Fun-findings in Bogotá

While my time in Bogotá has been limited, I’ve picked up on a few random things (some good, some not so good) about the capital of Colombia. I will say that my findings are a bit biased from staying longer in the northern, more financial area of town.

  • Dogs
    • The dogs in Colombia are not like the dogs in Chile. In Chile, large rottweilers and german shepherds roamed the street – free, stray, intimidating. In Colombia, they are also free, but relaxed, roaming between owner and bush occasionally weaving in between people. There is no leash law in Colombia, but dogs remain close to their owner and may wander a bit, but are never invasive on other people. Today as I was walking I saw a man with his dog, a puppy. He dropped the leash to let the puppy walk beside him. They passed a construction site, and the pup scared of the noise ran into the street! His owner ran after him as a motobike nearly hit the nervous pup! Luckily the dog and owner were unharmed, and it was cute to see the leash-free training in process even with its hiccups.
    • A surprising number of dogs wear clothes here. I never thought I’d see more dogs dressed up than in the states, but here I have seen dogs in sweaters, dresses, jerseys, you name it.
  • Menu del dia
    • Many of the small lunchtime shops have a menu del dia posted outside of their door. From ajiaco to bistec de caballo (horse steak!), these change daily and are quickly prepared for those who are on the go or want a quick snack before getting back to work. Lunch is a great time for socializing as you’ll see most people deep in conversation with each other huddled over a plate of pechuga (chicken breast) ensalada y arroz. They are usually pretty affordable. A soup and main plate can go for about $3 USD and some nicer places with soup, entrée and dessert can be found for $5 USD.
  • Well-groomed
    • It’s commonly thought that Colombians are the most beautiful people in the world. Part of that is because they keep themselves so well-groomed. On every street you’ll see peluquerias (hair shops) and barber shops that often double as nail salons. It’s not uncommon to see men getting pedicures and manicures either!
  • Air pollution
    • As with many big bustling cities outside of the G20 countries, air pollution is a problem. The large SITP buses and some older cars emit clouds of black air as they round the corner and you can feel the pollution in the air sometimes especially right around rush hour and lunch time. While not a true impediment to the city, it can get annoying at times.
  • Snack trucks
    • Bogotá like a number of other Latin American countries find their streets spotted with colorful snack trucks selling brightly-colored bags of chips, cookies, chocolates, and wafers. The bursting colors always catch my eye and the unknown treats continuously tempt me but I’ve stayed strong so far.
  • Arepas
    • Typical Colombian thick flour tortillas! Some are made with corn which is even better in my opinion. That paired with chorizo and guac is heaven!!! Some folks prefer them filled with queso as well. But truth be told, I’m not doing arepas justice like this woman is – http://www.sarepa.com/2016/05/04/colombian-arepas/ 
  • Bus system
    • Transport in Bogotá is very easy, although my experience with it is limited. The bus system is extensive, including a rapid transit line and more local lines that cover the full landscape of the town. As you get closer to the center, there are even smaller mini buses/vans that crowd in to take folks up and down the winding roads of the historical center.
  • Taxis
    • I’ve only ridden one taxi in Bogotá and that was from the airport. I’ve been warned by expats and Colombians alike that the taxis in Bogotá are not to be messed with. They are known for exploitation, have held up passengers and changed fares that were once agreed upon. Never take a taxi off the street they say. Better to have a restaurant call you a taxi or even take an Uber which is super cheap! I’ve made it to the airport for less than $10. Apparently, the taxi drivers are in a mini war with the Uber drivers because they are losing business. A couple of weeks ago, a group of taxi drivers burned the car of an Uber driver in retaliation against the company.
  • Juan Valdez Cafés
    • The Colombian Starbucks. I was surprised to even see a Starbucks dare to show its face in this country. Juan Valdez Cafés are a place for conversing and connecting. I had my first Colombian business meeting there and noticed around me there wasn’t a single laptop unless a group of people were huddled around it. There’s seemingly much greater focus on relationships when dealing with business and the workplace. Unlike the individualistic nature of a Starbucks, Juan Valdez has more of an community feel. It has the ubiquity of Starbucks with a Colombian flare. In the Origenes line of cafés, you can even choose the origin of your coffee from different regions in Colombia and its preparation process!

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