Hello readers, and happy Friday! I’ve decided to start a new blog segment called “Fun Fact Friday” where I bring you trivial, insights, and nuggets of information about a certain topic.
For our first FFF, I’ve selected Colombia as the subject. As readers already know and soon-to-be readers will find out, Waking Up in
Medellin is set in this South American country, so what better place to start?
“U” Aren’t in “Colombia”
There’s a difference between Colombia the country and Columbia the university, and it’s a single letter. The country is spelled with an “O” – ColOmbia, while the university is spelled with a “U” – ColUmbia. As an additional trivia tidbit, “Columbia” was first coined to refer to the original Thirteen Colonies of America (basically Latin for “Columbus Land”).
Colombia uses the same type of electrical plugs – and voltage – as the United States – two flat prongs with an optional grounding post running 110 volts. Fair warning if you’re planning on visiting and want to bring your hair dryer: some of the older establishments only allow for the two-prong plug, so bring an adapter just in case.
No Habla Anglais
Despite the movies showing us every Colombian citizen speaking English with a thick accent, the universal spoken language in Colombia is Spanish. It’s hard to find Colombians who speak English, even in major cities such as Bogotá and Medellin, and nigh impossible to find English speakers in the rural areas, so be sure to have a Spanish-English dictionary on hand, or one of those electronic translators like Google Translate.
Speaking of online applications, Colombia is rife with Internet cafés; even small towns will generally have at least one cyber café. Again, if you find yourself too much into a rural area, an Internet connection may be harder to find. Interestingly, connections are generally at a high broadband speed, and are relatively cheap to boot: you can expect to pay about 2,000 Colombian pesos per hour.
I know that sounds like a lot, but the exchange rate is currently about 3,000 Colombian pesos per U.S. dollar. Colombia has legal tender bills in denominations of $1,000 $2,000 $5,000 $10,000 $20,000, and $50,000, as well as $20, $50, $100, $200 and $500 coins.
For English, Press…
Forget dialing 911 in an emergency; in Colombia, the countrywide emergency number is 123 (also in some cities 112). Don’t misdial if you want to call information at 113. Payphones are confusing with their Spanish-only instructions (and operators), but street vendors actually have cell phones and land lines to offer you for a modest minutely fee.
Let’s Raise a Glass!
The legal drinking age in Colombia is 18, though laws are lenient. In urban areas such as Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, and Cali, you may be asked to show ID to get into upscale bars and clubs. There are no laws against drinking in public, if you want to save a few (thousand) pesos, crack open your own bottle or can while walking down the street. And if you happen to find yourself in a celebratory situation, the traditional Colombian toast is “Salud!”
Pay as You Go
This is sort of a stinker of a subject: Colombian restrooms. The upper-class restaurants, shops, and hotels tend to have clean facilities and toilet paper. I didn’t mean “clean toilet paper,” I meant toilet paper AT ALL. It’s a good idea to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer wherever you go, as budget establishments rarely have these items. Usually, you’ll have to pay a small fee to use a public or restaurant restroom.
Same Time, Same Channel
Most of my readers know I reside in Texas. This is the time of year when I am in the same time zone as Colombia; they’re in different time zones – Colombia is one zone away – but they don’t observe Daylight Saving Time in Colombia, so in the summer we share the same hours. Officially, Colombia is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
But Can I Drink It?
Yes, drinking water in any South American country is iffy, but in Colombia it’s usually safe to drink city water. But be sure to bring your own bottled water in rural areas, just in case.
Well, that’s about it for this week’s Fun Fact Friday! I hope you enjoyed it. Leave a comment about what topics YOU’D like to see me write about in future blogs.
Hasta la vista!