Living In Medellin: Part 2 (23 More Things I’ve Learned After Living Here For 5 Months)
As of today, I have lived in Medellin for 165 days!
Thanks for all the love on the first installment of Living In Medellin: The 23 Things I Learned In My First 100 Days. Because of all the positive feedback, I wanted to do a follow up post and talk about 23 MORE things I learned after living in beautiful Medellin for 5 months.
- There are no screens on the windows or doors. With the high altitude (about 1500 meters or 1 mile) and climate it doesn't seem to be necessary. However, I've definitely found a few creepy crawlies in my apartment from time to time.
- A standard tip is about 10%. This is referred to as "propina" or "servicio" in Español.
3. At night, you will see many bats flying overhead through the trees. And trust me, it will scare the crap out of you the first time you notice them flying above your head.
4. Arepas are the tortillas of Colombia. There any many kinds and you can eat them with every meal without judgement. My favorite is the arepa de choclo.
5. On Christmas morning, Santa Claus is not the one bringing presents to the children. Instead, the tradition states it's baby Jesus who brings the gifts.
6. When it rains, the most dangerous thing in Colombia is the red brick sidewalks. They can get very, very slippery and I've almost fallen several times myself. Walk very carefully between the cracks or in the street if possible during or post rainfall.
7. "Matar el ojo" literally means to "to kill the eye" BUT it also means wink in Paisa slang.
8. You know the expression "cats have nine lives"? The cats don't have as much luck here. Turns out, cats only have 7 lives in Medellin.
9. At a party and need a few people to chip in for beer? It's called a vaca (which is also the word for cow). A vaca means everyone chips in a few pesos to pay for the item the group is ordering.
10. Want to try a new tour that's unique and different to Medellin? I recommend the La Sierra Tour. One of my dearest new friends started it from scratch and it is one of the best things I've done here. Book here or read an article I wrote about the experience here.
11. I've found the ATMs are generally safe when you use basic precautions. However, if you are nervous about taking out money, use the ATM at the airport or in one of the many malls throughout the city. Santa Fe Mall is a personal favorite.
12. Christmas is a big deal. I noticed my first Christmas lights in the neighborhood of Envigado on October 28. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more over the top, incredible decorations you will see. I've never seen a city celebrate quite like Medellin.
13. You're going to want to know this word: finca. Growing up in the Midwest, I understand a finca to be the Colombian equivalent of a lakehouse. It's an escape from the busy city and it is usually a larger home with 4+ bedrooms, stunning views, cleaner air and countryside. Many families and groups of friends rent or own one and spend the holidays there.
14. Colombia is one of the countries with the most holidays in Latin America. They have 18!
15. "No dar papaya" is one of the most popular sayings in Colombia. It literally translates to "do not give papaya". The saying means do not give people a reason to harm or steal from you. For example, you are talking on your brand new Iphone X at 2:00am wearing a Rolex downtown - you are giving papaya. Stay humble. Don't be flashy and don't bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
16. The neighborhood of Estadio has one of the largest exercise facilities in Medellin and is stones throw away from the Estadio metro station. The stadium houses Olympic sized swimming pools, running tracks and many opportunities to participate in athletic activities.
17. Speaking of the stadium (the official name is Atanasio Girardot Stadium), if you are interested in swimming in Medellin you must wear lycra speedo type bathing suit (not shorts or anything made from cotton). It is also mandatory you wear a swimming cap.
18. If you choose to order a bottled beer, it is likely it will be served to you with a napkin covering the lip of the bottle. This is for sanitary reasons and allows you to wipe it yourself before drinking.
19. Colombia is the second largest exporter of flowers, next only to Holland. The Fería de las Flores celebration is perhaps one of the biggest in Medellin taking place in late July/early August. A definite must see - tourists from all over the world come to witness this parade and weeklong celebration.
20. It's no secret that Colombians love dancing salsa, but I also recommend checking out Salón Málaga - one of the best tango spots in the city located in El Centro.
21. If you're here for longer than a week, sign up for the Catalyst Weekly newsletter. A weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox and lets you know about all the events happening in Medellin. It's my go-to resource when I need to be social on a random week night.
22. A chiva is a colorful bus carting around groups of 40+ people drinking Aguardiente. They are particularly popular during Christmas time! I recommend joining one if you can. They are the Colombian equivalent of a party bus.
23. I recommend learning as much Spanish as you can before arriving to Medellin. Whether you teach yourself through Duolingo or sign up for a local Spanish school here in Colombia (I took my classes at Colombia Immersion and loved them). You will need a basic level while here as English is rarely spoken outside of the Poblado neighborhood. In addition, it opens yourself up to opportunities to meet more locals!
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