Immersing Yourself Into Colombian Culture

A photo of a Colombian flag
Colombian culture can be traced back to 16th-century Spain's influence and its clash with Colombia's indigenous cultures. | Photo by Flava Carpio on Unsplash

Cultural immersion teaches us that our own social norms and norms are only a small portion of the immense diversity that exists, and that how individuals choose to live their lives differs widely around the world.

The benefits of integrating into a new society are various, ranging from the opportunity to learn new languages and experience new foods to understanding the essential components of pleasure and well-being. Experiencing, and even living in another culture helps you put your own life into perspective and generates more compassionate people, both of which are important in today’s world.

Speak the Local Language.

Colombia’s official language is Spanish, which is spoken by nearly all of the country’s people. Local Amerindian languages are still spoken in the countryside, particularly by the elderly, although they are rapidly disappearing.

Did you know that an eggplant is called an Aubergine in the UK? Or how sneakers are called trainers?

Colombian Spanish and European Spanish have the same linguistic differences. Those who are familiar with the latter will find it rather easy to navigate the country, but there will be some phrases and even words that you are unfamiliar with.

Why should you learn the local language? Culture is established and developed through the use of language in social interactions. When you speak the local dialect, you will gain a better understanding of Colombian culture because you will be able to observe how residents interact on a regular basis.

Colombia is a progressive country with a large English-literate population. However, even if you just know Basic Spanish 101, you can rest assured that your inability to communicate in Spanish will not prevent you from moving around.

A photo of a Colombian woman at a coffee shop
Interacting with the locals is the best way for you to get a glimpse of Colombian daily life. | Photo by Dawin Rizzo on Unsplash

Interact with the locals.

The greatest method to ease into a new nation is to get to know the natives and actually converse and interact with them. Talk to your cab driver, restaurant staff, local artists and shopkeepers, tour guides, market vendors, and anybody else you meet.

Attend festivals, sporting events, and other local outings to see the actual heart and spirit of a region, as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of residents enjoying their culture.

Seek out recommendations for activities to do, especially ones that only locals are aware of. You might even make a buddy this way. The more you talk to locals, the more you’ll learn about how to interact with them properly. You’ll also learn about people’s daily activities.

Don’t be a tourist; be a traveler. There are just some things that tourists never get to see. There’s nothing wrong with staying in posh hotels and dining in opulent restaurants, but they tend to give a watered-down image of local culture in order to cater to tourists’ needs.

You must make an effort to be a Colombian in order to really enjoy it. Learn to interact with the locals by living, working, and playing with them. They will be able to show you more about Colombian culture than any museum could.

Indulge in local cuisine.

Latin America is a very diverse region with numerous cultural influences, but you will still find similarities in the culinary culture across Latin American cities.

Colombian cuisine blends indigenous and European features and is greatly impacted by Afro-Caribbean influences. The Tairona, who lived along the Caribbean coast, and the Muisca, who lived in the highlands to the south, were the two largest indigenous populations prior to European conquest.

Because different locations have various geographies, their climates differ, and as a result, the crops grown in different cities in Colombia change as well.

The Bandeja Paisa, for example, is a traditional meal in Medellin. Rice, beans, eggs, plantains, and chorizos are served on a large dish.

Cali, the sports capital of Colombia, you’d often be served the Sancocho de Gallina, a soup composed of chicken, plantains, corn, yuca root, coriander, and many other seasonings.

Spicy lobster and seafood dishes can be found along the Caribbean coast.

While in Bogota, Colombia’s capital, Ajiacao is the customary meal. This soup is composed of chicken and potatoes and seasoned with guasca, a locally grown herb.

Each region has its own distinct culinary identity, and sampling the local cuisine is a necessity. It’s a good idea to eat where the locals do. You can be guaranteed that the meal is hygienic, tasty, and economical this way.

A photo of a Colombian woman at a coffee shop
Although you will find traditional dishes across the country, each region gives each cuisine a unique take based on prevalent naturally grown ingredients. | Photo by Delfina Lacub on Unsplash

Also, don’t refuse an invitation to food. In Colombian culture, an offering of food is an offer of friendship.

Get used to common Colombian etiquette.

It’s important to remember that Colombian culture is incredibly diverse, thus customs and proper behavior will vary depending on where you are. However, regardless of where you are, there are a few things to bear in mind when contacting locals.

Colombians are generally happy, gregarious people who value social interactions highly. They take great pleasure in telling people about virtually every aspect of their country, its culture, and history, and they do so with such zeal that it may look like they are bragging. It’s critical not to disregard any part of Colombia, as doing so will put you on the wrong side of the proud locals.

Expect to see conventional roles in the home preserved because family is such an essential aspect of Colombian culture. Friends and coworkers will take precedence over family gatherings, so don’t be offended if you appear to be ‘blowing off’ in favor of a family get-together. However, this emphasis on family may make it difficult for foreigners to integrate into Colombian society.

Keep in mind that table manners are very important when dining with Colombians. Make sure your hands are visible, your elbows aren’t on the table, and you don’t sit or start eating until your host welcomes you. When dining, always use utensils; eating with your fingers is frowned upon. When dining out, keep in mind that you will almost definitely be expected to pay the bill by the person who invited you.

If you’re paying a visit to a Colombian in their house, bring a little present, such as wine, chocolates, or flowers, but avoid marigolds or lilies, which are connected with funerals in Colombia, as they are in many other nations.