Bogota, Colombia Report of what it's like to live there - 11/06/10

Personal Experiences from Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia 11/06/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Mexico and Costa Rica.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

About 3 hours to Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year 6 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. State Department

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Rosales and El Chico, They are all aprtments, The housing department in the embassy is managed by a colombian lady who doesn't like her job, so you will be in a temporary housing and you will have to beg her on your knees to change you, but at list you will be there for more than one month, if you have babies and there are constructions beside the housingsays that is not a reason for ask for a change the noise the all day long, We have a new born and a construction about 6 ft from his crib, and we ask for an other apartment and they said construction is not a reason, I have a friend who can't park her car in her parking because is too small for her car, so she has to park her car in a public parking 3 bloks ahead from her apartment, She has 2 small kids and is raining all the time, They have make damages on her car, She asked for a change and They said no,I have an other friend who is pregnant and She will need an extra room for the new baby, She asked for a change 6 months ago, The autorized the change but the housing lady hasn't do anything, the baby is going to be there in one month and they don't have a room for him.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive, more than in Washington. Meats, fruits and vegetables are cheaper, but cleaning suplies, toys and clothes are extremely expensive. We have 3 kids, and we pay 300 USD every time we go to the grocery store.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A small and old car, umbrellas, toys, raincoats.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO and pouch

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About 450 USD per month. It is easy to get one from the embassy, but they are divas.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is one at the U.S. Embassy. You pay about 50 USD per month. But with the expensive life here, sometimes it is difficult to pay even that.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It is very expensive use an ATM here. The best option is using checks and cash them at the embassy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

They are.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable TV plus internet. We pay about 800 USD per month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to speak fluent spanish to survive. Not even the preschool teachers speak english.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I can't imagine. If We have problems with the stroller, a person with a wheelchair would be in big trouble here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We can't use buses. Taxis are OK, but in the rush hour with rain it is impossible to get one. Really, you can't get one taxi during the rush hour or when it is raining.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Small! There are lots of issues with the parking spots -- they are so narrow. I've been driving in lots of places in the world, and I thought Mexico city was the worst. Bit that was before I knew Bogota! There are no rules here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No way, not even in the embassy. It is really difficult. I know people with master's degrees who have applied for 5 jobs at the embassy with no succes at all. To get a job in the embassy you don't need to be prepared, you need lots of contacts. It is so sad, but it hapens.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fancy: high heels, makeup, tag clothes, jewelry, expensive purses and watches.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The same as in all the big cities, but We live in secure areas.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

We didn't have a good experience, The doctors here are not very well prepared. But in the embassy the health unit makes you believe that you are in a 1st world country, so they don't have to pay for the medevac.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

unhealthy

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

rain, rain, rain, all day long ... all year

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

CNG and Gran bretana, people in Gran bretana seems to be happier than CNG, I've hear that in the CNG The kids are the rich colombian kids, and all the time are talking about how much coast the vacations, wich car do they have, tags , if your kid doesn't have driver and body guardsHe will not be at their level, and They will not treat him the same, Gran bretana has 15 kids per class, They are lots of diplomats, they have horse ridding and sports, people like it more, the problem is that the kids leave home at 6:00 AM and they come home at 4:00 PM, They are a long time in the school bus.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Lots, but having preschool kids in Bogota is a bad idea; it is so expensive, They go just from 8 to 12 and you pay about 450 USD per month, and every year you pay about 1100 USD for inscription, The kids in preschool don't have any sports, so you have to pay extra. I know someone who has twins in preschool, and their economy is really bad now. The embassy doesn't help you at all with kids under 5.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Lots, even for babies, but again very expensive.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars, happy hour at the embassy. There is a big American Women's group here and they have lots of activities.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good for single men. I don't think it is good for families with small kids. For the babies it is so noisy, for the toddlers it is difficult. They get out of school at 12, and after that they have to be at home the all day because it is raining, or you have to pay for extra activities. There are plenty, but they are so expensive. Couples who work have to leave the poor kids the all day at home with the nanny. And the kids are sick all the time because of the weather.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

As in all of the Latino American countries, the rich Colombians have problems with dark-skinned people.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Not too much. Go to restaurants, there are some of them with playgrounds for the kids. But most of the time it is raining, so they can't use them.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Emeralds (if youhave money) and cofee.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

For a single man, dating with Colombian girls with families is really difficult. Living here is very expencive and the weather is horrible.

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11. Can you save money?

Not at all. Actually, people with more than one kid in preschool can have problems with their budget.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

summer clothes and winter clothes, there are no seasons here, it is raining all year.

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3. But don't forget your:

rain clothes.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bogota can be nice but some people, but it depends what do you want for your kids. If you want active kids, running, breathing fresh air, playing outdoors, this is not the place. If you don't mind your kid being all day long at home with the nanny -- or even with you (if you don't drive yourself crazy) it is OK. The kids can't be outdoors because of the weather, so forget about your kid riding his bicycle or running outside with his friends. Here they can't do that.

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