Previously, I have told you about some of the differences between American and Colombian culture in relation to time and meals. Today, I want to highlight some of the cultural differences you may encounter or notice when you visit Colombians in their homes or they visit you at yours, as this is very likely to happen at some point if you travel through or visit Colombia or have Colombian friends wherever you may be.
First of all, you need to understand that while an American would expect you to arrive on time for a visit, when a Colombian invites you over they do not actually expect you to arrive on time. If a Colombian tells you to come over around 7pm, you should probably aim to arrive between 7:30pm and 8pm. Arriving early may cause your host to feel embarrassed if things are not ready, or may cause you to feel embarrassed if you arrive to find your host rushing about to ready last minute things.
Likewise, if a Colombian invites you over for a meal do not think you have actually been invited over to only enjoy a meal. Most Colombians will assume you will stay for at least a few hours of conversation post-meal enjoyment. I remember when I first moved to Bogotá, I had a hard time getting used to the fact that a lunch invitation really implied an all day affair with me often arriving to lunch around midday and heading home around 7 or 8pm that evening. While it is a different custom than that generally practiced in the United States, it’s a custom that I eventually found endearing.
If you live in Colombia, or have Colombian friends, something else you should know is that many Colombians find it normal and/or acceptable to show up to your house without warning. I can remember several times during my semester in Bogotá when friends showed up at my doorstep with no warning at all hours of the morning, day, and night. After a while, I learned to embrace these moments as nice surprises, but it was definitely a shock in the beginning.
Something else valuable to know is that unlike in the United States, Colombian hosts will offer you food and drinks many, many times while they are hosting you. They will expect you to say “no” and refuse their offer a few times, out of politeness, but will assume that you will eventually say yes and accept their offer. And, to be polite, you should accept at some point. Refusing to accept an offer completely could be considered rude to your host.
All that being said, one similarity you will find between U.S. and Colombian expectations of company is the expectation that guests arrive with something in hand. Depending on whom you are visiting in Colombia, (a family, a friend, a new acquaintance, etc…), you could take a bottle of wine, flowers, dessert, or even a small souvenir from your home country. Whatever you take will likely be welcomed.
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- Differences between American Culture and Colombian Culture: Meals (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- 5 Interesting Colombian Manners (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- 10 Ways to Describe Colombians (www.uncovercolombia.com)