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Essential Phrases in Spanish for Expats

Essential Phrases in Spanish for Expats

Lifestyle, Travel

This is for all of us. Over the last six years I have learned some Essential Phrases in Spanish which help me get around. If you live in the Coffee Axis and don’t know these terms – you might be struggling a bit.

Essential Phrases in Spanish for Expats

To create this list I have evaluated a few different standards which I feel will help you ensure that you are speaking and behaving in a way that will smooth the way versus create problems or inspire disrespect.

One of the ugliest things I have ever seen was a backpacker chick who LOVED to say “Chimba.” Chimba, is a low-class adjective which basically translates to “cunt” and is used to describe something really cool, by men with no class. Note to women: please don’t ever use this in your vocabulary because – it’s ugly. If you are dating a man who uses this word constantly…re-evaluate as needed.

Here are what I feel are phrases which are useful, and which will pave the way towards living cohesively in Colombian culture. Or at the very least give you a few colorful adjectives for special situations when we need our Essential Phrases in Spanish.

Phrases for Daily Commerce

Every 3rd Saturday in Manizales at University of Caldas Av. Santander.

Que costo tiene? = Literal: What cost (does) it have? = Actual: How much does it cost?

Cuanto cuesta? = Literal: How much cost? Actual: How much?

Por Favor. Me regalas la cuenta. Literal = Please. Give me the bill (for food at restaurants). Actual: The bill please. Keep in mind that this is a Coffee Axis phrase and not necessarily as common in other parts where people might say something like “por favor, dame la cuenta.” The theme here is that people are uber polite!

Hay huevos? Literal = Have eggs? Actual = Do you have eggs? Culture note: avoid saying “tiene huevos” because you will be asking them if they “have balls?” You can also say “Hay (item you are looking for)?”

Dame un paquete de… Give me a package of… (tomatoes, apples, etc..)

Perdon, explícame por que hay un costo adicional de… Translation: Pardon, explain to me why it has an additional cost of….(quantity) Culture Note: Always try to read and understand the line items of your restaurant tab, this is one of the easiest ways you will find yourself overpaying something – whether it was intentional or accidental.

Phrases for House Hunting

En Arriendo/Renta Translation: For Rent

Arriendo Habitacion Translation: Room for Rent

En Venta Translation: For Sale

Cuantas alcobas tiene la casa/apartamento? Translation: How many rooms does the house/apartment have?

Necesito fiador? Que alternativo podemos usar? Do I need a co-signer? What alternative can we use?

Alcoba/Habitacion/Piso: Bedroom

Cocina Integral: Or integrated kitchen. Basically it means you will have a nicer more modern kitchen which includes cupboards, maybe a stove/oven, sink etc… The older kitchens tend to be concrete with cupboards underneath hidden by a curtain. The sink is small and crappy. The faucet might be as simple as what you see in your home country as a garden hose faucet.

Phrases for Greeting Friends and Neighbors

Buenos dias vecino! Good morning neighbor!

Quiubo? (cue-bo) What’s Up?

Quiubo pues? What’s up (with a bit more emphasis)

Hola hermosa/o! Hello beautiful! It’s common between friends to use these sweetly exuberant greetings.

Local Dialect and Sayings

Manizales in the coffee capital of Colombia.

Vea pues… This one has two different “feelings.” One is “Uh huh” in the positive, and the other is in the negative with an undertone of sarcasm.

Como así? What do you mean by that?

No hay sentido. It doesn’t have feeling/It doesn’t make sense.

Hágale pues! Go ahead, do it! Let’s go!

Que huevonada (guevonada)! Que bobada! That’s bullshit, or crap. According to Colombian culture it is frowned upon for “proper” women to use the word “huevonada,” which can be spelled two ways. The right word to use as a woman is “bobada,” or foolishness. Because theoretically women are sugar, spice and everything nice.

Pirobo! This word is like a combination of pirate and robber which basically means “piece of crap untrustworthy criminal.” Only to be used in extreme situations. Great for taxi drivers who try to tell you that your fare is 4-5,000 cop more than what the meter (taximetro) says it is.

Que gonorrea! Just as it sounds it means “gonorrhea.” Literally you are calling someone a vaginal scab/genital herpe – type of thing. Use sparingly and only in extreme circumstances for a strong expression of distaste regarding a person or situation.

Directions and Explanation

A lado de… Next to.

Por el lado derecha/izquierda. On the right/left side.

Siga derecho. Go straight.

Al frente. In front of.

A la vuelta… Around the corner…

En la proxima esquina… At the next corner…

Hacia adelante. Go forward. Onward.

Hacia atras. Go backward.


Spanish is a fun and interesting language to learn. These are only a few Essential Phrases in Spanish which we hope will help you get started, or at the very least get you through some basic situations. Over time we plan to bring you new editions of this post to help you expand your cultural and linguistic understanding of Colombian culture.

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About the author

Coffee Axis Adventures and Expat Lifestyles meet Wit and Wordpress! I have been writing my whole life in one form or another, and blogging since 2012. My career as a professional writer began in 2013 and this is what I have been doing ever since! My personal mission: Create love and appreciation for local brands, products and entrepreneurial projects of value and quality. Do my part to participate in and help create, a strong local economy that supports local people and their families!


  1. John and Susan Pazera
    June 6, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks. Cool stuff!

  2. Rhys
    August 24, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    I was worried for you when I saw you were taking this on. Such a huge can of worms!
    I think you have covered this brilliantly. Concise with really good examples. Not an easy feat.

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