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Cultural Customs in Colombia, the Weird, Whacky and Wonderful

Posted by on in Colombian Culture
Every culture has its ticks. Being English I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in a pub drinking beer and an even greater amount of time avoiding social awkwardness. I can't hug well and it takes me over two sentences to ask someone to move ('excuse me, terribly sorry to interupt. Would it be at all possible for you to just move ever so slightly to the left so that I can pass? Thank you kindly'). Even so, the things we get involved with and do strike me as pretty moderate and universal. We like football, drinking and the occassional party. We watch a lot of TV and probably spend too long on Facebook.
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Musicians in Periera
Musicians in Periera


So how about those Colombians, eh? What are their favourite activities? Some, of course, are normal. They like football, drinking and the occassional party. They watch a lot of TV and probably spend too long on Facebook. But what else drives these Latinos loco? Here are a few things that you should endeavour to get involved with in order to truly understand Colombian culture.

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1. Get into some Vallenato and drink Aguardiente


If the thought of listening to a fat, drunk Colombian sing about love and being drunk doesn't sound too appealing, then frankly you'll just have to turn your brain off and accept it. Though most parties will begin with a mix of Western music and salsa, any good Colombian rumba ends up in a Vallenato group-hug. Watch as your previously very cool Colombian friend turns wonderfully sentimental and begins to tell his friends how much he loves them. Watch as they begin to sing louder and louder until you can barely hear the music. Watch as somehow every single person there knows every word to every song. Lovely to behold, even if you don't enjoy vallenato.

................................................................................................................................................................2. Eat ants

Ants with fat asses, to be specific. Apparently they taste like nuts but I'm reluctant to try them since, y'know, it sounds disgusting. Still, if you really want to have the whole experience, this is part of the package. Oh, but before you get on your hands and knees in Bogota and start licking the floor, look out for 'Hormigas Culonas' in shops. These ants are a delicacy of the Santander region, so be sure to try them if you go to San Gil. At $2,000 a pack, they’re a bargain.

................................................................................................................................................................3. Stand on corners outside shops

No, not like that. You'll find that in Colombian pueblos, once you get to the end of the street there will almost always be a man stood by himself (or with a dog). Across the road a group of younger men will be sat drinking Poker (beer) in a tienda (small shop-turned-bar). This man seems to be almost exclusively there to give directions, or to say hi to other locals as they wander past. It's nothing dogy, it's just the way these guys roll. Best effect achieved if you wear a poncho and get yourself a big belly.
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Reggaetoneros
Reggaetoneros



4. Find love with San Antonio


Looking for love in Colombia? Think you're trying all the best tactics by learning salsa and chatting to Colombian men in Spanish? Wrong and wrong. What you should be doing is buying yourself a stamp of San Antonio and putting that bad boy head-down. Guaranteed to get you a boyfriend, so they say.
................................................................................................................................................................5. Drink a whole load of coffee

Coffee keeps you from sleeping? Could have fooled me. If it stopped you from sleeping people here wouldn't be able to get to sleep at all since it's not unusual for Colombians to consume around 20 cups of coffee a day. I mean, I like my coffee but can you imagine your breath after that much? Better yet, don't even try to imagine it. This might be one activity you should leave to the experts... If you are in San Augustin, however, be sure to head to the coffee plantations there and check out some of the best coffee you’re ever likely to taste.
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Ladies at the Carnival de Barranquilla, the biggest cultural event in Colombia
Ladies at the Carnival de Barranquilla, the biggest cultural event in Colombia


6. Dance Salsa

Honestly, if you don’t dance salsa in Colombia you ain’t worth a damn. You have to at least try or you’re just not going to get on the locals’ good side. It’s not as easy as pumping your fists in the air, European-style, but you’re just going to have to get over that. Get into the clubs, get your hips shaking.
................................................................................................................................................................7. Play Tejo

Tejo is an unusual sport that mainly revolves around throwing a big piece of metal at some explosives while you drink beer. Sound intriguing? I thought it might. Best to go with a big group if you want to enjoy this ‘social’ sport, since it involves a lot of chatting, drinking and general non-exercise.
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