Expat Tips and Experiences: Interview in Expats Blog

The kind people over at Expats Blog interviewed me about my experiences as an expat and writer in Colombia.

Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, USA.

In which country and city are you living now?
I now live in the vibrant city of Bogota, Colombia.

How long have you lived in Colombia and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved to Bogota in the first months of 2012, and I don’t plan on leaving.

Why did you move to Colombia and what do you do?
I arrived in Bogota following my husband on his work assignment. As a journalist I find plenty to write about in this city I love. I enjoy writing about food, travel and culture in Colombia for newspapers, print magazines and websites in different countries.

Ready for the South American train adventure

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, my husband and my dog, a miniature Poodle that loves Bogota as much as I do.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
In general, I loved the experience. I moved to South America almost twenty years ago, and was amazed to see how the move opened me up to a new world of ideas and a way of living I would never have been able to experience if I’d stayed home.

Of course, not everything is easy, and there’s always a tendency to remember the past and compare things with my home country. But I focus on the positive and feel that every day holds a new adventure.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I mainly socialize with Colombians, who are open and friendly. I’ve made deep, lasting friendships here in South America. Definitely life in Latin America revolves around people and enjoying life, not just work and achievements.

I have a lot of expat friends, who do understand me better in some aspects, but I try not to isolate myself from the culture of the country I’m living in.

On the Plaza de BolivarMaking friends on the Plaza de Bolivar

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
One of the best things to do anywhere in Colombia is eat. There are wonderful regional dishes, and Colombian generosity and hospitality definitely involves food. There are lots of great international restaurants to try, too.

Day trips to the beautiful towns and parks outside Bogota provide a needed escape from the crazy congestion in this mega-city. And with cheap flights, it’s easy to travel nearly anywhere in Colombia. There are amazing places to visit; you can stay on a coffee farm in the coffee producing area, get a dose of history in Cartagena, explore Medellin, hide away on tropical islands or visit small villages in the Amazon jungle.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The people, since they’re so kind. And hey, it’s Colombia, so people always have time to meet for a coffee. I also enjoy the more laid-back lifestyle.

How does the cost of living in Colombia compare to the US?
It’s a lot cheaper here. One of the benefits of living in most parts of Latin America is that money certainly goes farther than in the States or Europe.

It’s also easier to live a simpler life. People here aren’t generally focused on what you have, but on who you are. So I don’t feel judged because I’m not keeping up with the latest cars, clothes and gadgets that everyone else has.

Beautiful Lake Guatavita just outside BogotaBeautiful Lake Guatavita just outside Bogota

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The standard of living can be quite low in some areas of South America, so at times I find increased crime and lack of organization and cleanliness difficult to live with.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Anyone moving to Bogota should get ready to spend long hours stuck in traffic.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being far from my family is the biggest issue, especially when someone gets sick.

When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
I’ve been enjoying expat life so much, I don’t plan on going back to my country to live. But I think if I did, I would be more a foreigner there than I am in South America. Living in another country has changed me and my outlook on life, has broadened my ideas, my tastes and my view of people. That’s all positive, but it also means that I’m not the same person I was when I left, and going back wouldn’t easy. Something that I think would make the transition easier would be living in an area where there are a lot of foreigners.

Enjoying a morning trip to Monserrate

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Plan well. Research, research, research; you can never know too much about a place you plan on moving to.
  2. Be realistic. It’s a different country, but people are neither angels nor devils just because they’re foreigners. You’ll run into a lot of difficulties but that doesn’t mean the place is bad or wrong for you; it’s just part of the process of getting established abroad.
  3. Get to meet as many people as possible. That helps to overcome homesickness, enriches our lives, and helps us to learn about the local culture.
  4. Don’t focus too much on what you left behind. Reach out to embrace the new things around you.
  5. Relax and enjoy ! It’s all about the experience. Things aren’t done the same as at home, but it works for the people here. And along the way we benefit from it.

Feel free to read the full interview at Expats Blog.

An inspiring breakfast

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