Expat Interview with Karen, US Expat Living in Colombia

Published: 25 Oct at 12 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Colombia
Karen Attman is a U.S. expat who’s been living in South America since 1996 and is currently in Bogota, Colombia. As an expat writer, Karen chronicles her encounters with chefs and restaurant owners and their fascinating stories. On her blog, Flavors of Bogota, she shares her experiences as she goes to food events, visits new restaurants and checks out eating trends in Colombia. Karen's expat blog is called Flavors of Bogota (see listing here)

Meet Karen - US expat living in Colombia
Meet Karen - US expat living in Colombia

Here's the interview with Karen...

Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, USA.

In which country and city are you living now?
I now live in the vibrant city of Bogota, Colombia.

How long have you lived in Colombia and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved to Bogota in the first months of 2012, and I don’t plan on leaving.

Why did you move to Colombia and what do you do?
I arrived in Bogota following my husband on his work assignment. As a journalist I find plenty to write about in this city I love. I enjoy writing about food, travel and culture in Colombia for newspapers, print magazines and websites in different countries.

Ready for the South American train adventure
Did you bring family with you?
Yes, my husband and my dog, a miniature Poodle that loves Bogota as much as I do.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
In general, I loved the experience. I moved to South America almost twenty years ago, and was amazed to see how the move opened me up to a new world of ideas and a way of living I would never have been able to experience if I’d stayed home.

Of course, not everything is easy, and there’s always a tendency to remember the past and compare things with my home country. But I focus on the positive and feel that every day holds a new adventure.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I mainly socialize with Colombians, who are open and friendly. I’ve made deep, lasting friendships here in South America. Definitely life in Latin America revolves around people and enjoying life, not just work and achievements.

I have a lot of expat friends, who do understand me better in some aspects, but I try not to isolate myself from the culture of the country I’m living in.

On the Plaza de Bolivar
On the Plaza de Bolivar
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
One of the best things to do anywhere in Colombia is eat. There are wonderful regional dishes, and Colombian generosity and hospitality definitely involves food. There are lots of great international restaurants to try, too.

Day trips to the beautiful towns and parks outside Bogota provide a needed escape from the crazy congestion in this mega-city. And with cheap flights, it’s easy to travel nearly anywhere in Colombia. There are amazing places to visit; you can stay on a coffee farm in the coffee producing area, get a dose of history in Cartagena, explore Medellin, hide away on tropical islands or visit small villages in the Amazon jungle.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The people, since they’re so kind. And hey, it’s Colombia, so people always have time to meet for a coffee. I also enjoy the more laid-back lifestyle.

How does the cost of living in Colombia compare to the US?
It’s a lot cheaper here. One of the benefits of living in most parts of Latin America is that money certainly goes farther than in the States or Europe.

It’s also easier to live a simpler life. People here aren’t generally focused on what you have, but on who you are. So I don’t feel judged because I’m not keeping up with the latest cars, clothes and gadgets that everyone else has.

Beautiful Lake Guatavita just outside Bogota
Beautiful Lake Guatavita just outside Bogota
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The standard of living can be quite low in some areas of South America, so at times I find increased crime and lack of organization and cleanliness difficult to live with.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Anyone moving to Bogota should get ready to spend long hours stuck in traffic.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Being far from my family is the biggest issue, especially when someone gets sick.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I’ve been enjoying expat life so much, I don’t plan on going back to my country to live. But I think if I did, I would be more a foreigner there than I am in South America. Living in another country has changed me and my outlook on life, has broadened my ideas, my tastes and my view of people. That’s all positive, but it also means that I’m not the same person I was when I left, and going back wouldn’t easy. Something that I think would make the transition easier would be living in an area where there are a lot of foreigners.

Enjoying a morning trip to Monserrate
Enjoying a morning trip to Monserrate
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Plan well. Research, research, research; you can never know too much about a place you plan on moving to.
  2. Be realistic. It’s a different country, but people are neither angels nor devils just because they’re foreigners. You’ll run into a lot of difficulties but that doesn’t mean the place is bad or wrong for you; it’s just part of the process of getting established abroad.
  3. Get to meet as many people as possible. That helps to overcome homesickness, enriches our lives, and helps us to learn about the local culture.
  4. Don’t focus too much on what you left behind. Reach out to embrace the new things around you.
  5. Relax and enjoy ! It’s all about the experience. Things aren’t done the same as at home, but it works for the people here. And along the way we benefit from it.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Flavors of Bogota is the chronicle of my discoveries here in Bogota and Latin America in general. As a food and travel writer, I’m always meeting chefs, restaurant owners, writers and editors who all have their fascinating stories. I’m involved in food events, restaurant openings and trends in Colombia and I love to share those experiences. Traveling as a travel writer is quite different than as a tourist, and I share that perspective.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Feel free to send me a tweet! (see link below)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingKaren is an American expat living in Colombia. Blog description: Expat Writer's Life in Bogota, Colombia (by kp Attman)
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Bill Proskauer wrote 5 years ago:

It is refreshing to read such an honest article. I am planning on moving to Medellin, where even the people from Colombia are awe struck by the kindness of the people of this region. I lived 15 years in South America in years past, and worked in the CA/Mex area, and visited all of Mexico for business throughout 12 years. Colombia is a very unique country, with a proud history. Karen, it is true, it is hard to give up the feeling of well being and peace that one learns to enjoy. There is poverty, but the richness of the people goes far beyond material richness. I am happy to see that you are a Lady author, sophisticated, and honest about all your comments. In a way I am glad that Colombia is still fairly virgin to foreigners, for I don't want to see Medellin be caught-up with some of the present day trends that the more industrial nations have. I will say this, I have seen very beautiful examples of parenting and love and respect to the elders and parents which give me tremendous faith in the youth of this country for the next 3 decades or so. I want to be part of such a positive lifestyle. I love my country, yet I am privileged to also be able to be part of this wonderful city, country and people.

Al Louis wrote 5 years ago:

Been to bogota a number of time and stay at jw Marriott ... It pricey and I'm looking for options... I'm usually there for 10 days at a time... Talked to many of the apt rentals but they aren't much different.. I'm not opposed to renting a apt Any suggestions

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