and have to use credit cards to get by. They exist in a constant state of worry about getting sick, not being able to work and losing their homes. Bogotá’s streets are thick with peddlers of DVDs, candies, cigarettes and what-have-you, and fully one-third of Bogotá’s working population is employed in this unofficial economy. As Tom Feiling said in his book, “Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the new Colombia”:

“Officially, joblessness in Bogotá stands at 10 per cent, but even the bureaucrats acknowledge that another 34 per cent of the workforce is ‘under-employed’. Those confined to the informal economy soon abandon the rules of the formal market economy , which has in effect abandoned them. Hundreds of thousands of bogotanos spend their working day not in offices, factories or shops, but on the street, flogging bootleg CDs and DVDs, knock-off car parts and stolen mobile phones.”

It’s Expensive: Bogotá isn’t the most expensive city in the world, not by a long shot. Compared to, say, New York, it can be cheap. Rents, for example, are about 20 percent of what you’d pay in the Big Apple. But combined with few work opportunities and low pay, it means that local purchasing power is much, much lower than in Bogotá. For example, Bogotanos have an average monthly disposable salary, after tax, of $560.24 compared to New Yorkers’ $4,393.12. And compared to other cities in Latin America such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Buenos Aires, Bogotá has the lowest local purchasing power. Only Caracas—obviously—has a worse ranking among the major capitals of South America. This means people are constantly struggling. This leads to…

A protestor supporting poor farmers confronts police in Bogotá last year. ©2013 Chris Allbritton

A protestor supporting poor farmers confronts police in Bogotá last year. ©2013 Chris Allbritton

Class Divisions: I’ve lived in Pakistan, which is a grossly unequal society. I spent time in India, which is even worse than Pakistan. But only in Colombia have I really seen just how difficult it is to be poor in a relatively rich society. Poor people here are feared and almost despised by the middle-class and upper class of the country. The city is even divided into geographical strata that determine the level of services and police protection an area receives. Poor areas get cheaper utilities, subsidized by the richer areas (thankfully!), but the cops won’t go there, the (cheap) water is dirty, Internet access is slow and unreliable and taxis are reluctant to enter. As soon as I moved to Bogotá, I found myself constantly warned by middle-class and upper-class Bogotanos that “the south” of the city was dangerous. I quickly got the impression that the rich folks of the north of the city would love to build a wall at about Calle 19 and cut off the south from their designer boutiques and green areas in the north. And there’s little the poor can do about it. As Wikipedia says, “In the nineteenth century, Colombia’s rugged terrain and inadequate transportation system reinforced social and geographic distance, keeping the numerically superior but disunited masses fragmented and powerless.” That has continued today. Health care, jobs and access to the political system are almost exclusively reserved for the largely European-descended, light-skinned upper classes. Last year, during national strikes by poor farmers protesting the impact of a free trade agreement that rendered their crops uneconomical, they were met with bullets from the cops and derision from rich Bogotanos. And it’s getting worse. Even though there’s an annual growth rate of 5% in 2013 and a booming stock market, the benefits are going almost exclusively to the top tiers of Bogotá and Colombia in corrosive ways. In its 2013 economic assessment, the OECD estimated that Colombia’s top 1 percent control some 40 percent of the country’s wealth, with land distribution even worse thanks to the country’s colonial history, failed land reforms, and decades of internal conflict. The Gini coefficient for land ownership is around 86, one of the highest in the world. Until Bogotá and Colombia can expand the economic pie and seat everyone at the table, Bogotá will continue to be the capital of a feudal, deeply unequal society that presents a kind and happy face to the world, but makes it difficult for its own people.

So there you have it. My list of 10 things that are not at all nice about Colombia’s newly emerging capital. Next up, 10 things to love about this place.

28 Comments on “10 Things to Hate About Bogotá

  1. It’s not nice to read this kind of articles, because our real situation is exposed to the World. I have to be honest. That’s completely true. However, I love my country and my city, as we are rich in people and resources. But, I’m fed up about thieves, “ñeros” everywhere, politicians, social injustice and everything about this inefficient system. I wish Bogota had an opportunity, on the contrary the city is getting worse.

  2. This should be removed as it’s inaccurate, most of the things you mention here are your personal thoughts and experiences, you could experience this in any city in the world. Traffic, crime(not to a climate of fear extent you are talking about), protests, ALL OF THIS, you have in all big cities, do not be so naive and limit your view of a city and it’s people because of how you are as a person and how you interact with people, how the fuck you say Bogota is bad because people change their agreed-to hang out times ? simply stupid.

  3. poor place bogota… it suffers from all the people that move there and fail to contribute. most people move there because of necessity and this creates for all the ‘lovely’ stuff you mention above. around 50% of the people who live in the city were not born there and way smaller is the amount whose parents where.
    for the place’s sake and for your own you should probably leave.

  4. I am Colombian and live in Bogotá. My opinion, yes, I agree with most of your comments.

    • Don’t be a sheep and fall in line with all of this bullshit… I’d say a good 70% of this article is inaccurate as fuck. I moved from Los Angeles in October and plan to stay for 1 year. Pollution, traffic… sure. Low wages yes. Playing chicken on the sidewalk? Thats a personal choice. Don’t pretend there aren’t crosswalks like any normal city… Expensive? Bullshit. The food? There are HUNDREDS of excellent Colombian restaurants but their international cuisine is excellent too. AND its ridiculously underpriced. Same with transportation… a $15 Uber ride in LA is less that $2 USD… It’s cheap to live here. I paid $2,000 USD for my place in LA for a 1 bedroom 1 bath. $2k out here gets me 3bd 3.5 bath and every possibility amenity I could ask for. Crime… climate of fear? lol You’re just a pussy if you’re scared. There hasn’t been a single I’ve witnessed or time where I’ve felt uncomfortable. The people here are really interesting, refreshingly honest, and always helpful.

      • I’m Colombian… everything he mentioned here it’s true! Bogota is bad! It’s like a jail…traffic, weather, people … everywhere you go is bad!
        The thing is that the people is so used to this things that they don’t even noticed… like everything there, they just live the day, no one is thinking in the future. Some people are so used to experiencing stress that they don’t remember what life was like without it.

  5. poor you, it seems you had a horrible time.

    well, yeah, traffic, pollution and crime are the worst thing in bogota! no way i can argue with that.

    food is amazing, Colombian food is great, a proof of that is the success that arepas have on the USA and other countries, as well as colombian restaurants in Europa.

    friends? dude! bogotanians might be cool among each other, but to a “gringo”, nop. We take any excuse to get a beer, go out and hang around. Bogota has a very busy night life and things to do on weekends. Try making friends in germany, that is thought. In bogota you end up in a BD party of a friend, of a friend, who knew somebody, who happened to be a classmate of the girlfriend of the Birthday-boy. But! is true that we are like “hey dude, lets met up…” and then nothing, nada, no calls, no text back. We have a saying and it goes like “drunked plans”, which mean, is not real. Also, we don’t plan. We just go with the flow. (it drives my german wife crazy).

    work opportunities? well, it depends on your field.

    and the last point, oh. “no comment”

    in any case, sorry for you… excuse my writing also, i know is erratic, but hell, just wanted to comment.

    ciao pues,

  6. I am Colombian born, Canadian raised, been traveling for most of my twenties and I have been living in Bogota for about 3 years now and there are so many things that I can truly relate to in your blog. I agree with the food not being great, honestly it all kinda taste the same to me. But I have to say I have never had so much trouble meeting people and making friends, of any age. I am not sure if it is the family values you talk about or the general mistrust. But in spite of knowing the language, having some family connections and having had friends from University that are Colombian and now live here, I still haven`t been able to make real friends. It is true people are very friendly and nice when you first meet them but that`s that. Society rules here are so rigid, and people have a hard time setting that aside. Fdelae01 is right, if there are things you don`t like, it is better to relocate, and I assure you, I plan to as soon as I can. But nonetheless, I find it very disappointing after having heard great things about the city. For me this was a “coming back to my roots” kind of trip and it was supposed to be a great experience. I guess it`s on to the next. Hope to find a place better suited.

    • Your comment fills me with great sadness. It’s one thing for an outsider like me to feel alienated in Bogota, but when someone tries to “come home” and dislikes it… Well, you have my sympathies, my friend. Good luck to you.

    • hello… I’m a Canadian Dual-Citizen.. My other ciitzenship is Colombia. I became a Citizen in Colombia by having lived in Colombia for a great stretch of my life. Now am I in the U.S.A. I indeed want to go back to my mother land Canada. Where do you prefer all in all? Canada or Colombia?


      Jesus loves us!

  7. Even tough there is some truth to every item you point. Feel free to leave. If mire of you go, less traffic, less pollution, and more job opportunities would arise. Thid city is no different to the NYC of the 80’s and iscprogresing at a fast pace. So if you fell this horribly… please make all of us a favor and relocate

  8. Wow, everything you said is pretty accurate. Im a latin american foreigner who moved to Bogotá and making friends is nearly impossible, even though i speak their same language( so there is no language barrier excuse here).Ive been taking a nightly course were most people are from my age range, and yes they can make small talk with you and smile so and so on… but an actual friendship or nice gesture to actually get to know me better ? No way. Colombians are known worldwide for their “friendliness, openess” well… i guess those who have established that rep must be from other cities, Medellin? Cali maybe? Anywhere but here…

  9. Sorry davito, corrientazo is some of the most bland food I have ever had, even by Bogota standards and I have tried several in many neighborhoods, many of which have little, or no, tourists. It is cheap, 5 or 6000 and the people who make the food are nice. That is cool They even give you tons of food if you arrive 30 minutes before they close. But the menu, for better or worse, is generally set with little to no choices and almost no taste. Maybe you have a choice between 2 soups and chicken or beef, but otherwise, you have no choice and it just is not good food at all..

  10. In response to all 10 points

    1. 8 million…try like 10 or even 12 million!! The transmilenio is an absolute diaster. I remember a few weeks ago, I almost got trampled trying to get on a bus at rush hour at Calle 75 stop..I am 187 cm by the way. But people were acting like animals. It felt like a mosh pit at a heavy metal concert. Part of it is there are not close to enough buses, but still, people showed no consideration at all.

    2. No issues with crime yet in my three months, knock on wood. I walk fast and with a purpose even if I am technically lost.

    3. I have gone to a few bad places. Accidently. See, buses have a lovely habit of taking detours but not telling you. I have found that the only way to know when a bus is on a detour is to listen for the hollers and screams. But before I knew that I ended up in some bad part of Bosa Nova. It was not bad but when I told friends they turned white as a ghost…oh no, never go there. Or even just getting milk in a mid range neighborhood…Oh, you better not go alone..It is boarder line paranoia sometimes

    4. The old buses are horrible.

    5. I have found the food to be very bland. Thank goodness for very cheap foreign food.

    6. For some reason a lot of people do not like to even use the sidewalk..they walk on the road instead..yah…Or some bike on major roads when a sidewalk is not too far away…brilliant…

    7. It is very hard to make friends. People are cold. People in more poor areas, actually, are some of the nicest, most real as long as it is not the 5% that are criminals.

    8a. Disagree. I had tons of emails back for interviews. There are tons of oppurtunities, you just need to know where to look online.

    8b. Disagree. The issue is, a lot of people just settle for the first job they find because anything else is just a pain. I made 45000 an hour for a few weeks but kept looking. because that IS LOW. But now I am making way more but will not publish it online. You can easily find something well over 3 million a month. as long as you have decent credentials and are good at interviews, you will be hired. I was shocked I got hired for the job I did, but part of the hiring process here in this city is how they feel about you..make them feel good.

    9. Yes and No. Good, safe apartments can be found for under 1 million. Food is cheap. Taxis are cheap. To copy keys and and change locks is super cheap. But clothes are shocking in how expensive they are…travel is often very expensive, especially taking planes to other south american countries. electronics are priced highreplacing my power cord for my hp computer was very pricy.phone plans and internet plans are midrange. Getting appliances, even used, is very expensive here..fridges, small washer, beds…you will pay 500 to 700 thousand…or maybe 4 to 500 thousand for a used of any of those three.

    10. The people who work the hardest, I have seen, are some of the more poor and working class…they work 7 days a week for 10 or 12 hours, suffer 3 or 4 hours in transit all for…very little. The most wealthy are very detached from the rest of bogota and some of the worst people I have met in the country and even world.

    • you’re in the New York of the 70’s , even better than that, while London had more than 7 million people during the blutz in the 1940´s Bogota reached that population in 2008 , London was a bad place too, the smae for New York , and even Barcelona. you can see the shanty town’s Barcelona had inthe 70’s named Barraques, This city is like that cause this is not america or Europe , Spain came here to stablish the inquisition and a landord policy, with strata , this was the spanish new world that came from medieval spain, America was founded by the total opposite , people seeking freedom , besides that the population of the country was just less than a million during the 19th century , at that time Europe had already had many population booms, famine and plagues, London had the first swage system just in teh second half of the XXth century , so this country was unpopulated, with a heavy “medieval” divition between the classes, as soon as the country got out of the spanish domain , the next on the line , the landors, mixed people , spanish and native took the power , nwo for teh first time we have to face all that , all what took Europe many centuries, plus all teh population boom from 4 million people of teh entire country in 1900 to almost 50 in 2010.
      the population of the city proper is 7.6 million and the oitskirts inlcuding soacha is less than a million so no 12 million is wrong.
      Food is bland in every populated city .

      People walk in the road cause it rains very much and the sidewalks often have huge ponds of water, also they walk on the sidewalks cauase many people have dogs in their front houses, and they get scared all of a sudden by barks, not ot mention that sidewalks are the responsability of the buildings next to them so many are in poor state , this country is at war .
      This city if far better than Mexico city or Sao Paulo it has the same problems but as beign more small we are coping more, we have bicycle parks and lots of parks, stuff not existant in Los Angeles, New york or any palce outside Europe.
      This city was made entirely by their population even the transportation, we have learn how to cope with no government help , cause the population had a 10x boom but the economy is just starting ,so is proper to judge according the context, those buses are not from the State , here poor families buy buses and they do public transportation as a way of having money, others sell candies in the street, while in many countries people with no job go to a public spot and rely on public money, Colombians go and just go with no education, no university totally peasants to the city to try to make money to survive.

      People is just worry about surviving, this is not mallorca or a mediterranean island, and for foreigners ,many people don’t know if they are going to stay long, so they don’t bother, also foreigners tend to act in with their own manners and ways of doing things so we don’t like to bother, also we just don’t know what foreigners are doing here, do they come for colombian woman? , do they come to take away our jobs? and they go and say bad stuff about our country, also many come with stupid stereotypes from movies, and the media and when they come they have this look like their mocking all the problems we have, problems Europe had and America has, just go to Detroit.

      Not even in Paris people speak English , or try go to Milan or Tokyo , that is totally not Relevant.

      if you don’t like the buses, look at the buses of Mexico city called peseros.

      Sadly the media and all that is making people more suspicious between them with crime and that, also the transmilenio is making people more rude.
      This country has strata comming from the colonial period, so the upper classes don’t want to give the power cause they like beign the richer ones, and is a monopoly they have created, soemthign similar to the counts Europe had, the same so it took the french revolution , and many wars to overcome that , so we are just recreating Europe´s History .

      sadly many foreigner just come hear to know hos is living in a “thirth world country”, they only seem to focus on the infraestructure, lke we have made holocausts or throw nuclear bombs.


      • I wish that Colombia and Bogota could advance like European and American cities did in the 20th century, but I’m not sure that’s likely. First, the situations that you were talkign about happened before or during industrialization (not the 1980s). That was when there were shantytowns in great cities of America and Europe. That was more than a hundred years ago. At the same time, the cities of Latin America likewise had those shantytowns. The difference is that in Europe and North America they disappeared and in Latin America they have remained. Even in Buenos Aires there are the notorious villas. I think it may be optimistic to say that these will disappear. The economies of Latin America are never going to reach the level of Europe, the US or East Asia. Those regions have shown themselves capable of innovating, developing and selling all kinds of products to the world. Latin America has only ever been able to sell commodities onto the world market. And globalization has devasted any chance they have of producing anything. The situation we see now is a permanent situation and it’s not going to change. Any attempts to make the distribution of wealth more equitable leads to a situation like Venezuela. Colombia has long guarded against exactly that possibility. Thousands of left wing elements have been assassinated quietly throughout the decades (largely by paramilitaries). That so far has kept the left from taking over Colombia but the possibility is always only one election away.

  11. Pingback: List of Top 12 Expat Blogs About Colombia | M's Adventures

  12. You should have visited Barranquilla, Santa Marta or Cartagena, the best food, people, music, everybody wants to be your friend, everything is better there, I’m from Barranquilla but I live in Bogota, although I have learned to appreciate the City

  13. Ok, there are a couple of things i also hate about Bogotá (being bogotano), like traffic, pollution, low payments, etc…
    But there are also a couple of things you should see from another point of view…as long as you are in Bogotá.

    Food: What about trying “corrientazo”? It’s cheap ($2-$4), it’s good and it’s everywhere. You cannot talk about Bogota’s food offer without leaving behind the “gringo” deal and just try some restaurant which is not located in the park of 93 or in Usaquen 😉

    Few friends: Unfortunately Bogota’s people who, let’s say, belong o your “friend age-rate” are the kind of people who not only think about working and those kind of things 24/7(It comes from their parents…nothing to do about it), but are also really attached to the idea of family. Maybe trying with people who’re a bit younger would work out better 🙂
    Off course the deal with cancelling 5 minutes before and “I’ll be there in 10” while taking the shower will always be there, but that’s not rolo, that’s simply colombian.

    Work opportunities: OFF COURSE YOU NEED SPANISH FOR WORKING IN COLOMBIA!! You tough that being gringo is just gonna work out? (sorry it sounds a bit aggressive). Even tough we learn in school english since we’re about 6, most of colombians don’t really learn english in their whole lifes, but it’s mostly related to the fact that unless you study in a poshy school in Bogotá, teachers are not gonna give a damn about you learning.
    Actually that also affects your possibilities of connecting with people, most of people in Bogotá are quite sensitive and not so “cool” with the red-neck lifestyle with the the dumb idea ” I shouldn’t learn other lenguages, EVERYBODY HAS TO LEARN ENGLISH INSTEAD!”. while in the other hand are really happy about meeting foreigners who are learning their lenguage (Saw it with my girlfriend when she was in colombia). So maybe learning spanish would had helped you making some friends.

    Class division: That’s really something that applies to every city in the world. When living in London people used to wonder how was i still alive while living in Brixton, and that only because Brixton is a “black neighbourhood”.
    You should also be able to see the difference between “Class division” and “Elite corruption”.

    Don’t get me wrong, i like the idea of reading an article which talks about the bad stuff in Bogotá, i just see you didn’t have a good experience in Bogotá, but also not a generalizable one. Perhaps not trying to have a ritzy experience would have been a a good idea :).

    • I love corrientazo. I don´t understand how other gringos from places like the Canada, the US, England or Ireland can run down the food so badly here. For 6,000-8,000 pesos you can get a meal of incredible value which definitly cannot be found in the countries I have mentioned above. Anthing that is cheap in these countries is far worse than the average almuerzo correinte. When I go back home to Canada the only restaurants I am willing to go to are foreign ones.

  14. there are several statements which i found inaccurate. I don’t think farm protesters were received by bullets in Bogotá, as you said (unless you are talking about rubber balls or something similar, but I doubt they used such thing too). Such thing would have caused something worse than Bogotazo. Police and antidisturbance forces aren’t allowed to shoot at people for obvious reasons.

    the Free Trade agreemeents haven’t had a negative impact on the farmer’s economy so far, and it’s too early to talk about the impacts of the FTA with USA.

    the unequality problem has witnessed an improvement in the past 5-6 years, with Gini reducing by one point every year.

    I also think that is very easy making friends in Bogotá if you are a open kind of person.

    Otherwise, I agree with most of what you said, excepting a few things (food is not just rice and chicken; some Bogotanos are willing to help when you are in danger, even if they are a minority) here and there.

  15. As it is said:
    “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”
    God bless you!

  16. As it is said:
    “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”
    God bless you!

  17. Chris,
    I am sorry that your experience living in Bogotá hasn’t been as good as it has for the many many many foreigners I´ve known since 1999 in my professional career. I won’t deny the myriads of problems that Colombia and Bogotá have, but the two things that caught my attention, are “Few friends” and “Food”.

    Perhaps you didn’t meet nice, friendly, honest people and only were introduced to the “kind of people” you’re referring to in your article, and I’m sorry that you didn’t find many friends here. You missed a big, beautiful part of our culture. We are good friends.

    As for the food, where did the “few” friends take you? Did you not have the opportunity to try an Ajiaco Bogotano, or Sancocho Valluno. or Bandeja Paisa or the food from the Caribbean or Pacific coasts… etc etc etc in the whole time you’ve been here? It would be a shame that you left our country without trying the good Colombian food.

    I read your other article 10 things to love about Bogotá, but it’s still not clear why did you stay that long here? I mean, the bad things clearly annoyed you, and still you decided to stay.

    I hope you find good friends and good food before you leave.

    Maybe this place is not “that bad” at all? 😉


  18. Pingback: Bogotá Reacts to Critical, Complimentary Posts | truly, nomadly, deeply

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