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Colombian Phrases and Gestures... A Colorful Dictionary

Posted by on in Colombia General Information
Normally, to really get into a culture it's essential to speak the language. In Colombia, however, your Spanish skills don't exactly need to be up to scratch in order for people to want to talk to you. Is this because they speak great English? Well, sometimes. But it's also because Colombians can say a lot without saying anything at all. Today we're taking a look at being understood in Colombia. With these helpful gestures and expressions, you should have no trouble blending in. Fluent in Spanish? You betcha.


[caption id="attachment_547" align="aligncenter" width="306"]Paila! Image courtesy of Paila! Image courtesy of

With a deft chop of the neck, you can express to people that something is particularly bad. How was your night last night? Chop to the neck says it was something to be forgotten.

"Be careful!"

[caption id="attachment_540" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Señor Suspicious says be careful Señor Suspicious says be careful

If you're on, say, a crowded bus and someone makes eye contact with you and scratches their face deliberately with one finger, this means to take care, there's something suspicious afoot.


[caption id="attachment_541" align="aligncenter" width="300"]She seriously didn't like that cheapskate She seriously didn't like that cheapskate

You don't want this one coming your way. If a Colombian rubs their elbow with a disappointed look on their face, this means that they feel someone is a cheapskate.

"Over there"

[caption id="attachment_542" align="aligncenter" width="300"]It's just there! It's just there!

Pointing with your finger is a mug's game. It takes too much effort and wastes a lot of time. What you want to be doing instead is using your lips. Purse them in the direction you're talking about and raise your eyebrows to show that "it's over there".


[caption id="attachment_543" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Drink, Mr. President? Drink, Mr. President?

This one's a classic in all Spanish speaking countries. Extend your pinky and thumb as you would to make a 'phone', and bring it close to your mouth. This means drink. Learn it, love it.

If you are interested in learning the language, there are also some key tips that will help you in Colombia. They don't always make sense, but they do always make people believe you're better than you actually are. Here are some key phrases to learn:

"Que mas?"

What more? What else? It doesn't work translating it... Heck it doesn't even really work in Spanish. Nonetheless, it's the phrase most often used to say "how are you?"


Both of these are used more than I can count, and both will help you sound very Colombian. You use them to say "wicked" or "awesome".


Both mildly offensive terms that are used cordially in Colombian slang. They basically, used nicely, mean "mate" or "dude".


Another to mean "mate".


Most Spanish speaking countries will pronounce the "hijo de puta" phrase fully. Not so in Colombia. You join all the words together to make a flowing "eeho-ee-poota". If you don't want to swear, just replace the offensive word with pucha or madre and you're all good, minding your p's and q's like a sir.

"A la orden"

Basically means "at your service". It will be shouted at you endlessly by people wanting you to go in their shop/bar/cafe/restaurant.

"Con mucho gusto"

A really polite way of saying "you're welcome" that's used so much it's not even extra polite any more, it's just normal.

Any more? Drop us a line!
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