A Short List of Colombian Paradoxes

the Colombian lies?

the Government lies?

  • More than six million Colombians are internally displaced but the country mobilizes when 10,000+ are forced to leave the neighboring country of Venezuela.
  • Colombia’s Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez continues a campaign to dismiss Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro from this position despite only a few months remaining to his tenure.
  • People will pick up their dog excrement and bag it and leave it on the ground under 20 yards from the nearest bin.
  • Footballer Radamel Falcao has not been the same player since his injury whilst playing for Monaco but his dip in form is Louis Van Gaal’s fault. Two months from now it will be Jose Mourinho’s.
  • Real Estate Agents don’t work on weekends in Bogotá, when people have time to go and view apartments and houses, preferring to squeeze in multiple viewings between 6am and 8am before work and after 6pm on weekdays.
  • Despite suffering more than 50 years of a civil conflict, were it to come down to a popular national vote, the public would – very possibly – vote against a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas.
  • Appearance is everything in Colombia, with men routinely getting manicures, but no one complains about the amount of trash spewed over the sidewalks once the recicladores have been through.
  • You can have 15 years of experience in the relevant field in Colombia but if you don’t have an MA you are not considered for the job.
  • The only way to become an “untouchable” in Colombia is to join the political class, which is, the least trusted and very possibly the most hated in the country.
  • Members of the Colombian diaspora become fervently Uribista once they have left Colombia, thanking the former president for increasing security on the country’s highways making it possible to drive cars on roads they will never again use.
  • Towns suffering from seasonal outbreaks of dengue in Colombia can only gain access to the necessary fumigation products from the central government after two cases of the illness have been officially reported and registered.

The celador and his guard dog #graffiti

A photo posted by Richard McColl (@rsnmccoll) on

And there you have it, a short list of Colombian paradoxes

Can you think of any more Colombian paradoxes? Write in and share them with us!

About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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21 Responses to A Short List of Colombian Paradoxes

  1. Ivan says:

    – Puts trust in a security guard, who is usually poor, armed and has all the keys. Does not trust neighbours.

    – Complains about colonialism, even after more than 200 years. Trusts a foreigner much more than a local

    – Complains about other's shallowness. Puts another photo of breakfast on Instagram.

    – Wants the country to become rich. Does not want to spend any money because saves to spend it abroad.

    – Joins an MLM scheme. Considers him / herself a businessperson.

    – Thinks that all Europeans speak many languages, wear shorts and are blond and serious. Never been to Europe.

    • Richard says:

      Wow Ivan, some poignant ones there! Thank you.

    • Rich says:

      Yes, about that last one many years ago I was on a buseta and someone asked me, "qué tal India? Qué tal Egipto?" I told him I had no idea and that Colombia was really the only other country outside the US I had ever visited. This was strange and disconcerting to him, and I totally see his point.

  2. Kevin Howlett says:

    A truly bizarre place. Why speed along ignoring red lights and almost ploughing down pedestrians when "getting to the meeting on time" is never a thing? Wettest place on earth but there are villages without drinking water. One of the biggest oil produces in the world, one of the highest petrol/gas costs in the world. The list is, well…

  3. SJC says:

    Medellin being seen by itself and other cities as being "innovative" because of its Metro system- which was first installed over 100 years' previously in London.

    • Richard says:

      good one! And the award was an open online voting fiasco.

    • Andy says:

      Nope, incorrect statement Medellin didn't win that award because of the metro system.

      It won it because of the innovative approaches that led to a quick turnaround from being the "World homicide capital" to a city that is doing much better in less than 10 years. A couple of the innovative techniques were 1) metro-cable (gondola) system to allow marginalized communities such as Comuna 13 to reduce transportation times for residents and thus reduce commuting times. 2) Building libraries in marginalized communities….such as the Biblioteca España, 3) making massive investments in education, which have led to the drops in homicide rates. 4) Fostering an entrepreneurial community.

      Name one other city before Medellin that used a Gondola system as a massive transportation system for city residents. I couldn't find any. Thus, that's the definition of Innovation……doing something no other thing has done before. Therefore, as you can see Medellin didn't win the award for the metro system….because as you correctly point out, a metro system is not innovative….but it was really the package of techniques / approaches that Medellin has been experimenting with (which one of them happens to be the Metro Cable Gondola system).

  4. Chris says:

    Rightfully proud of its natural beauty, yet garbage strewn everywhere.
    Wonderful walking access to shops, restaurants, other cultural amenities, but only if you can make it across the street without being run over.
    Obsession with beauty, addiction to junk food.
    Love Colombia, hate Bogota.
    Justifiably famous urban sustainability accomplishments in Medellin and Bogota, fueled in large part by completely unsustainable petroleum boom.
    Fixation on street crime, obliviousness to traffic dangers.

  5. SJC says:

    Rich v. Poor:
    Estrato 6 with maids, nannies, 1 or 2 country homes, numerous international holidays, MNL employment, private education and health (but still want more).
    Estrato 1 o 0- nothing.
    Often living side-by-side.

  6. Hevest says:

    When people phone you, the first thing they say is ´who am I talking to?´. (Con quién hablo?)

    When someone says ´now´ (ahora) they mean ´later´. (If they say ´later´ that might mean never).

  7. In Cali they are going to close the busiest public hospital – El Hospital Universitario, because they don't have money to keep it running. Newborns are placed in cardboard boxes on the floor. A pack of latex gloves, that cost $40.000 pesos, gets invoiced at $100.000 pesos. 40 for the product. 60 to the politician that authorizes the payment.
    But the city has no problem paying for the 5-day Petronio Alvarez Festival and the weeklong salsa festival – La Feria.

  8. Rich says:

    I will defend that last one, about dengue. The chemicals are nasty stuff and shouldn't be sprayed without a reason. As for trash, people may think "todo tiempo pasado fué mejor" but I think the city, including grubby residential parts, is cleaner than it was 20 or 30 years ago. As for the mania about credentials, probably the first time I ever saw anything on TV about Colombia was 35 or 40 years ago, a documentary on US public television (possibly from the BBC) which included a quick montage of dozens of secretaries answering the phone or placing a call on behalf of a "doctor." We can thank the late president Turbay for people starting to look at the title ironically.

    • Richard says:

      We can defend the dengue chemicals to a point, but having had a neighbour lose their 8 year old daughter to it, my opinions change somewhat. And you know how it is, once it's out there….

  9. Sucre gringo says:

    I hate the way Colombian people use toothpicks. They rudely pick their teeth in restaurants in broad daylight and then they push their used toothpicks through the holes into the salt shaker (with salt!) on the table.

    Because of that I stopped using salt in restaurants unless it's in sachets. Be careful.

    There are a million paradoxes in Colombia. I lived here for about 15 years but I'm getting more disillusioned with this country now. It's too much of a third world country. It will never improve no matter how hard you try.

    All Colombian people are liars. Every single one of them.

    It's time for foreigners to dump Colombia.

  10. Sucre gringo says:

    In Exito supermarket, a bottle of Evian water 1 litre costs 10,430 pesos, which is about 2.30 GBP. In the UK supermarkets, a 2 litre of Evian water costs about 85p.

    How much is it the USA? I bet it's even cheaper than in the UK?

    Exito and Olimpica are rip-offs.

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