Welcome to the third in our series of Colombia Portraits. These are a series of interviews we have conducted with expat professionals here in Colombia. We’re interested in knowing just what these people are doing here. Why did they move to Colombia of all places, and what is their life like now they’ve moved.
Kevin Howlett is a British journalist specialised in Colombia as well as the founder and manager of the website Colombia Politics.
Introduce yourself... What's your name, where are you from and what do you do here in Colombia?
Kevin Howlett, British, earlyish-thirties, Chapinero Alto resident.
Colombia is a something of an unreported world. To be honest, the little the papers tell us about the country is often wrong and or full of clichés and stereotypes.
I wanted to help change this so I founded the website www.colombia-politics.com
. We´re the only English language site specifically dedicated to analysing and reporting on the country´s politics and economics.
I also have a business, Colombia Consulting Group that offers strategic and political communication services to Colombian and foreign businesses. Like Off2Colombia we´re trying to ´sell´ Colombia to the outside world.
And how long have you been here?
I´ve been back and forth between the UK and Colombia since the start of 2010. I live here, but always spend a bit of the year in the UK.
Why Colombia, and why, specifically, Bogota?
I always knew I wanted to live in Latin America. I´ve travelled all around the continent. When I got to Colombia, when I came ashore in Cartagena
(I was on the boat trip from Panana to Colombia) I knew this was the place for me.
[caption id="attachment_657" align="aligncenter" width="266"]
Kevin at the Senate
We all have a notion of what the latin spirit is. Colombia is that and more, it´s a crazy and addictive place. After Colombia everywhere else is just a bit dull really.
Bogota´s where the national politics are played out – for what I do I need to be close to where the decisions are made. It´s also a modern and cultured city - and one of enthralling contrasts. I love most places in Colombia, though, to be honest.
What did people back home say when you told them you were moving to Colombia?
I definitely got the usual jokes about drug trafficking etc, but most friends were more than a little jealous; especially so when I showed them my photos.
I´d like to say my Dad wasn´t nervous and concerned by the stories he´d heard, but…
What keeps you here? What is it that makes it a place you've stayed for so long?
It´s addictive, I´m here for the long haul. I love the people, the culture, the music, and I can´t live without a cheeky ajiaco or sancochito. I´m orgullosamente a Colombo-Británico.
And what would you change? What do you find frustrating?
Colombia is obsessed by bureaucracy. As I have my own business sometimes this red tape can be absurd, illogical, and utterly pointless.
Things move a wee bit slowly here sometimes, and as I´m a Brit I find the lack of punctuality a challenge.
I´d change some things, but Colombia is one of those countries that can be head-in-hands baffling one day and the best place on earth the next. That´s part of the joy of the place, it´s never dull.
What piece of advice would you give to a newcomer?
Patience, let yourself go with the flow. Don´t be suspicious of a smile or a helping hand, Colombians are naturally friendly and so much warmer than us.
If you´re a chap beef up your gentlemanliness, hold open doors and let your romantic side out.
What has been your favourite trip inside Colombia?
I´ve loved all my trips in Colombia. My most memorable jaunt is probably to the coffee zone
, but one of my favourite places is still Popayán
where I lived for some months – it´s a beautiful colonial city.
Any final comments?
Thanks for the interview and do visit my website and tell me if you want me to cover a particular story or profile a particular person who interests you. Hopefully we can start to tell the world what Colombia is really about, and challenge the lazy perceptions of the place.
Please join the community at www.facebook.com/ColombiaPolitics and
follow me on twitter @colpolitics
=> Check our previous portraits: Christian Petersen, Bogotá Graffiti Tours and Eric Tabone, Bogotá Business English