On the Facebook of every foreign resident in Colombia – almost, you can find beautiful scenery and pictures of our lives here. On the surface our lives are very easy. And, realistically – they are. On the other hand, we also pay a steep price for our Life Abroad in Colombia.
Don’t get me wrong. Life here is Niiiiice. The food is fresh, cheap and full of diversity (if you are willing to learn how to cook with the native veggies and fruits). Our cost of life here is well worth the move. But, I have a few quejas, or complaints – because if you really want to commit yourself to this beautiful and exotic gem of a country, you better know the whole damn picture.
The Reality of Life Abroad in Colombia
Where sometimes we find there is trouble in paradise…
- YOU ARE A FOREIGNER. Now, tomorrow and forever. Your children will integrate better, but they may feel the conflict at times too. The uneducated and untraveled Colombian perceives Americans like every vanilla sky American movie they have ever seen. To them we live in houses with backyards and drive cars. Oh, and we have dollars. Lots and lots of dollars. From where, I have no idea. They are so convincing at times, I find myself checking my bank account to see if anything magically appeared in there. Nope…still empty. Then we have that Karma question: How many times in your home country – did you feel resentful towards foreigners who you didn’t understand prior to your first time living abroad? BOOM. ((drops the mic))
- The Day I Died and Moved Abroad. This one is an exquisite type of pain, that only an extended amount of time abroad without being able to return to your home country on a frequent basis, can really flesh out. As you fade from the existence of the lives of your friends and family – you quickly discover who are your friends for life and family for life – and who allows you to die and move abroad. People in my family or friendship circles make vague mentions of how far away I am, and then quit calling or participating in my life. And what many of them don’t realize – is that not everyone who moves abroad, is able to repatriate and feel normal again. So we are at an impasse. Never really able to integrate (I tried that once), yet losing connections with the people of our home country. I guess it depends on regional and family culture.
- Colombia ONLY wants your TOURISM dollars. In Colombia – foreign residents have the right to vote in local elections, but not the acknowledgement. In one particular example I heard recently, a friend of mine went to participate in local elections and showed up on their list as dead. There wasn’t anything he could do about it. My own mother was forced to do a grueling trip to Ecuador via bus (last minute and peak season messed us up), because even though La Migra-ccion had the option to give her a 30-day extension – they made up vague excuses and denied her any extension at all. The day she left, her paper from the embassy came. But, I would rather blow the money on a short vacation than pay the overage fee. Been there. Done that. I myself am going for broke next time – it’s citizenship season for me.
- We do it for the lifestyle and our Colombian families. Especially for those of us who have married into Colombia, life abroad can be frustrating as we work daily to overcome the cultural differences between ourselves and our partners. But, I would never be able to do the things I do, drink fresh coffee, and take cheap $30 day-trips anywhere in the US. I wouldn’t be able to pursue my passion of writing because my life would revolve around a 40 hour/week job in a warehouse, construction site or casino. Some of us have no past – and our only future is Colombia. This is a catch-22 for many people, I think. As the world economic shutdown starts to touch Colombia this year, I am seeing a lot of caution in the way people are using their money. Especially among Colombians like, ahem – my ex-husband. In a country that has seen rapid inflation, depression, civil war and starvation, they might know something I don’t. I’m trying to keep an open mind – and replace anything that is worn out with high quality but affordable long-term replacements.
If you, my dear reader, are truly considering life abroad – I welcome you with this sage advice from the experience of myself and others. We learn humility and patience in doing what so many of our ancestors have done previously; moving abroad in search of greener pastures and better opportunities.
For many, it is a positive experience. I urge you to go into it with both eyes open, and an ear to the railroad tracks. Take chances, but be ready to accept the hardships that come with those decisions. Learn a new culture, but realize that YOU are the interloper. Discover a new language, but realize that it takes years to achieve mastery while accepting your silly mistakes.
Welcome to Colombia where the only danger is not wanting to leave!
Colombia is a beautiful place, full of opportunity. Yet dynamics of world power are changing. The US/Canada/EU/UK are now decaying empires – which have allowed themselves to be laid waste by bi-partisan politics and pop culture, in my humble opinion.
Mass migrations are occurring like never before. Even here in Colombia, the Venezuelans are escaping their own plight to rejoin their neighbors and former countrymen. PereiraCityGuide.com is dedicated to finding simple local solutions to the big issues of the world.
We can’t change fate – but we can definitely try to contribute in positive ways to help support our local economy, bring recognition to those who deserve it, and help to cultivate strong families and a strong community of inclusion and hard work.
Comment below about your experience either as a tourist or foreign resident and your Life Abroad in Colombia. We want to hear from our readers about your struggles and victories which came from your experience. How did you overcome it? Or, did you finally feel the need, in the end, to repatriate to your home country and regroup?
Owner/Editor of OpenMindedTraveler.com, Erin is also the Project Administrator/Editor of Pereira City Guide.com - She has been living in Pereira, Colombia for several years.