Tag Archives: Colombia

Trip to Bogotá, Part II

The other aspect to my visit to Bogotá that I wanted to talk about was the leisure side.

Bogotá,  as any other big city, has a great nightlife. Not that I managed to see much of it, but from what I did see and what I was told by the locals, it seems that the Colombians know how to enjoy themselves!

To start with, Colombians eat a lot. The eating culture is a bit more similar to Spanish than not. With starters, and first dish, and second dish, and pudding, both at lunch and dinner. I was really surprised to see how much everybody was eating. I am now very much anglicised in the sense that I will only eat a little lunch and a normal dinner. I haven’t done the whole “starter+first+second+pudding” in a long time!

Restaurants were really nice, good value for money and the portions were a bit more generous than in the UK. We visited a few restaurant chains, but we also ate at local ones. The chains we visited were: crepes and waffles and wok, and the local restaurants… well, I can’t remember the exact names, but they were all simply wonderful. The beef in South America is already famous (especially the Argentinian one), but I must say that I have never eaten such juicy and delicious meet in my life before. This has put the bar quite high, and I am going to find it difficult to enjoy a steak as much here in the UK!

Then there’s the nightclubs. Well, I’ll be fair. I didn’t go to any nightclubs or I wouldn’t have happily gone to one. Nightclubs and me don’t go well together. But the place we went to wasn’t any nightclub. No. It was way more than that. It is called “Andrés carne de res” and it is a restaurant / bar / dancing place. One of the most amazing places I have seen in my life. There was a live performance with actors just wandering around the place, there was a band (Tuna-style) going around the tables singing happy birthdays and other “welcome to Colombia” type of songs, the waiters were awesome and entertaining, the food was the best I’ve ever eating, by 10:30 EVERYBODY was dancing anywhere (on the dance floor, on the stairs, around the tables, in the toilet lobby…. EVERYWHERE)

I have tried to explain it many times since we came back, and words always fail me. It is one of those “you-had-to-be-there” places, as its magic and atmosphere can’t just be explained. You have to live it. I am planning on going back to Bogotá again in the future just to go to that place once more. That’s how awesome it is. It’s worth the 11 hour journey just to spend a few hours there.

The one tiny little detail that I do not like about “Andrés carne de res” is that, of course, they mainly play Latin music. Latin music and I don’t mix (in fact, I still remember last New Year’s Eve party, where we went to this party where they were playing Latin music all night and I felt like the most miserable girl in the place – and probably was!). BUT. After 3 beers and half a mojito I was so drunk that I started dancing to everything. And I mean everything. I slightly remember that they played Jump Around and there I was, jumping like a maniac…

I must explain a bit more about the mojito… It wasn’t your typical small glass with more ice than drink.. No. It was a bowl (yep, a bowl, like the ones where they serve you noodles in Wagamama) full of drink – I reckon there was at least half a bottle of rum on it, as it was the strongest drink I’ve ever drunk. And it wasn’t that expensive! Around $41.000 Colombian pesos (£14), which can seem expensive but it’s really good value for money for what you get.

I left that place unconscious, I was dragged back to the hotel by my boss and my colleague. And the hangover the following day was just horrible, but totally worth it. 🙂

Please forgive the lack of pictures in this post, but the few ones I took are so blurry and dark that it’s not worth putting here.

Trip to Bogotá, Part I

So, my trip to Bogotá is now done and dusted, and I must admit that it wasn’t as traumatising and difficult as I thought it would be. My original fears of having to use my Spanish in a professional environment and using it in a technical way did materialise and I struggled a tiny bit in a couple of occasions, but overall I survived.

There are two main aspects to my trip to Bogotá that I want to talk about: Business and Pleasure. Today I will talk about the business side.

I was very pleasantly surprised about the level of professionalism that I saw. It’s not that I was expecting anything less (well, maybe I was), but Bogotá is a city with so much contrast that you can’t help but marvel at how seriously business is conducted there.

We visited several offices of several people (lighting designer, integrator, light fitting manufacturer, etc) and everywhere there was a sense of  seriousness and of  “we know what we are doing”. Colombians don’t muck about when they are doing business. BUT, they will always maintain a very relaxed atmosphere and conversations may quickly change to a more lighthearted topic temporarily.

Something else that impressed me was the tidiness of all the offices we visited. If you came to my office in England, something that would strike you straight away is how untidy it looks. As my boss would say, it is a functional office: everybody has big desks with space for big A1 or A0 drawings and this space is definitely used. There are drawings and papers and other materials laying around and it gives the impression of a cluttered and unkempt office (exactly what it  is).

The other side of the coin of this, however, was the building site that we visited. There is no sense of Health and Safety and I was stunned to see so many irregularities (so many of them that in England that building site would have been shut by the H&S authorities in less than one minute). I talked to my Colombian host about it and his answer was so unbelievable that I am still struggling to believe it: He said that labour is so cheap that if someone gets hurt it’s easier to just replace them rather than waste time to make them safe in the first place (!!!).

No safety barrier for a whole in the wall

This proves something else that I found interesting. Colombia has got a very defined hierarchy system. Social strata is something so common that nobody questions it. I noticed it during the first five minutes of the first meeting that we had. Jorge, our host, called his assistant and she replied “Si, señor” (yes, sir). This happened many times in that first day, that made me start paying more attention to those little details. And I was in for a shock. People will call you “doctor” when they don’t know your title. So if you look like a professional person but the person who is addressing you doesn’t know your title then they will call you “doctor” or “doctora”. In the professional field, people will address each other by their job titles (in formal situations). So if you’re an engineer, people will call you “Ingeniero Pérez”, for example. If you’re a lawyer, you will be called “Abogada Crespo”, etc.

Also, the great majority of people will speak a decent amount of English. In the professional environment this is quite a given, and we only came across one person who didn’t speak it, but did understand it. Obviously, I still had to translate backwards and forwards, especially when my boss used dark analogies (he loves analogies), or Spanish people were trying to translate literally from Spanish and the meaning got a bit lost (particularly with sayings and proverbs).

That Colombia has had (and still has) a problem with security in the streets is a well known fact. But nothing can prepare you to the sight of armed security personnel everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Every office has their own security guard, and most roads in the business districts and centres have got police and dogs (the dogs are for bombs as well as drugs). It is a shock, but it did make me feel more secure, and I take it that’s the whole purpose of it (as well as catching criminals!).

All in all, it has been a good experience – work-wise, and who knows if we will have to go back some time soon!

The visit to Bogotá

It seems that I will be spending my birthday in Colombia. I will be there for a week for work at the end of February.

To be honest, I didn’t fancy going at all. We leave on a Sunday at silly o’clock, arrive in Colombia in the evening and start work on the Monday morning for the next 5 days non-stop. Then we get a few hours free of the next Saturday morning, get the flight back and arrive in London again on the Sunday in the afternoon. It’s going to be a killer…

The other negative is that the reason that I am going is because they want me to act as an interpreter. I have told them again and again that I am not comfortable doing that. Several reasons, the most important one being the fact that all the work-related vocabulary that I know I learnt in English, I do not know those words and phrases in Spanish and trying to get me to translate would be as useful as having a dictionary with you – I may get the immediate translation but it may not make much sense in the context.

In addition to all of this, our parent company has got very strict rules when it comes to travelling to certain countries. They have put Colombia under “amber category”, which means that they don’t think it’s a safe place to go to, so they have put all of these systems in place that seem a bit ridiculous to me. For example, all taxis have to be booked by the local office and we are not allowed to walk around on our own, least of all at certain times of the day.

But I’ve started to come around it. Now that the tickets are booked and I have no way of getting out of it, I am trying to see the positives.

To start, we are travelling business class and this is going to br my first time ever! (and probably the last time too, judging by the prices). The plane and the service looks awesome and I am kind of hoping that those 11 hours fly by quickly (forgive the pun). I also have a window seat in all four flights (London-Paris, Paris-Bogotá, Bogotá-Paris and Paris-London). And the on-board entertainment looks good (I’ve already checked the films, and they have “Melancholia“, which I’m looking forward to watching)

Whilst in Bogotá I know that we will be looked after by the local office, and they will probably take us to decent restaurants and all, and with it being my birthday while we are there, I am pretty sure that it will be fun.

And the third positive about the whole thing is that I will be getting two or three days off in lieu.. Not bad 🙂

I suppose I will write a bit more about the trip after it’s happened; hopefully I’ll get to take a few pictures!