All work and no play?! Puh-lease, this isn’t your regular boring desk job. That’s why we’re here to remind you to get up, get out, and go SEE Colombia for all that it is. Socialise! Make friends, take it easy, adapt and integrate wholly into your new lifestyle. Connect with fellow expats about the wonders (and challenges) of your newfound life abroad, then dig deeper by making friends with the locals, too. They know the best spots!

Bringing some savings or extra spending money will help make sure you never have to say no to a night out or that special souvenir you’ve had your eye on. 🎉

Tip #1: Running out of things to talk about with your new Colombian friends? Just mention Shakira, and how much better she was as a rock singer.

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Cinema

Just like a night at the theater is one of your favorite ways to spend an evening, so too do the Colombians love to kick back with a bag of popcorn in front of the big screen. The only difference here is that most movies are dubbed into Spanish—finding a film in English will be tough if you’re living outside the major cities.

Further, movies tend to come out about one week after they are released in the US (so you can say “bye bye” to your midnight viewings of the latest Star Wars flick). Most movie theaters are found in major malls; just look for the Cinemark sign.

In most cases, going to the movies in Colombia costs a fraction of what is paid in Western countries. Expect a combination of Western and Colombian snacks on offer!

Tip #2: Order food or drinks like the locals by saying “regálame <insert name of item>”. This means “gift me <item>.” Just don’t be surprised when they actually charge you (they rarely give anything for free!).

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Nightlife

Put on your dancing shoes because there’s plenty to-do for night owls around Colombia (just don’t stay out too late—you probably have to work tomorrow!). It’s no secret that Colombia loves to party. You can spend time at nightclubs and bars, or, if you’re in the mood for something even more relaxing, catch a film showing, a salsa show, or an indie gig at one of your city’s more chill parts of town. Colombian locals love walking in parks in the evening; why not join?!

Football

When not preparing for their next great house party, your Colombian friends are probably… watching a football (soccer) match. Or talking smack about last night’s match. Or picking out their outfit for the next big match. Futeball is serious business in Colombia, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to attend a game while teaching abroad here. 

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To really impress the locals, bring up Colombia’s 5-0 win against Argentina in 1993—this game brings up vivid memories for any Colombian alive at the time. Not only did the Colombian team kick their butt on their turf (the match was in Buenos Aires), but it helped them qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Ole, ole, ole!

Shopping

Speaking of night markets, you’ve gotta do some shopping while teaching ESL in Colombia. The variety of quality goods at affordable prices will definitely give your wallet a workout. Bargain hard—try to pay ⅓ of the original asking price—but also keep in mind that for many Colombian, this is their livelihood. Forking out an extra couple bucks isn’t going to hurt you in the long run.

Everybody loves to bring something home that reminds them of the country they visited. Colombia is no exception since there are so many beautiful handicrafts and traditional things that you’ll want to call your own. Don’t leave without your very own colorfully-patterned wayuu mochila or arhuaca bag, a bottle of Colombian rum or aguardiente, and, of course, a couple pounds of specialty coffee!

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Outdoors

Are you a Patagonia-fiend who can’t possibly travel without your hiking boots? There’s more to Colombia than mouthwatering tropical fruits and a fascinating history—no country on earth is more geographically blessed than Colombia, with its mountainous peaks, lush jungles, miles of coast, and wildlife-rich rainforest. Get outside to see what this country is all about!

Hiking in Colombia spans the entire hiking spectrum, from easy walks through villages and on scenic beaches to serious, long-distance mountain climbing jungle treks—heck, you can even visit a lost city!

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Pack your hiking boots because there’s plenty to see and do on your precious weekends. A quick Google search will reveal even more incredible hikes worth pursuing in Colombia!

Coffee

The best part of waking up in Colombia will absolutely be the coffee, but not necessarily Folgers. Blah! Instead, challenge yourself to learn more about (and delight in) Colombia’s rich history with coffee. As one of their primary exports, Colombians know their coffee—the beans, the roast, the region… and yes, sometimes even the farmer! 

Visit a famous Juan Valdez cafe while here and get to know this 1950s icon. Major kudos to those who can really make like the locals and enjoy a pipin’ hot cup of tinto (black coffee) at 7pm or later. 

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Food

How to describe “Colombian food?” With influences from indigenous tribes, the Caribbean, Africans, the Spaniards, and Arabs, nailing it down to a singular idea can be a tough a task. But we’ll do our best: versatile, rich, full of flavor, colorful and comforting. 

The aroma of Colombian cuisine is tough to un-smell, but who would want to? Socialising with friends and coworkers over lunch or dinner is popular (and frankly, a good strategy if you want to share and taste multiple dishes!). 

Mentally prepare for lots of rice, sweet potatoes, and red beans during your time teaching abroad here. Keep in mind that the local cuisine varies considerably from region to region; depending on which lucky city you get to call home, your dinner plate will look a little different. ESL teachers in the Llanos region, the northeast, should be prepared to eat a lot of barbecued meat. Those in coastal regions will enjoy more seafood, coconut rice, eggs, and a greater variety of spices (thanks to more African and Caribbean influences). If you’re situated in the Andes, you’ll love the variety of stews and soups that await you.

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Don’t you dare leave Colombia without diving into its national dish, bandeja paisa. Pro tip: Put on stretchy pants before you dive into this heaping pile of local cuisine. Expect to be served a large tray (bandeja) of red beans and rice, ground beef, chorizo, plantains, cornbread (arepa), and avocado. Add a dash of hot sauce and you’ll be in foodie heaven.

Grab your friends and explore the country through your belly!

Tip #3: Colombian street food from the north to the south will offer you an amazing experience and a real culinary adventure. As you dive deeper into the street food culture, you will find rare treats and wonderful delicacies.