Thursday, July 14, 2011

how to spot a Canadian in Bogota

While not all of these characteristics are specific only to Canadians, they certainly help to identify us as foreigners.

- When walking down the street, we yell at our kids to stop at the corner in English instead of Spanish.

- We go to the park with our kids as opposed to having sent them with the nanny.

- We have "blue plates". Colombians have yellow license plates with black writing, while our diplomatic plates are blue with white writing. This doesn't necessarily set us apart as Canadians, but it definitely screams "diplomat". "Blue plates, baby" will be a running joke in this house for a LONG time.

- Even after almost a year here, our kids still take off their shoes as soon as they enter someone's home. No one in Colombia takes of their shoes inside. The line of little Crocs with maple leaf jibbitz? Sure since there are Canadians in the house.

- Speaking of those ubiquitous rubber shoes, here in Bogota, Crocs are akin to slippers! I didn't know this UNTIL A FEW WEEKS AGO! Simon's teacher mentioned that it was "so cute to see Simon running around outside in Crocs". I asked what was cute about that and she went on to explain that no one really wears Crocs outside here. They're worn inside as slippers... or as work shoes for maids! Sans jibbitz of course.

- Most Colombians carry their kids. Everywhere. Rarely, rarely do you see a stroller, and those you do see are generally European brands and likely being used by foreigners. It's commonplace to see a parent cradling a tiny newborn wrapped in thick blankets while walking along (or running across!) one of the busiest streets in the city. But it's also not unusual to see someone carrying a sleeping -and obviously very heavy- toddler in their arms. Strollers are really rare. And if you've been around this blog long enough, you'll have seen pictures of our stroller... a Chariot Carrier. It's big and bold AND BRIGHT YELLOW. This thing STOPS PEOPLE IN THEIR TRACKS down here. Seriously. People stop and stare.

- For women, the "tourista uniform", ie. capris or sandals. Extra "foreigner" points for wearing both at the same time. Colombian women are typically VERY well-dressed. They favour perfectly coifed, long hair and skinny jeans tucked into tall, tall boots. Eighty percent of women seem to wear this outfit at. all. times.

So if the jibbitz-accessoried, Croc-wearing, English-speaking, blond-haired, blue-eyed kids aren't obvious enough... and if the giant school-bus-yellow stroller doesn't give it away... seeing me at the park in my yoga pant capris, Croc sandals (Twitter confirmed these are allowable when pregnant, so I'm going to claim clemency when two weeks post-partum as well), AND BED HEAD might also help tip one off to us not being from around here.

Oh, I was also wearing Eloise in a wrap.

If only you all knew how funny this description is in comparison to the typical Colombian woman in this neighbourhood!

Trust me. It's funny.


  1. I definitely understand and know exactly what you're talking about... in large Latin cities there is no such thing as a "casual" outing. No running to the store in pjs. Everything outside the house takes at least an hour of primping, accessorizing and dressing. I love and hate it, lol. I always used to remind myself that most of those women have help around the house to do everything else that took/takes up my day. Love and miss you!

  2. Hi Amy, Im a single mom of 4 and a high school teacher. I have been offered a position in Bogota and am considering. My 9 year old is still at home with me and my 17 year old(grade12). How do you see the education there? as a mom of 4 yourself? In terms of student life and life for a teacher. Im currently working at an "inner city school" Thanks for your reply

  3. Hi Anoymous mom (if you check back), feel free to email me at and I'll try to answer your questions. Sorry I didn't see this sooner!


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