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How to Live Like a Costeño?

Posted by on in Caribbean Coast

Our third and final part of the "How to Live Like a..." (check out our previous guides on Bogotanos and Paisas) takes a look at the life of Costeños (that is the people living near the 1,700kms of the Colombian Atlantic Coast); those loveable rogues that have the pleasure of beaches and sun being part of their daily lives.

Now of all the lifestyles we've described, no doubt you'll be thinking that Costeño living must be the easiest. After all, this is a region where I've met people that were too lazy to sell me stuff on the street. I'm talking a street vendor not being bothered to stand up and talk to me after I expressed an interest in purchasing some goods. A refreshing change from the constant pressure put on me in Bogotano markets, but surely bad for business?

As anyone that has spent time on beaches near Cartagena will know, however, you can't go around saying that Costeños are lazy and expect it to be a truism. This is a region that has a well-deserved reputation for being fun-loving and laid-back, but has also produced some of Colombia's greatest minds (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name just one).

So what's the elusive secret to being Costeño?

Love vallenato

Not every Costeño loves vallenato, but to play it safe you better get a taste for it. Whether blaring from the speakers attached to someone's bike in Tolu or from an expensive rig in a delapidated house in Taganga, vallenato is pretty inescapable on the coast, so it's in your best interests to just accept it.

Costeño, loving life, and Vallenato! Costeño, loving life, and Vallenato!

'e ha'la 'pañol!

No matter how long I study Spanish, I still find it hard to understand Costeños. I've done whole tours of La Guajira without understanding a word my guide said. He still tried his best though, bless him.

And that's the trick. Try to speak so people understand about 50% of what you say, but don't give a damn about it and keep on talking. Your cheery, animated conversation should keep things going regardless.


Drink Old Parr

No self-respecting Costeño would be seen dead without a bottle of Old Parr (whisky that is) at their table when drinking. Old Parr is so entwined with the legend and image of vallenato (even lyrics namecheck it) that isn't just a favourite drink anymore. It's a cultural icon.

Dance freely, frequently

]Everyone is Dancing, Barranquilla! Everyone is Dancing, Barranquilla!

Like most regions of Colombia you'll find dancing is a favourite passtime. Difference is, you've got the most rhythm (apart from those crazy Caleños). You can dance the simple stuff like cumbia with an elegance Bogotanos can only dream of, and then without missing a beat switch to some hardcore champeta. The dancefloor is yours.

Don't have sex with a goat

I mean, you could, but despite the rumours (and Vice videos) chances are you'd be shunned for being an absolute freak and abuser of animals.

Cogela suave (take it easy)

It's an unfair stereotype of Costeños that they're lazy, but there's no doubt they take things a little easier than other parts of the world. Wouldn't you, when faced with such heat?

There's no good expecting people to show up on time or thinking you can storm around the city at a States-like pace. You can't stay attached to a queue system and nor can you abide by the saying "the customer is always right".

You'll have to learn to slow down just a little and to appreciate life at a different pace. Take things as they come, and take it easy. After all, there's always mañana.

Enjoy good food

It's often reported that the best food in Colombia is found on the coast and in my experience this is no lie. With far more focus on condiments and sauces, as well as fish, there's far more variation and flavour and if you're sick of your Medellín corrientazo, you'll be thrilled to find this out. So sink that delicious fish down with an Old Parr and cogela suave, cara queso!

Are we missing anything? Let us know in the comments!


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