Colombians started arriving to America during the 1800s. After World War I, several hundred Colombian professionals established themselves in New York City. During the 60s and 80s, another great number of Colombians immigrated to the United States, mostly because of economic problems and violence in their country home. Today, most of them are established in Florida. Why is it important to talk about Colombians in Miami? Because they are the largest South American ethnic group in the United States at an approximate 2 million of them living in American soil!
1) How do Colombians greet each other?
When greeting someone you don’t know very well, people (men and women alike) shake hands with direct eye contact. However, when a friendship has developed, men hug each other and women kiss once on the cheek. Colombians are very polite, so always tag a “buenos días”, “buenas tardes”, o “buenas noches” along. Smiling is customary as well when greeting. Expect to be asked how you are and how everything is going over and over again. Colombians are very friendly like that.
2) Famous food from Colombia?
Colombian cuisine varies greatly from region to region, and their varied cuisine is greatly influenced by the country’s diverse fauna and flora. A very traditional Colombian dish is Bandeja Paisa: it’s a plate filled with heavy and varied carbohydrates, such as: white rice, beef, chicharrón (fried pork belly or pork rinds), fried egg, plantain, chorizo (a type of pork sausage), arepa, hogao sauce, beans, tomato and avocado. Tamales are another traditional Colombian dish, made most of all around Christmas time (you can’t have a Colombian Christmas without tamales). Sudado de Pollo (which is a chicken stew) is one of the single most popular dishes in Colombian homes: it’s usually served with white rice on the side so it soaks up the flavorful sauce of the chicken. Arepas, a type of bread made from cornmeal, is a very basic side to any Colombian dish (they also make them in Venezuela). And for dessert: Arroz con Coco – a coconut rice pudding, topped with lemon zest and cinnamon.
3) What are the most popular cities in Colombia?
Bogotá is the capital and largest city of Colombia, boasting a population of over 8 million people. Aside from that, Bogotá is the cultural center of Colombia, and it received the UNESCO World Capital of the Book designation thanks to its numerous libraries and its literary festivals. Bogotá also hosts Ciclovía, the largest bicycling network in the world.
Cartagena, on the other hand, is Colombia’s most touristic city. It’s a fascinating colonial port located on the northern coast of Colombia and is full of historic landmarks you can visit. And at night, you can rest assured that you’ll find it energetic and full of fun stuff to do.
Medellín is the second largest city of Colombia just after Bogotá, with an estimated population of 2.44 million people. It’s a modern and vibrant city with a temperate climate that has earned it the nickname “The Land of Eternal Spring”. Every August, it hosts a famous flower festival that paints the city with beautiful springy colors. Lastly, Barranquilla is another famous destination for tourists in Colombia. Barranquilla is home to the Banco de la República, a world-wide known exhibit hall that features sculptures and fine paintings. At the beginning of each year, Barranquilla’s Carnival takes place: it’s one of the most important folkloric celebrations in Colombia and one of the biggest carnivals in the world. Barranquilla gets paralyzed while the carnival is being held, and intense festivities occur, with dancing and live music.
4) Famous Colombian personalities
Drop-dead gorgeous actress Sofía Vergara; author and journalist Gabriel García Márquez; iconic and acclaimed singer (and spectacular dancer) Shakira; infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar; musician Juanes (the one from the famous ‘camisa negra’); artist Fernando Botero; singer Carlos Vives; famous soccer player Carlos Valderrama (or “El Pibe”); and many, many others.
5) What do Colombians NOT like?
Maybe they won’t get furious about this, but as a sign of respect and deference for your Colombian friend, don’t spell ‘Colombia’ as ‘Columbia’. This works both ways: you won’t disrespect your friend and you won’t look dumb.
In this same sense, don’t mistake Colombians for Mexicans. Latin America is more than Mexico, and every country is pretty different there. So don’t assume every Hispanic you meet is necessarily from Mexico.
Conversations and jokes about drugs and Pablo Escobar are also unnecessary. Pablo Escobar was a huge disgrace for Colombia, and not every Colombian you meet wants to be associated with the drug lord. They are pretty chill people, so they probably won’t get mad, but it’s a tricky topic that’s better left out of the conversation.
Assuming that Colombia is a very poor country is also an inaccurate stereotype. Colombia has its fair share of poor people, but there are many rich Colombians as well, and it’s an overall economically stable nation. Another inaccurate assumption Americans make about Colombia is that it’s a dangerous country. It mostly isn’t. There are dangerous areas, just like in every other country, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
6) What do Colombians like?
– Colombians like to dunk cheese in their hot chocolate. It may sound weird to you, but it’s actually a wonderful combination. Give it a try (it’s not just any cheese, mind you. It’s a special kind of cheese they use).
– They adore coffee. It’s one of their most famous national products, so it’s natural to find it anywhere you go in Colombia, at any time.
– They love their soccer too, and Colombian soccer-lovers will sometimes bring up that game where Colombia scored five goals against Argentina back in 1994.
– Colombians are usually very family-oriented and people-oriented. They love their families and are very kind and polite to people around them.
– They’re also known for being very clean. They shower multiple times a day and in some regions you might even be considered kind of dirty if you don’t do the same!
– They also like to party and drink alcohol. Any occasion is a good one to celebrate. Don’t forget the aguardiente.
– Colombians are very fond of Christmas too, but they celebrate in a more Catholic way. There’s no Santa to be found anywhere, since it’s baby Jesus and the three wise men who bring the presents. It’s a whole month of celebration, food, dance, drinks and presents. Again, don’t forget the aguardiente.
7) Common words and phrases Colombians say
– ¡Qué pena con usted! – It’s the equivalent of ‘sorry’ in English. It’s very frequently used there.
– ¡Qué pecao! – It translates literally as “What a sin!”. This one is a little hard to put into context because it is used in so many different occasions. What almost most of all have in common, though, is that something bad just happened. You can use it if you see something cute too.
– Parcero/Parce – It’s the equivalent of “dude” and you use it in similar situations, like when calling a friend or acquaintance.
– Vaina – It translates as a sheath, but they mean “thing”. And by thing, we mean ANYTHING. Anything can be a “vaina”. It’s just a lazy replacement for any single word out there.
– Parchar – It means chilling, or hanging around. “Estamos parchando” is “we’re chilling or hanging around”.
8) Interesting facts about Colombia
– Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world after Brazil, which is 10 times its size.
– Colombia is part of the Ring of Fire: a group of countries in the Pacific Ocean vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
– It’s currently the 5th most popular hub for cosmetic surgery.
– Bogotá has South America’s largest network of bicycle routes with over 300km.
– Its name is derived from the last name of explorer Christopher Columbus.
– 1/3 of the country is covered with the Amazon rain forest.
– Colombia’s drug trade is worth US$10 billion.
– Colombia, next to Jamaica and St. Lucia, is the only place where a woman is more likely to be a boss than a man.
9) What are Colombians known for?
– They are known for being extremely polite. Even their way of speaking is deeply rooted in politeness. Treat them with the same politeness and respect that they will treat you with!
– For being great dancers: They really like music and dancing (as a general rule). One of their most well-known exports is Shakira, go figure!
– For being coffee lovers: Colombia is not only known for their high-quality, world-renown coffee, but also for being really fond of drinking it. Even little kids drink coffee in Colombia (but they drink it with milk, unlike adults who drink “tinto” – that is, black coffee. However, as with everything, not every single Colombian is a coffee-lover. They like other drinks too! Like tea or aguapanela.
– They are known for being the happiest people in the world. In fact, it’s been rated a couple times as the happiest country in the world.
– Colombian women are known for being very beautiful too (Sofia Vergara, anyone?).
10) What are some Colombian alcoholic drinks?
– Aguardiante is undoubtedly Colombia’s national drink. The most popular brand is Antioqueño. This drink is derived from sugarcane and is flavored with aniseed.
– Another highly popular drink among Colombians is rum. It’s also derived from sugarcane and is fairly inexpensive and of a high-quality.
– Refajo is a mix of Colombiana (a soda that tastes like bubble gum) and beer.
– As with tons of places around the world, beer is very popular among Colombians too, La Pola being one of their favorite brands.