What Expat Life Is Like In Bogota, Colombia
Apart from Bogota, the only big city I had lived in before was Madrid.
In Miami, I lived in the suburbs…
In Spain, I studied in a small town…
and in Luxembourg, well, I was in a capital of 200,000 people …
I was nervous to live in such a big city. With a population of over 8 million people, I was expecting living in Bogota, Colombia to be hectic, dirty and crazy.
The only thing I had to judge of what my life would be like living as an expat in Colombia was my 2-week Christmas vacation in 2008. During this visit, I didn’t find it to be particularly special, pretty or interesting. The brick buildings which characterize Bogota were nothing fancy, the streets were dirty with huge potholes and people asking for money at every red light and street corner.
I found the local food rather bland, and I remember the roads being studded with stars to mark the spot someone got hit by a car.
So when I moved to Colombia in 2014, I did not have high expectations. Plus, my Colombian boyfriend had prepped me for all the potential downfalls I could possibly encounter in his home country.
I didn’t expect living in Bogota to be all that.
But as it turned out, I found living here better than vacationing!
What’s it like living as an expat in Bogota?
Working in Bogota
I did a light job search upon my arrival here and didn’t like the work hours and the salaries I found (I was looking in Marketing). This turned out to be the case for many other expats. As a result, many expats turn to freelance or teach English. Plus, earning in Colombian Pesos makes you poor the minute you leave the country. You’ll also notice local salaries don’t match up with the cost of living in Bogota AT ALL! Bogota is pricey baby….
Looking for work ideas?
If you work in a company, the best is to be in walking distance of your office. Commuting is an absolute nightmare, whether you’re in your car or in the Transmilenio.
The ideal situation for an expat is to be working in Bogota on an expat salary in walking distance of your work.
Having fun in Bogota
The city has an awesome urban feel to it. With all its restaurants, cool bars, great music and cool cafés, Bogota city has some pretty cool places to hang out and meet with friends.
You’ll discover small Colombian designers with amazing clothes, home decorations and more priced just about the same if not more than what it costs back home. Yes, Colombia is expensive!
And nightlife is A-mazing! There are tons of places to go out dancing, to grab a drink with friends, and sip on cocktails. There’s no shortage there! But watch out! An average cocktail in any bar will cost you between $8USD-$13USD and good luck finding happy hours.
Weekends in Bogota
Be ready for Colombian party to knock your socks off Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening! People love to go out and have fun. The city buzzes with an amazing energy!
If you don’t know where to start, discover popular networking events for expats in Bogota and start going out and meeting people!
You’ll quickly see that Sunday is all about family time, because of course, la familia is the most important social unit for the majority of Colombians. If you don’t have family here, it’s the perfect day to rest and kick back.
Meeting people in Bogota
Like other big cities, everyone in Bogota lives in their bubble and has their established social circle.
Despite people saying Colombians are super friendly and open, I have found that making local friends in Bogota is not as simple as 1,2,3. If you want to know my 2 cents, you can read about my experience on meeting people vs. making friends in Bogota.
If you are an expat just passing by for a few months, you’ll find many like you in expat networking events in the city. Or if you’re single, you might have fun with Tinder.
General Feel of Bogota
Even if Bogota has a poor infrastructure, and processes are archaic and slow, for whatever unexplainable reason, the energy is amazing. People think outside the box and are creative when it comes to finding solutions. They are kind. They’ll smile at you in the street.
There is a lot of room for growth and improvement and perhaps you’ll find your niche where you’ll be able to contribute!
In conclusion, I definitely feel Bogotá is one of those cities people love or hate, with nothing in between. It’s hard not to feel strong feelings for this city as it’s got so much going on. So if you were to ask me now, after having lived in Bogotá for over 2 years, how is it being expat living in Bogotá? I’d say, pretty freaking awesome! Discover my 30 reasons why living in Bogota rocks!