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Why Colombia?

why-colombia-1I'm often asked by Colombians and Americans why I chose to live in Colombia. Here are the top ten reasons.

1.  The People

If I were asked which country had the best food, I would probably say France or Italy. For dance, I would say Argentina. But when it comes to the people, I would say Colombia without any doubt or hesitation. Colombians are the friendliest people you will find in the world. Whether you're exploring a teeming metropolis like Bogota or Medellin, or out in a rural village in Huila or Meta, you'll find Colombians to be warm and hospitable.

2.  The Geographic and Biodiversity

Colombia is often cited as being the most biodiverse country in the world, and it's little wonder with its abundant rainfall, location right on the equator, and varied terrain. Whatever you're looking for by way of ecotourism, climate, or landscape, you can find it in Colombia.

From the three Andean cordilleras (mountain ranges), that run through the country North to South, to the Amazonian jungles of Leticia; from the lush forests and swift rivers of Santander to the desert of Tatacoa; from the eastern plains stretching out endlessly to Venezuela to the lovely beaches of the Caribbean Coast; and from the quaint Pacific villages of Valle and Choco to the wild untamed terrain of La Guajira, there is something for everyone in Colombia.
why-colombia-9

3.  The Quality of Life

I am not going to suggest that Colombia is a perfect paradise on earth, because it's not. It still has many problems, especially with transportation and infrastructure, the economy, and safety and security. But it's improving on all these fronts, and, in general, you'll find that the quality of life you can have in Colombia is superior to what you'd get for your money in Europe or the United States.

With just $1,000 a month, you can live in a nice apartment, take taxis everywhere, go out to eat several times a week, enjoy occasional bottle service, and shop in nice super markets. For $1,500 a month, you can enjoy an upper middle class lifestyle, live in a luxury high rise, own a car, go to the why-colombia-3nicest restaurants and clubs every weekend, and enjoy a monthly getaway.

4.  Stability

Wait, you ask. Stability? In Colombia? Colombia, despite its woes, has had a relatively stable economic and political history in the twentieth century. It has only been ruled by a dictatorship one time, from 1953 to 1957 by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. It is one of the world's oldest democracies, and is making a valiant effort against corruption.

Additionally, it has never defaulted on its debt, experienced hyperinflation, or had a banking collapse. It has a free market economy, an excellent climate for investment, and a close relationship with the United States and the EU. 

Contrast this with neighoring Venezuela and Ecuador, and you can quickly see why Colombia's stability is an attractive point.

5.  Nightlife

Colombians like to have fun. And Colombian fun usually involves dancing and drinking: typically salsawhy-colombia-4 and vallenato, fueled by aguardiente and/or rum washed down with beer.

Whether you're headed to a high-end nightclub like Andres de Carne de Res in Bogota, or to a family party in Soacha, you almost can't NOT have a good time in Colombia.

So brush up on your dance moves, and be prepared for a late night. Because while most entertainment spots close by law at 3am, Colombians always find a way to keep the party going, whether it's heading to an after hours club, a house party, or splitting a media of aguardiente in a park.

6.  The Music

why-colombia-5I am a music snob. I hate 90% of the music out there, and think that the golden age of music was 1970s British progressive rock (ie. Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Camel, Gentle Giant, ELP). And I still don't think that Colombian music and Latin music in general has the breadth, depth, or sophistication of English language music.

However, poke around, and you'll find some fabulous Colombian artists. My very first month in Colombia, I fell in love, both with a special someone, and with two songs that I think are great representations of what's happening in Colombian music today:

The first is "Te Amo y Te Amo" by vallenato singer Pipe Pelaez. Listen to the soaring accordion melodies and the song's inspirational message:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg5snEJ0r2U

The second is Colombian rock: a song by two twin sisters from Bogota called Las Marti. The song is called "Sucio Perro":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PgypFaDTrc

7.  The Food

OK, as I have freely confessed in my article about the best Colombian foods, the cuisine here does not typically delight upon first try, especially when you've got culinary marvels like Peru, Mexico, and Argentina to compete with.

But bite into some carne llanera (literally means meat from the plains) in Meta, try some lechona (ricewhy-colombia-6 and bean-stuffed pig) in Tolima, or some ajiaco (Colombia's national soup) in Bogota, or the bandeja paisa in Medellin. There is some great food here!

Or, nurse your hangover with a delicious caldo de costilla (spare rib and potato soup). And for $2 or $3 you can get a great almuerzo ejecutivo (executive lunch) anywhere in the country. These always start with a soup, and then typically include rice, beans or lentils, salad, and the choice of beef/chicken/pork/fish.

Additionally, Colombia has one of the widest varieties of fruit cultivation in the world, with many fruits that you can't find anywhere in the United States, including the granadilla, mora, guanabana, tomate de arbol, lulu, and mangostino.

8.  The History

why-colombia-7On your first day in Bogota, head to the Museo Nacional, and take the grand tour. Colombia's history is as rich and varied as its people. Walk around the fort of Old Cartagena, stroll past the Casa de Narino, Supreme Court, and Congress in the Plaza de Bolivar, see the Puente de Boyaca where Bolivar and Santander routed the Spaniards once and for all, or take in the spectacular architecture of Popayan in Southwestern Colombia.

Colombia has done a great job of making its history accessible and affordable to everyone, Colombians and foreigners alike. It's rare that you'll find a museum that costs more than a few dollars to enter (even if foreigners do pay a little more), and its colonial architecture is stunning and well-preserved, particularly in a place like Villa de Leyva.

9.  The Transportation

OK. By saying that I like Colombia's transportation, I don't mean spending an hour and a half in stop and go traffic getting from one end of Bogota to the other in a colectivo. Colombia still has major issues to address with its transportation and infrastructure.

However, spend a few weeks in Colombia, and you'll quickly find that whether it's by taxi, bus, plane, or boat, transporation in Colombia is relatively cheap and efficient. In general, intercity buses cost between $2 and $4 an hour. Taxis are quite cheap indeed, roughly a quarter of the cost of what you'd pay in the United States. And domestic airfare prices have plummeted: now you can get great deals on flights between Colombia's major cities; often as cheap as $50.000 to $80.000 one way.

Even car rentals, which were once phenomenally expensive, are now pretty cheap. You only need an American driver's license, and you can find rentals as cheap as $100.000 (or $50) a day!

10.  The Hope for the Future

Colombia is a country with many scars and wounds, many of which are still healing. But there is greatwhy-colombia-8 hope for peace and prosperity: "Prosperidad para Todos" as the government campaign says.

Talk to Colombians and you will hear many different opinions about poltics, the economy, the peace process, the free trade agreement, etc. It's a good idea to hear a wide variety of opinions.

One thing you often hear about in Colombia is the extreme division of wealth, and it's true. As measured by the Gini index, Colombia is the eighth most unequal country in the world in terms of family income. But I strongly feel that the situation is getting better. There is a vibrant middle-class in Colombia. There is an enormous university-educated population. There is a tremendous desire and will to overcome the substantial problems of the past, both on a national and personal level. You see this when you see students from humble backgrounds fighting for access to education and getting university degrees. You see this in the towering skyscrapers that are springing up like mushrooms around Bogota and Medellin. You see it in the faces of the Colombian people, who rise with sun, and start their day at six o'clock in the morning, when the sun rises every single day in Colombia.

So, in conclusion, hopefully you've enjoyed hearing about why Colombia presents an attractive opportunity for many foreigners. And take a look at our sister sites: VisitColombia.net, VisitColombiaNow.com, OurColombia.com, and ColombiaRetirement.com. Whether you're looking for just a vacation, or a new home, do yourself a favor and just go! It will be the experience of a lifetime!

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