The paisa lifestyle: how to adapt to life in Medellín, Colombia
If you are thinking about interning, visiting or moving to Medellin, think no more. The biggest city in the Antioquia region, commonly known as the City of Eternal Spring, Medellin offers a mixture of tradition, modernity, good cuisine, many work opportunities and a beautiful landscape.
Here are some of the things I learned about the regional paisa culture while interning in Medellín. I hope you find them useful and they motivate you to come and experience Medellín and Colombia yourself.
How to adapt to life in Medellín:
1. Talk with the locals
The paisas are the most welcoming people I have ever met. Even if your Spanish is rusty, don’t be shy. Everyone is more than happy to help, sharing tips on where to go out, what to eat and which places to visit. The paisas are emotionally warm people, so that means they love to talk and connect with others. But, if you are a person that is not very used to talking about your personal life, you may end up feeling a bit overwhelmed. After my first day in the office, I already knew the life story of my boss and she knew so much about mine. She asked questions like, “Do you have a boyfriend?” and “What do your parents do for a living?”. In Colombia, it’s normal to ask these questions as an icebreaker, though these friendly interrogations usually don’t go beyond first meeting, unless you get to become friends with that person.
2. Take the bus to work
Believe it or not, the bus is one of the interns’ favorite things about Medellín. Traveling by taxi is very practical if you’re going in a group, but if you are going alone somewhere, the bus is a very fun and entertaining way to move around. The first time I took the bus, an empanada vendor hopped on and started selling freshly made cheese empanadas. Many times, singers jump on and start singing and playing beautiful Colombian music. It is an amazing way to connect with the people and experience Medellín like a local.
3. Learn to bargain
“Regatear” is a very useful word (and skill) to learn in Medellín. If you go to any open fruit market, like the ones around Parque Berrío, you need to bargain. Always ask for the price in different places, compare and then bargain. A useful phrase to know is, “En el otro puestesito me lo daban más barato.” This translates to, “they were offering me a better price at the other stand.” Also, if you are a group of five trying to get in a taxi for four, just try and offer to pay an extra 2,000 Colombian pesos (0.65 USD) and they will take all five of you.
4. Bring a rain jacket and/or umbrella
Though Medellín is called The City of Eternal Spring, the weather isn’t all sunshine. The weather can vary but usually it is very nice and warm, with a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius (68 F). However, sudden downpours are almost a daily occurrence, so make sure to have an umbrella with you when you go to the office so you don’t run the risk of getting soaked.
5. Learn to love Reggaeton
There are many amazing places to go “a rumbear” in Medellín. Parque Lleras is a fun area where you can find many “discotecas” and bars. During the weekends this place is buzzing with amazing music, happy people and overall good vibes. If you don’t like reggaeton or you’ve never listened to it, I recommend learning some songs before going out. It will make your experience ten times better. A good starting point is listening to some internationally famous paisas, like J. Balvin and Maluma.
All photos by Andreea Prodan