It’s not easy leaving your comfort zone, even moving to another part of your own country can often be a culture shock. I know because I have done it. Imagine moving to another country with a completely different culture, language and biological environment. Life Abroad in Colombia can be daunting to say the least.

Straight Answers About Life Abroad in Colombia

I spoke with a few of my colleagues here in Colombia and asked them what advice they would give about living here from their own unique perspectives and experiences. Here are their answers:

Richard McColl | Colombia Calling

“Colombia can be the most rewarding country for you to move to, buy property, make a life and live your dreams of creating something new and worthwhile. The path to this “utopia” is not without its difficulties, in particular the paperwork and bureaucracy, but you can conquer this with the aid of a good lawyer and accountant. 
“As a small business owner (www.lacasaamarillamompos.com) and a home-owner, I have found the aforementioned experts absolutely indispensible in my day to day life. They are up to date with the latest legal requirements and tax issues, which can be quite confounding, and it’s best to have everything in order.”
“And once you have bested these necessary bureaucratic hurdles on a seemingly endless assault course, let me tell you, it does come to an end, and things improve immensely!”
Richard McColl host of the Colombia Calling podcast (richardmccoll.com)

Adriaan Alsema | Colombia Reports

On giving money to beggars…

I believe the giving money to beggars is a personal choice. I always do it, but I would consider that entirely a personal choice.

On freedom of the press/freedom of speech…

In regards to retaining freedoms, I believe it’s important we call out authoritarians. This is an issue on the fringes of both the left and the right. I am fucked off how there’s a conflict between left and right rather than between libertarians and authoritarians.

On fighting corruption…

As individuals we stand powerless against corruption and we may even shoot ourselves in the foot by not adapting to it. Disgracefully, many things will simply not get done ever unless corruption is employed. It is important to keep in mind however that corruption is and always will be illegal and can and ultimately will be used against us.

Learn more about Adriaan’s work HERE, or sit back, relax and fill your ears with his alter persona, Dr. Love: https://youtu.be/pVj0VqSMlZ4

Karen Attman | Flavors of Bogota

Living in Colombia means being surrounded by coffee. “¿Quiere un tinto?” is possibly one of the most frequent phrases you’ll hear. Coffee is part of the history here, with deep roots that reach back several centuries. In much of the country people have depended on coffee for generations, and every aspect of their life has been shaped by it. So whether you live in Colombia or are just visiting, how can you get started learning more about Colombia’s tastiest tradition?

In a coffee-producing country, there are so many ways to learn. Coffee farms are literally everywhere. You can almost close your eyes and point to a place on the map and there you’ll find coffee. You can learn about the drink from the plant to the cup and get a good dose of culture and relaxation at the same time.

You might prefer to learn about coffee in a specialty coffee shop. The cool thing is that you may be talking with a barista about a certain coffee and the coffee grower walks into the shop! Or your barista might just be a national barista champion. 

Local coffee shops have free tastings (called catas de cafe) and some shops even give free roasting classesBaristas will always share their knowledge. Some coffee farms will even let you participate in a harvest. There are dynamic coffee workshops where you can get a hands-on experience, as well as plenty of books about coffee that range from introductory to in-depth. There are also online coffee courses both short and long. 

And her bio:

Guillermo Calvo | Musings of an Expat Squared

A bit over eleven years ago I returned to Manizales after a life well lived abroad: in the United States, in Florida, the Carolinas and New York, an expat returned but in reality, an expat all over again.  I’d been taken to the States by my mother when I was six, when getting an immigration visa was a lot easier than it is today.  I was an expat in the States, but now that I’m back in the city of my birth, it seems I’m an expat all over again

Pieces of my soul are widely scattered among the places I’ve lived.  Wherever I am, there are ten other places I miss.  But Manizales, Manizales is and always has been very special, perhaps the most special of all.  Manizales is like Salento in a sense, the synergy generated by gracious people making it more than the sum of its parts, its unique architecture in beautiful harmony with a topography other would have found daunting.  A city full of universities and university students, artists and writers, with basketball, softball and American football too.  A place from which, through the marvels of modern technology and the Internet, I can keep the whole word just a fingertip away but with the Nevada del Ruiz and the verdant Sea of Mountains smiling nearby.

Still, Manhattan and Charleston call to me while I’m here as Manizales called to me while I was there, and Fort Lauderdale, and Ocala where my children were raised, and Charlotte where I was so warmly received as an adolescent.  And Huntington on Long Island.  I’m blessed with friends and memories of many, many places, a life fully lived, and now, back where it started.

Manizales is special to me too because of all the Americans who’ve decided it’s too special to leave and who are not only acquaintances but who have become special friends, special people, grateful to have found a bit of paradise at a reasonable price and full of woman who seem to be among the most beautiful anywhere, inside and out.  They make the longing for lost homes, an expats lot, a lot easier to bear.

Paraphrasing a recent tourist development program, Manizales is a dangerous place to visit, but the danger is only that it’s all too often too hard a place to leave.

_______

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer (https://medium.com/@guillermo.calvo.mahe), political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  Much of his writing is available through his blog at www.guillermocalvo.com.

Nancy Kiernan | Healthcare Tips

I spent over 30 years working in both the clinical and administrative sides of the U.S. healthcare industry. So, I speak from experience when I say I am impressed by the healthcare for expats in Colombia. It is a perfect balance of high quality, easy access, and low cost. The WHO (World Health Organization) ranks Colombia #22 out of the 191 countries it reviews for quality of healthcare systems. That is better than Canada at #30 and the U.S. at #37.

Foreigners can sign up for the public health care insurance EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud) once they have acquired a cédula (national ID card). There is no maximum age limit. If you are only visiting Colombia on a tourist stamp in your passport, or have a cédula but have not yet signed up for health insurance and still need healthcare services, here are a few tips:

  • You can buy most medications (other than narcotics and psychotropic drugs) over the counter in pharmacies without a prescription quite inexpensively. A 10-day course of an antibiotic would run about $4.
  • There is no HIPAA requirement for confidentiality of medical information. The doctors, nurses and technicians can speak to anyone about your condition. Good news if your level of Spanish is not sufficient and you need a friend or family member to help you.
  • The price of medical visits, services and procedures is so inexpensive that many expats choose to “self-insure” and just pay out of pocket. A 1-hour consult with a specialist costs about $50.
  •  Many of the hospitals in the larger cities (Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Bucaramanga) have international relations departments with English-speaking staff.

My bio:

International Living Colombia Correspondent, Nancy Kiernan, a native of Massachusetts left her job as a healthcare executive and set off to search Central and South America to find her future retirement home. Three days after stepping off the plane in early 2012 in Medellín, Colombia, she knew she had found it. In addition to scouting Colombia for new and exciting places and meeting new people, Nancy teaches English to business executives and enjoys trying new restaurants.

Links to IL website article:

Conclusion

With professional advice from some of the most prestigious writers in Colombia, I really hope you – my reader – are able to find this information succinct and useful for your Life Abroad in Colombia. In the meantime, be sure to check back with us frequently for new articles, updates and informative pieces about life and Coffee Axis Travel.

Also, don’t hesitate to comment below, or reach out to me via email: coffeeaxistravel@gmail.com. What struggles have you had here in Colombia? What tidbits of information would help you be able to move or come down for a visit?