It’s ColOmbia, not ColUmbia. The fact that people often confuse the two has made me want to do something about it and educate more people so I printed out t-shirts saying just that. However there is much more that people get wrong about Colombia than just the spelling. People are not killed or kidnapped every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, most documentaries and Hollywood movies show this side of Colombia perpetuating the stereotype of Colombia all over the world.
If I could fix one grossly misunderstood stereotype about Colombia, then it would be about the drugs and cartels. Colombians have so much more to offer than Pablo Escobar and his footprints! For as long as I can remember, whenever I go abroad, people would call me “Snow-White” obviously not referring to the snow but to cocaine. Maybe this is surprising to some, but Colombians are not all coke heads and drugs are not legal. I admit that a large amount is produced in Colombia but most of it is actually consumed outside of the country.
Basically, not all Colombians are involved in the cocaine business, just like NOT all Germans are Nazis, and NOT all Americans are cowboys or anti indigenous people and NOT all Italians have moustaches. Although Colombians joke about almost everything, hearing drug/Escobar related jokes can be pretty offensive to most of us.
Yes we went through decades of war and rough stretch where millions of people were killed due to the drug business but that’s not who we are today and one more thing while we are on drugs Pablo Escobar is NOT a national hero or a tourist attraction. In fact most Colombians would call him an “desgraciado” or a wretch. Moreover it’s disrespectful and ignorant to assume that because of all the millions of families in Colombia who are suffering from loss of relatives, kidnappings of their kids and it reminds them of a time of incredible violence the country went through and is still having a hard time recovering from.
Also, the Colombian government annually spends billions to fight terrorism and drug trafficking and we are on the road to recovery.
What surprises me the most is that despite the fact that many people know so little about Colombia, they still have a lot to say. For example I have been asked numerous times what living with monkeys is like, if we have roads, if there is electricity. Due to the fact that I am part German, some people come up to me and say: “You must be happy to be born in Germany with health insurance and water” or “You don’t look Colombian. Aren’t they all black?”
While it has provided some laughs I just want to clear the air on a few things.
No we don’t live in banana trees or ride donkeys and yes we have cars and electricity. We actually have a lot of modern infrastructure. You should come some time 😉
The Asian take on Colombia is that it’s a bit north of Thailand because for many Asians Latin America consists of exactly 2 countries: Brazil and Mexico. All the other countries around are basically the same which means we all eat burritos, dance samba and wear sombreros.
They recognize Latin American ladies that wear feather earrings (there is actually some truth in there somewhere).
Indonesians often think it’s really cold in Colombia and that we need to wear gloves, whereas Europeans often envision Colombia as a tropical destination getaway, although Colombia offers everything from tropical climate to deserts, from rainforest, amazonian fauna to high mountains and snow.
Colombians are a mixed race country, we have blondes, white people, people of indigenous heritage, African heritage and mixes of all sorts. We are a beautiful mosaic. Colombia is officially not a third-world country and Bogota the capital is a modern 9 million strong lively city with malls, traffic lights and high-rise buildings, research centers, hospitals, several top universities, 2 airports and a vibrant nightlife scene. Colombia has a huge entrepreneurial scene, art scene, foreign investments and is on the way to becoming one of the top business hubs in Latin America. The Colombian medical practice is one of the most advanced in the world. We work extraordinarily hard and drive the growth and improvement in our country with our inherent happiness, creativity, motivation, passion, open arms and warm heartedness which is hard to find elsewhere.
Yes, we have a jungle too…. and of course if you ask a Colombian, it’s true that Colombian women are the most beautiful in the world. Reality is that Colombia is a safe place to go if you use the right amount of precautions just like in any other big city. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations or give “papaya” as we Colombians like to say. If you are looking for trouble, of course you will find it.
The other side of the coin is, Colombia is one of the countries in the world with the highest income inequality and a lot of poverty but like I said earlier we are much more than this.
All the misconceptions about Colombia and Colombians will melt away over time when people start discovering the country and realize about the real country. Nevertheless, the fact that these stereotypes still exist has helped turn Colombia into one of the best kept secrets of the world especially when it comes to culture, beauty and hidden indigenous treasures, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
About Juliana Mendez
Juliana is a Business Developer for LATAM & Asia Pacific for the German tech company aexea, on the quest for global opportunities, cultures and entrepreneurial spirits all over the world. aexea is set to expand the market for artificial intelligence with “AX semantics“ – a SaaS that generates text based on smart data.
Being a Colombian-German and working in different European countries for 2 years in Indonesia, she has experienced globally the value of connection and communication in business and her private life as well. Due to her mixed background, Juliana speaks Spanish, German and English fluently. Juliana started out as a journalist and obtained her degree in marketing & communication sciences in Germany. During and after university, she landed opportunities to work as an SEO consultant, e-marketing strategist, writer, UX conceptioner, eye tracking practitioner and coach at Robert Bosch, L ́Óreal, & aexea.
Juliana Mendez uses her difference to make a difference by being a non-conformist and choosing to push boundaries by pursue opportunities that allow her to think outside the box.