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We have talked about Colombia’s diversity in the past.

About its food, people, and music.

And we know, it is precisely our rich cultural diversity one of the reasons people decide to visit Colombia and to learn Spanish.

Colombia is a big country. There is so much to see and so much to do!

If you want to explore and experience deeply our cultural richness you would need to visit all five regions. The Caribbean coast, the Pacific coast, the Andes Mountain Range, the Grassland Plains, and the Amazon Rainforest.

Which requires quite some time…

Luckily, you can visit and live in Bogota. The city where you can get a full immersion into Colombian culture.

Where is Bogota?

Bogota is the capital of and the largest city in Colombia. It is also the third-largest city in South America after São Paulo (Brazil) and Lima (Peru).

With its many universities and libraries, Bogota is known as the “Athens of South America”.

It is the political and cultural centre of the country. It is a place of convergence for people from all over the country and from all over the world.

Every year people move to the capital city to either study or to work. Therefore a good part of its population is not local, and as a result, it is very diverse and multicultural.

Bogota is the country’s beating heart. It is said that it is the melting pot of Colombia.

Here all cultures have a place.

What is Bogota known for?

Bogota brings together the best of the country; its music, its food, its art, its people. The cultural offer is infinite.

There is a broad array of local and international restaurants. There are many parks with concert facilities, and beautiful mountains surrounding the city where you can do day-hikes.

For art lovers, there are around 58 museums and over 70 art galleries.

There are also events such as ArtBo (International Fair of Art of Bogotá), La Feria del Millón (Art festival for both up-and-coming artists and first-time art buyers) and Barcú (International Fair of Arts and Culture).

In Bogota, you can find sounds and vibes from the Caribbean at festivals like Colombia al Parque or night clubs like La Negra. And, the flavours of the Pacific and Amazonia region in restaurants like Petronio or Mini-mal.

You can also find the Colombian best coffees. There are places where you can do coffee tasting, or book stores where you can sit and enjoy a reading afternoon such as Wilborada 1047.

Bogota, cultural heritage

In addition, Bogota was named the UNESCO City of Music in recognition of its rich musical heritage and the innumerable festivals held throughout the year.

Read also our post about Colombian music “10 Colombian music genres you need to know about!”.

In Bogota, you will be 2.600 meters “closer to the stars”.

Yes, it is one of the highest capitals in the world, located 2.600 meters above sea level (8.612 feet).

It is a city that will always exceed your expectations. Check out why:

Cultural diversity in Bogota

Bogota not only attracts people from other regions of Colombia.

It also attracts people from non-Spanish speaking countries who are keen to immerse themselves in the Colombian culture and to learn Spanish.

Rolos, as people from Bogota are known, are reputed to have one of the most neutral and clearest accents in the Spanish-speaking world. They have also an internal reputation for being distant or “cold” -as it usually happens with people from capital cities-. However, you would be surprised by how friendly, polite and open-minded Rolos are.

Tip: In Bogota, many people prefer to use the formal “usted” instead of “tú”, even between good friends and family members.

To know more about the differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain read our previous post “Top 5 differences between Spanish from Colombia and Spanish from Spain

Why learn Spanish in Bogota?

If you want to learn or improve your Spanish before starting your trip around Colombia, there is nothing better than spending some time in Bogota.

Why?

In Bogota you will meet people from Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Chocó, Bucaramanga, Pasto and many other Colombian cities.

You will have time to talk to them when buying street food, visiting local fruit markets, or having drinks at one of the city’s trendy rooftops.

You will get familiar with the different accents, dialects, and talking speeds. Also, you will learn the most common Colombian slang and expressions.

One thing is for sure, you will never get bored in Bogota! A city full of art, fashion, food, culture, history, music, and unique experiences.

See you there!

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

 

It would be difficult to imagine Colombia without music, wouldn’t it?

In Colombia, music is passion, it’s a sensory experience.

As we usually say, music is in our blood -“Llevamos la música en la sangre”-

And, yes, it is literally in our blood!

Our music is a blend of Spanish and European influences with indigenous sounds and African beats. Read also our post People of Colombia, as diverse as their country

In Colombia, we don’t just hear the music, we feel it and we live it.

Our passion for music and our love for dancing is actually one of the things people like the most about Colombians.

“Music is an important part of the Colombian culture. It is a way of expressing emotions, sharing discomfort or showing love to friends and family. It is a way of showing their pride for their roots, and a way of living in the moment.”

Colombian music has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Every part of Colombia moves to a different sound; each region has its own rhythms.

There are more than 1,025 folk rhythms grouped into 157 different genres. That is why our country is known by “the land of the thousand rhythms”.

It is not surprising, then, that ProColombia has outlined one of the country’s promotion campaign based on our musical diversity. The campaign is called Feel the Rhythm.

Also, in 2018, ProColombia together with UNWTO and Sound Diplomacy released a white paper on music and tourism, called Music is the new gastronomy. It looks at music as a primary driver of tourism.

Now you know, no trip to Colombia is complete without music!

So, if you are planning to visit Colombia, make sure you get familiar with our music and with our language.

There is no better way to enjoy Colombian culture than by dancing our music and talking to our people!

Let us now take you to a Colombian music journey. Discover the 10 most popular Music Genres and Styles from our country:

Caribbean region

1. Cumbia

Cumbia is perhaps the country’s most popular music genre. It originated as a courtship dance among West African slaves.

Initially, Cumbia was performed using only drums and claves. Then, it incorporated other influences from the indigenous Kogui and Kuna tribes (flutes and percussion). As well as from Spaniards (European guitars), and Germans (accordion).

Even if you have not visited Colombia, you have probably heard Cumbia beats and seen Cumbia dance. Shakira, one of the country’s most recognized artists has been a great ambassador of this genre.

The following video explains how and where Cumbia began.

If you want to learn more about Cumbia, watch also videos from Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto.

2. Bullerengue

Bullerengue is a Cumbia-based style traditionally sung by women. It also has African and Spanish roots and influences.

Some of its main characteristics include a strong emphasis in rhythm and improvisation over melody, large groups of musicians, and a call-and-response interaction between the lead singer, known as “cantadora” and a choir.

Two of the most famous bullerengue singers are Petrona Martinez and Totó La Momposina. Thanks to them, Bullerengue recognized internationally.

3. Vallenato

Along with Cumbia, Vallenato is one of the most popular Colombian music genres.

Vallenato is traditionally played with an indigenous Gaita flute, a caja drum, a guacharaca, and an accordion.

This genre is characterized by its literary content and narrative style. To such extent that Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian writer, once said that this music had been woven with the same strand of his novels and that the most famous of them “One hundred years of Solitude” was nothing more than a 300-pages Vallenato.

Vallenato was considered the music of the lower class and farmers. But, after the mid-20th century, it gradually started penetrating through every social group.

In recent years, artists like Carlos Vives have begun mixing vallenato with contemporary rhythms, developing a modern variant.

4. Champeta

Champeta is more than a music genre or a dance; it’s a movement. It began in the early ’80s among Afro-Colombians, mainly Cartagena de Indias.

The word “champeta” originally denoted a kind of knife used in the region at work, in the kitchen or, sometimes, even as an offensive weapon. Then, the term “champetudo” started to be used by the elites of the city to refer to those residents of the more outlying districts of Cartagena, who tended to be poorer and of African descent.

Champeta is a fusion of rhythms from Africa (soukous, highlife, mbaqanga, juju), the Antilles (ragga, compás haitiano), and music of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian origins (bullerengue, mapalé, zambapalo and chalupa).

Champeta also has evolved during the last decades. It passed from being a music genre and dance of the so-called “poor”; to being even one of the favorite music genres of the middle and upper classes in Bogotá.

Pacific Region

Pacific music includes a large number of music styles depending on the region.

Music from the north is more energetic, while music from the south is characterized by a mellow timbre from the wooden marimba.

5. Currulao

Currulao is the most renowned Pacific music genre.

It is mainly played by a group of musicians. The Currulao rhythm is created by striking the skin of the African drum called “cununo” with the one’s hand and tapping the side of the drum with a small stick. But the main instrument is perhaps the Colombian marimba, a wooden xylophone that resembles the African balafon.

Check out the following video and learn how Currulao sounds like

In recent years Currulao has gained popularity amidst young musicians from the region. They have included the rhythms and instruments in their contemporary compositions to promote their region and to show how proud they are of being Afro-Colombians and being from the Pacific.

Watch for instance Herencia de Timbiqui and Choquibtown

Andean Region

6. Bambuco

Bambuco is a folk genre that originated in the Andean highlands. It is pretty much a fusion between Spanish and indigenous styles, although it has some African roots as well.

It is traditionally performed with a bandola, guitar or mandolin and a small 12-string instrument called a tiple.

Rhythmically is related to the Currulao, which is called some times Bambuco Viejo (Old Bambuco). However, Andean Bambuco has a more melancholic spirit.

Bambuco was popular all over Colombia between the 1920s and the 1930s. Unfortunately, its popularity is not as it used to be but its rhythms have influenced many other modern genres.

Interestingly, during the last years, traditional music has gained again some popularity thanks to young musicians. One of them is Katie Jaimes, who was born in south Ireland but when she was two years old her family moved to Colombia where she grew up and lives presently.

Check out one of her latest videos with Spanish subtitles so that you can practice your Spanish!

7. Salsa

Those from Colombia probably are used to hearing “are you from Colombia? So you dance salsa, can you teach me?”

Although Salsa is not originally a Colombian music genre, it is very important to mention it due to its great influence in our culture.

There is not a trip to Colombia without music, there is definitely not a trip to Colombia without salsa.

Colombian salsa started developing in the country during the 1960s when Cali’s upper class organized every year a carnival to commemorate the crop of sugarcane. This music style gained quite some popularity among the “caleños” (people from Cali), they introduced their own steps and speed. Was then when Colombian Salsa or Salsa Caleña was born.

Unlike other salsa styles, in Colombian salsa, the upper body remains mostly rigid, with most of the movement occurring in the hips and legs.

Check out how Colombians dance salsa:

Over the years, like all the other genres, Colombian salsa has also evolved. New subgenres have been born. One of those is Salsa Choke. It is a genre-mixing Afro-based rhythm and traditional salsa with reggaeton.

Orinoquia Region

8. Musica Llanera and Joropo

Joropo is the traditional style from “música llanera” which literally translates to “music of the plains”. It is inspired by nature, landscapes, and the lifestyle the Colombian cowboys.

There are milking songs (canciones de ordeño); cattle driving songs (canciones del cabestrero); calming songs before sunset (canciones de vela); and taming songs (canciones de domesticación).

It is known for verbal contests called “contrapunteo”, the use of the harp as the lead instrument, and the fast-paced maracas.

Cholo Valderrama is one of the most popular artists performing Musica Llanera. Check out the following video and learn how it sounds like:

Insular Region

9. San Andrés and Providencia Islands rhythms

The music of the insular region is even more diverse than the music from the other regions. It also has African and European influences, but it also adds some Caribbean mixes.

The rhythms from the islands include Calipso, Compas, Foxtrot, Mazurka, Mento, Praise Hymn, Pasillo isleño, Polca, Quadrille, Reggae, Schottische, Soca, Vals isleño, and Zouk.

There is not one specific genre from the Colombian Insular region; the “traditional” rhythms are the blend of these.

Check out the following two videos from San Andrés and Providencia artists:

Creole group

Elkin Robinson

Did you hear any different language than Spanish in these songs? Yes, you are right! in this region, people also speak Creole and English.

Amazon Region

10. Amazon Rainforest Rhythms

The Amazon is the least populated and least developed region of Colombia, but it is one of the most biodiverse from Colombia and from the world.

Amazon rainforest is also known as being the Lungs of the Earth. It produces some of the world’s rarest and most unusual fruits and flavors. It is also home to numerous indigenous communities, sounds and rhythms.

There is not a specific genre or rhythm from this region. However, each year, at the end of November, and for three days, takes place the International festival of amazonense popular music finmupa “el pirarucu de oro”.

Check out the latest video of the Feel the Rhythm campaign about this region and let yourself mesmerized by the sounds of the indigenous flute and the images of the rainforest.

We hope you have enjoyed the Colombian music journey. Colombia is a culture that is best understood through its sounds.

We also hope that by watching these videos you are now more familiar with our music, our dances and our traditional dresses. Remember that even though music is an international language, learning Spanish will give you a great advantage when understanding the lyrics of the songs and understanding our culture.

Learn Spanish in Colombia: In-Class & Online Courses

One of the things people like the most when visiting Colombia is to discover the different cultures within the country.

Each region has its own traditions, its unique customs, and its own accent.

There is plenty of music, food, and people wherever you go.

We often hear people saying they like Colombians or they like Colombian Culture, but what do they really mean?

Colombian culture is fascinating. It has been the result of the country’s location and the influences of other cultures over the years.

Let’s look back into history!

How did the cultural mix start in Colombia?

Since the “La Conquista” period, Colombia has been an important point of arrival for immigrants coming to South America. For instance, Spanish and Africans. They settled in the country for more than two hundred years.

As a result, three new racial groups emerged:

  • Mestizo, from the mix of indigenous and Europeans.
  • Mulato, from the mix of Africans and Europeans.
  • Zambo, from the mix of indigenous and Africans.

Later, during the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants from the Middle East arrived in the country. They, and their descendants, are known as Arab-Colombians.

They settled mainly in the Caribbean region and, still today, they have an important influence in the region’s culture (i.e. food, music and traditions).

Now, let’s move to the present.

What races and ethnic groups are in Colombia today?

There are four ethnic groups in Colombia:

Out of those groups, indigenous groups play a crucial role in the country’s diversity. It is very important to highlight the diversity within these groups.

There are 87 different indigenous groups located in almost all departments of the country, 27 out of the 32 departments. Which explains why some demographers say Colombia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the Western Hemisphere and in the World.

Now, let’s talk about languages

Languages also play an important role in Colombia’s cultural diversity. Why is that?

In Colombia, 99% of the population speaks Spanish, yet, there are plenty of people who speak it as a second language.

The exact number is not clear but according to experts, there are about 70 indigenous languages still spoken in Colombia and more than 750,000 people speaking them.

Besides Spanish and indigenous languages, there are also two kinds of Creole languages. Creole is a language that has developed from another.

The first one is the Creole spoken in the islands of San Andres and Providencia. It is a blend between English, Spanish, Kwa (from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo) and Igbo (from Nigeria).

The second one is the Palenque Creole, or Palenquero. It is a blend of Spanish language and Kikongo (from Central Africa, RD Congo and Angola).

With all these influences, you might be wondering how Colombians look like. Don’t you?

Colombians reflect indeed the blend between Spanish, African and indigenous. Some of them reflect as well as their Arabs roots.

Let’s better explain it with pictures. It might give you an idea of the diversity of Colombian people.

As you could see, Colombians are a fascinating blend of people and cultures.

That is why every day more people have decided to visit the country and start their journey with an immersion of the Spanish language.

There is no better way of experiencing a country than by talking to its people!

Are you one of those passionate about world cultures? Let us know on our social media channels @ilikespanish

 

There is no doubt that Cross-Cultural Relationships can be challenging, not only due to language barriers or in cases with long-distance but also because of different cultural norms, traditions, and customs.

Having a Colombian partner is one of the reasons why many people come to the country to learn Spanish and to learn more about our culture. We asked some women and men from North America and Europe who have – or have had- Colombian partners about their joys and challenges of dating or living with a Colombian.

The joys

Before starting, it is important to note that these are not stereotypes but generalizations. Below are 10 favorable characteristics people tended to notice about their Colombian partner or Colombian culture:

1. They are happy people

Colombians are generally seen as friendly, happy and positive people. You normally see them smiling, singing, dancing. Their happiness is contagious.

2. They are grateful

Colombians have the ability to enjoy simple things and to be grateful for almost anything. It might be due to their strong religious background, due to decades of violence and internal conflict, due to the many social and economic problems, or a combination of these.

3. They are spontaneous and authentic

Colombians have the ability to live and enjoy the present moment. Colombians are generally spontaneous and authentic; they are also very expressive you can easily discern their emotions even when they are not talking.

4. They are creative and positive

Colombians tend to see the glass half full, they are very resourceful and always find ways to overcome any difficulty. Never say to a Colombian they can’t do something, they will prove you wrong!

5. They are talkative and have a good sense of humor

Colombians love making jokes, they love sarcasm and they love talking. Colombian Spanish is characterized by its use of slang, local expression and double meaning jokes. They like simple talks but when it comes to deep and meaningful conversation there is nothing more delightful than speaking with a Colombian, they are so passionate when talking.

6. They are affectionate and generous

Affection is very important for Colombians. They are very open with their emotions. If they love you, they say it and they show it. They like cooking for their partners and families, they like giving presents and even dedicating songs. It is important for them to show their relatives and friends that they care about them. They are generous, they love sharing food, drinks, and their time.

7. They are passionate

Colombian men and women are very passionate and expressive people. When talking to them you can feel how passionate they are about almost anything: their career, their dreams, their family, and, of course, their country. You can especially see, and feel, it when the Colombian national football team is playing. Check out the worldwide known Colombian campaign call “Colombia es Pasión”

8. They love music, dancing and celebrations

Music is an important part of the Colombian culture. It is a way of expressing emotions, sharing discomfort or showing love to friends and family. It is a way of showing their pride for their roots, and a way of living in the moment.

It is common to see Colombian women or men dancing and singing around the house, dancing and playing instruments in the streets and even in public transportation. Colombians have the ability to make a celebration out of any situation.

9. They are proud of their country

When talking about their country they can spend hours showing you pictures about the places you should visit, the food you should try, the books you should read if you show some interest in literature, the movies you should watch (please don’t mention Netflix series about drug trafficking), and the Colombian expressions you should learn to have a better experience when you visit the country or meet their families and friends.

10. They love their family

Family is one of the most -if not the most- important aspect for most Colombians. They spend a lot of time with their relatives and there always seems to be a family celebration to attend. They are very close to their family; including their grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.

When dating and marrying a Colombian you automatically get a whole new family, they will treat you as a son or as a daughter. This in particular is one of the reasons why people who have a Colombian partner decide to study Spanish. They want to be part of the family and friends’ gatherings, they want to be able to fully understand the conversations and to avoid feeling lost in translation.

The challenges

It all sounds very nice, doesn’t it? However, not everything in the garden is rosy. Most of the positive characteristics could lead to frustrations and challenges.

Here is what people find the most difficult and challenging about their Colombian partners and the Colombian culture.

1. They are emotional, sensitive and impulsive

There is drama in simple situations. They might get jealous easily if they feel they are not getting all the attention, they might get upset if you are being too direct with them. They are the sweetest and friendliest people but when they are upset, they can be really, really upset!

2. They exaggerate

It is common to hear words like “never” and “always”. For example, they might tell you: “you never do this” or “you always do that”, even when it is something that was done – or wasn’t done- a few times.

It is also common to hear words like “hundred”, “thousand”. For example: “I called you 500 times and you didn’t answer” even if they called you three times, or “there were like hundred people making the line” when there were just 20 people.

They normally say “Mil gracias” (Literally translated as “thousand thanks”) when they want to say “thank you very much”. So, when talking to Colombians don’t take what they say too literally, try to understand the context first.

3. Their sense of time

The Colombian sense of time is quite fluid. For example, a promise to do something “tomorrow” can often mean they will perform it in the near future, perhaps next week.

When they say “ahora” (“now” in English) they refer to both the present (now) and the future moment (later), it depends on the context. They also use the diminutive of “ahora”, “ahorita” to say “later” but this term doesn’t mean that it is sooner than “ahora”. In conclusion, “ahora” and “ahorita” regularly means later. If they tell you “Te llamo ahorita” (I’ll call you later) they might call you in 5 minutes or an hour.

If you call someone to ask when they are arriving they are known to say “arriving in five minutes” or “I’m already on my way” when they are still home.

The Colombian spontaneity and sense of time can lead to difficulties for planning and frustrations for last minute change of plans.

4. Non-verbal Language and local expressions

Colombians are emotional, expressive, and passionate. They tend to either exaggerate and to use diminutives. They also use many expressions and sayings. Consequently, it is hard for a non-native Spanish speaker to fully understand what the other person truly means.

In addition, there are many gestures such as pointing with the lips to indicate that something is located “there”, or putting the fingers all together when saying that a place was packed (See common Colombian gestures here)

5. Indirect Communication

In addition to the non-verbal language and local expressions, Colombians are also generally seen as being indirect communicators. It is important to understand contexts and to be able to read between the lines, which is sometimes difficult for people from countries where communication is direct.

Colombians rarely deliver delicate information, negative answers, or negative points of view in a frank or blunt way. They tend to avoid conflict or confrontation, and they often take a long-winded, roundabout approach to conveying their messages sensitively and tactfully.

6. They are “always” right

Colombians have a strong character and temper. They are stubborn and even obstinate when making their point clear because they always want to be right.

7. Machismo

Machismo culture permeates everything, from the jokes to the role in relationships and society. Being a deeply Catholic country, there are many taboos in subjects such as sex and sexuality, mostly when it is related to women.

For people from North America and Europe, it is sometimes difficult to understand certain customs such as paying the bill if you are a man or being constantly asked when are you getting married or having kids if you are a woman reaching her thirties, or being judged if a woman is open and act freely with regards to sex.

8. Sometimes too rooted to their culture and their traditions

There is a thin line between being proud of a culture and being too rooted in certain traditions. In some cases, Colombians can be closed-minded in relation to their family, their food and their country.

9. Too attached to their family

Colombians are sometimes too close to their families. In most cases, Colombians live with their parents until they get married. Families are overprotective, mainly towards women. Colombians, for instance, are often not as independent as North Americans or Europeans.

10. They can be very loud

Colombians are happy, enthusiastic, and passionate and it seems that it is one of the characteristics people love the most about us. However, when they get a little too excited about a certain topic they tend to speak at quite loud volumes, especially when in a group or when having an argument.

Have you dated or are you in a relationship with a Colombian? Do you relate to any these joys and challenges? Let us know your thoughts and don’t forget to share this post on your Social Media and to visit our website Learn more than Spanish!