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An update from Evaneos

Courtesy, customs and attitudes in Colombia

Social etiquette in Colombia doesn't follow the same rules as in the UK. It's wise to be aware of local customs and practices if you want a hassle-free trip to the country. Colombia, a dynamic and surprising country - have a great trip!

Be aware of how you address people

Colombians are generally very polite when it comes to speaking to others. If you're familiar with Spanish or French, you'll understand the difference between the formal and informal use of 'you'. In Columbia the formal 'you' is preferred, even when talking to a young person. So the word 'usted' (formal 'you' in Spanish) will be the one to use during your trip to Colombia. For those of you who speak Spanish, you'll quickly pick up that people's titles are invariably applied - 'Doctor', 'Señor','Licenciado' and 'Ingeniero' being some common examples. In any case, try to be as polite as possible whatever the situation. Useful phrases include 'excuse me' - 'permiso', 'thank you very much' - 'muchas gracias' and 'take care' - 'que le vaya bien'.

In a taxi

It may seem a strange piece of advice but make sure you don't slam doors shut, particularly in taxis. If the driver is unfriendly or appears to be annoyed, it may be because you slammed the door...Having asked around, it seems that tourists have a reputation for slamming doors shut, which is disrespectful to taxi drivers who try to keep their cars in good condition; they do, after all, rely on them to make a living. You may notice that many drivers prefer to close the doors themselves.

Subjects to avoid when meeting for the first time

As you may have guessed, drug trafficking is a sensitive topic, as are the stereotypical images the industry evokes. It's a problem that deeply affected the country and most Colombians prefer to draw a line under this dark past. There are other touchy subjects - politics and human rights issues, for example, are best avoided. In any event, if you strike up a conversation, keep to generalities such as asking about someone's family, which is often appreciated and a great way to get along with locals during your trip to Colombia.

Some customs and practices.

A cafe/restaurant in the coffee producing region

You'll quickly discover that Colombians are welcoming and look after tourists. You may well be offered a coffee or 'tinto' and it's customary to accept or ask for a glass of water instead.
In certain areas, Medellin and Bogota in particular, it's wise to pay attention to how you dress. In these two towns. people dress formally, often in business gear and dressing down is not done, even if it's blazing hot outside.
Finally, tipping (a 'tip' is 'propina' in Spanish) is expected in service industries, such as restaurants.

Laure Alvarez
44 contributions
Updated 6 March 2018
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