1. Queuing for a bus is rare
On the TransMilenio bus system in Bogota, it’s every man for himself; unlike London buses, on most TransMilenio buses there aren’t specific doors for people getting on or getting off (although these are being introduced on certain routes, thank God!), so as the doors open at the station it’s like two opposing armies clashing as each side struggles to board or disembark. If you wait for people to get off before you board (London tube-style), you’ll likely miss the bus because the bus drivers won’t wait around for polite people, and neither will your fellow passengers.
2. You snooze, you lose.
If you make the mistake of losing concentration or hesitating for a second while waiting in line tobuy a bus ticket/drink/hamburger etc. you’ll find yourself ousted as someone else unapologetically barges in front of you. Similarly, if you’re trying to withdraw money and take too long to choose the correct option on the ATM machine as you desperately try to figure out the difference between “Ahorros” (savings) and “Corriente” (current account), the machine will impatiently spit your card back out at you, and you’ll have to start the whole process again.
3. People will rarely hold the door for you
And if you kindly hold the door for someone else, as you’re accustomed to doing back home, this will more often than not be met with silent indifference. You’ll find you become an expert in delivering a sarcastic “You’re welcome” in Spanish.
4. You will walk faster than the average Colombian-in-heels
You will regularly find yourself circumnavigating slower-walking people, particularly as Colombian women will rarely leave their house in anything other than heels. Forget walking to work in your suit and trainers, and changing into your heels in the office, London-style – appearance is ALWAYS more important than comfort in Bogota!
5. You’ll accumulate a mental list of jaw-dropping moments
This will include: how cheap hair salons are; how expensive gym membership is; the fact that ‘Happy Hour’ ends at 5pm; the box of 100 Lipton’s tea-bags which costs £7; the medium-sized tub of ice cream which costs £9; the queues of people trying to get into the TransMilenio station at rush-hour stretching all the way along the bridge and down the stairs; the sheer amount of food you can get for £2.50 or less from a lunchtime cafeteria…
6. Chinese food just isn’t the same
You’ll begin to think of a Chinese takeaway as an imminent-disappointment-on-a-moped speeding its way towards your address…
7. A small umbrella will never cut it in the wet season…
You thought that sensibly carrying a small umbrella in your bag at all times would keep you dry on those torrential afternoons during Bogotá’s wet season. Unfortunately you’ll soon discover, if you haven’t already, that the only thing that will stay dry is the top of your head. You’ll find yourself investing in a heavy-duty umbrella which does not fit in most bags, and cursing whenever you realise, about three blocks after you’ve left home, that you’ve forgotten it. You’ll also get some water-proof shoes/boots. No-one likes to squelch through the rest of the day.
8. You’ll start to adopt the local ‘liftiquette’
In Colombia saying ‘goodbye’ to the people left in the lift as you get off at your floor is considered good etiquette; it will feel a bit strange at first but you’ll get used to it. Just be prepared for the odd looks from people when you accidentally do it back home!
9. You’ll choose the bus over a taxi anytime
At first you’ll love the novelty of being able to afford to take a taxi whenever you want, before eventually becoming jaded by the generally cantankerous behaviour of Bogota’s taxi drivers, and henceforth opting to travel by bus or bike.
10. You’ll put on weight – because the way to the Colombian heart is through the stomach
When eating out or at a friend’s house, the food portions are usually huge and you will regularly be encouraged to accept more, followed by a huge warm smile. Colombians want you to feel welcome in their homes, and they have plenty of love (and food!) to give.
11. (For the Brits out there) You’ll need to teach people how to prepare a good cup of English tea
At some point you’ll experience the moment of horror when you realise that the kind person preparing your tea is about to put the milk into the cup before the hot water…and eventually you’ll start asking if you can just add the milk yourself.
12. Canine fashion
You’ll soon get the urge to follow the trend, buy a dog, start accumulating a substantial wardrobe for all occasions for said dog, and research canine hairdressers. You won’t be surprised if you spot a dog which has been dyed blue out and about with his owner, or if you have to do a double-take because you weren’t sure if that was a small lion or a chow-chow with an embarrassing haircut…
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