Cultural Differences


I’ve been in Colombia for almost 2 weeks. So far, it has been a pretty smooth transition to life here. Since I came to Colombia through an organization called AIESEC, I already have a network of people to show me around and make me feel welcome. As soon as I stepped off the plane, they have been showing a great effort to ensure that I’m having a great time.


AIESECers greeting me at the airport


My welcome party

In addition to having supportive people around me, my cultural transition has been eased by the simple fact that life here isn’t too different from what I was used to in the U.S. Still, I’m enjoying taking inventory of the little similarities and differences that I notice. Here are some:


  • American TV. Some of my favorite shows like Glee, Glee Project, Friends, etc. are common here too. I have a friend here who taught himself English largely by watching Friends!
  • Junk food. At first I thought junk food wasn’t that common here because my host family eats really well, but then my host brother and I started to going to hamburger/hot dog joints.
  • Walking. Similar to life in NYC, walking is my main form of transport here.
  • Fashion – I see most of the same beauty and fashion trends here…. except that guys are WAY more into the faux hawks here. Also, sock buns have not caught on here yet. I wore my hair in a high bun to work on Friday and my boss thought I was paying homage to my Japanese heritage. Hah! Little did she know that I was actually just copying the hairdo of every woman between the ages of 20-35 in every major metropolitan area in America.


  • There is no McDonalds here! The closest one is in Pereira, which is about an hour away. While there aren’t any golden arches in sight, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the local mall…
  • It’s common to see small children or babies riding with their parents on motorcycles
  • Some cars don’t have seat belts in the backseat
  • Hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches come with a (gross) pineapple sauce
  • A breakfast vendor wakes me up every morning. He comes around my neighborhood at the crack of dawn screaming “empanada de queso – café”. Even though my room doesn’t face the street, I can still hear him. I hate this man.
  • Fresh fruit juice – Fresh juice is a very big part of the daily diet here. In fact, in my kitchen there aren’t many appliances at all, but we DO have an electric juicer.
  • Different fruits – There’s all these new, interesting fruits here! I love the guanabana (below).
  • No AC. Instead of relying on AC, people cool their homes and offices just by opening the windows or their doors to their outdoor patios. The weather is so mild here that I haven’t missed having AC at all.
  • Siesta – I have 3 hours in the middle of each day to eat lunch and take a nap!
  • The mountains around Armenia (below) are so pretty
  • The “usted” form.  Colombians use the formal “usted” tense way more than I found in Spain. Not only do they use it in professional settings, but men also use it when addressing other men – whether at work or at home. For example, my host brother Jonathan uses the “usted” form when speaking with his father and male friends. Since I’m a girl, I don’t have to use the “usted” form when speaking with Jonathan’s father, but I do anyway.
  • The money – It’s definitely going to take me a little while longer to get used to the Colombian Peso
    2,000 Pesos: $1
    5,000 Pesos: $2.5
    10,000 Pesos: $5
    20,000 Pesos: $10
    50,000 Pesos: $27


Holding a guanabana – it’s heavy! 


The mountains outside of Armenia


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