British Expat Living in Colombia - Interview With Paul

Published: 21 Nov at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Colombia
Paul Fowler is the Online Content Manager for See Colombia Travel (see listing here), the fastest-growing incoming tour operator in Colombia. Born in England, Paul has been lover of travel since he was young, trotting around the globe bit by bit before moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was here that he was offered the opportunity to live in Colombia, and now he is settled in the country's capital, Bogotá, where it's just as rainy, grey and eay to find a good pint as it was back home. There's just a lot more salsa.


Colombia Travel Blog

Here's the interview with Paul...


Where are you originally from?
I'm from London, England

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm now living in Bogotá, Colombia

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived in Bogotá for about 18 months now, and I'll be staying as long as I can.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I was living in Buenos Aires doing an internship with a travel company and, through that, was offered a job in Colombia as an Online Content Manager with See Colombia Travel.

Colombia Travel BlogDid you bring family with you?
They've visited, but are all still in England.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I've always loved travel and have found the challenge of adapting to new environments something I enjoy. I think for that reason I've always transitioned pretty easily. Plus, in Bogotá you can find most things you're after, even if it's just a pint and some fish and chips!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Honestly, Colombians are some of the most friendly people in the world and pretty much anyone that travels there will find their hospitality so generous that, at times, it's even a little overwhelming. Thanks to this warmth it's been easy to make friends with locals.
There is also a great expat community here. We play football, we drink together and we try to travel a bit too.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Bogotá is a city that demands patience. It's chocked with traffic, some areas are pretty ugly and the noise can be unbearable at times. My recommendation, however, would be to stick with it. Explore nearby attractions such as Villa de Leyva, Zipaquira and Guatavita, but most of all try to enjoy Bogotá. I've been here 18 months and, though it's certainly exhausted me at times, I've far from exhausted it.

Colombia Travel BlogWhat do you enjoy most about living here?
'La Rumba', or the nightlife, is incomparable. Even if you're not into salsa or other styles of Latin music, there are plenty of places to go for all kinds of music. And, of course, if Latin music is your thing I can think of no better place than Bogotá to spend your nights.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Bogotá and Colombia in general are not incredibly cheap, but it's surprising just how far your money goes here. Add on to that the decent wages you can get thanks to the wealth of opportunities for foreigners and you can easily make a pretty comfortable life for yourself here.
As a rough guide I'd say it's about half the price of Europe, but a beer can cost anything from $1 to $6, depending which bar you choose.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I think the negatives are what you'd find in any major city. Traffic, chaos, noise and a confused and frustrating public transport system are what most foreigners will struggle with.

Colombia Travel BlogIf you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Learn to love salsa, then learn to dance it.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest aspect is simply being away from the people I love back home. I've always been very close to my family and friends, so it's tough not to be able to share my experiences with them.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I worry that I'll miss the excitement of living in a foreign country; every day is an opportunity to learn about a new style of music, or get better at the local language, or just find out something about the culture you didn't know. Going back home it'll be easy to take things for granted and forget about the challenges I faced in expat life, which can frustrate me or excite me, but have always enriched me.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Say yes. Opportunity comes about less frequently as if you stay put and don't take any chances. I've always welcomed change and taken advantage of any offers that came my way (such as a job offer in Colombia with See Colombia Travel), and it has always opened even more doors.
  2. Learn a language. If you learn the language of the place you're going you'll find yourself much more involved in the culture and, as such, have a much richer experience.
  3. Don't be afraid of the expat 'bubble'. Many travellers feel as though they should escape everything about their home country and immerse themselves completely in the local culture. As it happens, the expat bubble is often a haven of knowledge for the local culture, not to mention a great way to find out about cultural events, where to go at night and much more.
  4. Love where you're from. One of travel's biggest rewards is found in the exchange of cultures. If you're always down about your own culture, the people you meet abroad aren't able to get anything in exchange for what they share with you. Learn about your own culture, appreciate what it has to offer, and share that with people you meet.
  5. Appreciate that you're in a different place. You might get frustrated at the lack of queueing where you are, or the way people don't say sorry if they bump in to you. This doesn't mean they're rude. Remember you're in a different country where different customs apply. It's very easy to forget that and become condescending and disgruntled.


Colombia Travel BlogTell us a bit about your own expat blog.
The Colombia Travel Blog started as a small blog written by Marcela Mariscal, a Colombian that, at the time, lived in Buenos Aires. She found herself frustrated at the lack of information available about her home country and that much press was an unfair reflection of what the country is like today. Her blog quickly gained popularity and she spotted the opportunity to expand and become an incoming tour operator in Colombia. This company is now See Colombia Travel, but the blog remains at the heart of everything. It's just a lot bigger now. I'm the manager of the blog and head editor, but we have writers from Australia, Peru, the US, Colombia, France and much more all wanting to spread the word about Colombia.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
For any information about Colombia or just being an expat, feel free to email me at pfowler{at}seecolombia{dot}travel. Follow the blog on Twitter at @colombiatravels

Paul blogs at http://seecolombia.travel/blog/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Colombia Travel Blog has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Paul, please also drop him a quick comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Fran Cormack wrote 1 year ago:

Somebody who loves Colombia as I did. So much so that I wrote a piece on it encouraging people to visit, http://www.francan.co.uk/2011/04/colombia-and-why-you-should-go.html Keep up the good work.

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