While Colombia is a great country to live in, it’s much different living abroad than in the United States. Most of the time I feel comfortable and don’t notice many big differences between here and home. Other times I miss simple things that I used to never even think about.
I had to give up some of my comforts and guilty pleasures when I decided to move. For me, it was completely worth it, but let’s just say I won’t be disappointed when I go back home to visit!
Here’s my list of 7 things I got used to living without when I moved to Cali:
1. Hot water
I’m the type of person who turns the nozzle all the way to the hot side and the water still isn’t hot enough. I LOVE showering with hot water. I love when the water feels like a giant warm hug around my body and when the bathroom looks like a sauna as I step out of the shower.
Here’s a snapshot of me taking a shower in Cali: my eyes are closed, my jaw is clenched. I arch my back and let out a little scream as the ice cold arctic water hits my back. I think I’ve broken the world record for the fastest shower several times here.
Whenever my Colombian friends go to take a shower in my apartment I tell them “Go for it, but there’s no hot water”. And they look at me like “obviously. What kind of crazy person would want hot water in Cali?” Me. I’m the crazy person who wants hot water in Cali.
2. Bagels (especially with smoked salmon)
I was a mediocre bagel fan in the United States. I would enjoy the occasional bagel, but I rarely craved a bagel. I worked at a bagel restaurant during college so you could even say I was bageled-out.
You know the expression you don’t know what you have ’till it’s gone? Yeah, exactly. My go-to bagel order was always a tomato basil bagel with jalapeño cream cheese and smoked salmon. This does not exist. Nobody here knows that it’s a real food.
You can find the occasional, rare bagel in Cali and other major cities, but it’s actually sadness and disappointment disguised as a bagel.
3. Craft Beer
Colombia has a disappointingly small selection of beers. Most bars will only have three or four varieties of Club Colombia (blonde, red, black, and sometimes wheat), Aguila, Poker, Corona, Redds (a citrus-flavored beer), and Costeña. Occasionally, a bar will have beers like Sol and Budweiser. And, of course, BBC and some other bars carry BBC Beer, which comes in many varieties and is the closest thing to craft beer.
I miss walking into any bar in Boston or Portland, Maine and having 200+ beer options on the menu. Let’s just say that trying different beers is a hobby of mine. And by “hobby” I mean I love drinking and I also love variety. A girl can only drink so much Aguila Light before she goes crazy.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE speaking Spanish. And I’m incredibly happy with how far I’ve come in learning the language. I’m happy I can finally make friends that don’t speak English. And that I can have conversations about virtually anything without having to first translate in my head.
But humor is difficult to translate. What I miss is being able to make jokes and understand jokes easily. I miss not having to stop and think when doing a simple task. And although Colombians are super friendly and I love meeting new people, I miss blending in when I speak.
5. House Parties
Maybe it’s because a lot of people still live with their parents. Or maybe it’s because Colombians just love going out. But I can count on one hand the number of house parties I’ve been to in Colombia- and at least three of them were mine.
There’s something great about not having to get dressed up and being comfortable in your house with cool people you love spending time with. It’s great to grab a drink out of the fridge and get as crazy as you want without worrying about how much money you have or if you have enough phone battery to call the Uber. And I miss playing drinking games and hanging out in a relaxed environment on the weekends.
6. Nail salons
Colombia has plenty of nail salons- and they’re super cheap! But there are a few differences that make me miss the nail salons back home.
The first is that instead of fancy jet-powered foot tubs, you just soak your feet in a plastic covered bucket. Is it more hygienic? Yes. Does it feel luxurious? No. Not at all.
Another difference is that, in many salons, each manicurist has different nail polish colors. And they just ask you what color you want. Without even showing you! How am I supposed to make a decision like that? I like to see all my options up front. I like to strategically coordinate colors together and take my time making a decision.
That’s half the fun, isn’t it? The result is that I make a decision under pressure and I end up with some horrible combination like black and hot pink (Yes, I did that once and no it did not look good).
The last difference- and – is that you don’t have any time to hang out and let your nails dry. And a lot of nail salons collect the payment AFTER you get your nails done. This is something I just don’t understand because it makes absolutely no sense.
They paint your nails and, with the polish still wet on your hands, they hand you the receipt and point you to the cash register. I’ve ruined at least half my manicures before even leaving the salon just because I had to pay with my nails still wet.
7. Wearing my yoga pants and baggy sweatshirt in public
Colombians dress to impress. To the point that I’ve seen women suffering as they walk up to Cristo Rey in their nicest wedges. Women always wear wedges or heels here. I’m a big fan of wedges myself, but they’re appropriate for some activities and for others no. Work? Yeah, I’ll wear wedges every day! Going to the supermarket? No thanks.
Sometimes it’s 8 P.M. and I’m already comfy chilling out in my house and I just want to run to the store real quick. I just want to wear what I already have on. Or sometimes I’m hungover and I want to put on my most elegant pair of yoga pants and a tank top to go out for breakfast. But not in Colombia.
Every time I leave the house I feel like I need to look like I at least made a little effort. It’s not as comfortable to be comfy when everyone is judging you.
What are some things that you miss from home when you’re abroad?