Colombia – the country of coffee, crime and cocaine. Wait no, that is just what 99% of the people are thinking. And really, it is such a shame. After travelling the world and now living in Colombia, I am writing this article to show you that Colombia is so much more than that – and that you can learn a hell of a lot from Colombian people.

No. 1 – RELAX YOURSELF

I have visited a lot of countries and adapted to many different cultures – but in Colombia, I first really realized that I have still a lot of German inside of me. Fact is, Colombian timing is very different to German timing. Here is just one recent example:

Last month I went to visit the famous temple of the sun in Sogamoso, which apparently opens its gates at 9 am. German as I am, I was there 5 past 9 – being welcomed by the security guy who was just finishing to put on his tie. He told me, the guy from the register is going to arrive in about 20 minutes. So I accompanied the lady from the cafeteria who was just starting to clean the floor (15 minutes after the official opening time that is) and around 40 minutes later I finally got in.

And this story shows that I am already much more relaxed than before. When this first started happening to me, I almost got crazy. I used to be on time for meetings and appointments but gave up after the 10th time that I waited more than half an hour for the other person to arrive. When I am now going to meet a friend and we say 9 am, I will start getting ready at 9, leave at 9:30 and arrive at around 10 – that’s Colombian timing.

And what did it teach me? To RELAX. We are way too stressed all the time and are carrying a lot of pressure on our shoulders – because we have a lot of rules and expectations. In Colombia, the people simply choose not to carry around that much weight, and to take things easier.

No. 2 – SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE

Colombian people are the most generous people I know. They don’t think twice, they give as much as they can. I have stayed with poor families in the countryside that really don’t have much more than corn and rice to eat, but they will still happily share it with you – and even feel shame because they can not give more.

Last time I stayed at a hostel in Boyaca I witnessed the beauty of Colombian people one more time. I wanted to stay one more night but the hostel was totally booked out. So the owner talked to his parents that lived next door and gave me a private room in their house! They were giving me all the trust I could wish for and received me with a big smile and a fresh coffee in the morning.

No. 3 – WAKE UP THE FIRE INSIDE OF YOU

If Colombians have one thing in excess – it’s fire. They dance, they cook, they fight, they love – all with a fiery passion. Surely the cold approach of the Western world can achieve degrees, advanced technology and control governments, but really where is life in all of that? If you just think with your head and don’t put some heart into it, you are just doing the things halfway. And I do not mean that we do not have heart or fire inside of us, for sure every human being has the possibility to live more from the heart. What the Western world needs is a spark of the Colombian passion – to see the world through the eyes of love.

No.4 – RECONNECT WITH YOUR LAND

street art of an indigenous woman
Streetart in Sogamoso

Funny enough, living in Colombia, so far away from my own country, I started to understand what it means to have a root. When I first connected with the earth, when I first got in contact with sacred plant medicine, when I first learned about the indigenous tribes – that’s when I started to recognize the bond I have with the earth – and more importantly, with my own land. It is funny that most of the people have to travel to the other side of the world to connect with their own land. To then realize that your own land is the earth, doesn’t matter the continent. I found pieces of my culture in South America because the people here showed me that in a way we are all connected. Yes, South America has a painful history of colonization and exploitation – like so many countries rich in indigenous culture and tradition. But in the midst of the past pain, I found forgiveness and acceptance.

Are you aware of the earth you are walking on every day?

No. 5 – BELIEVE

Most of the people in Colombia are Catholics (92%) and god plays a big role in their lives. For an atheist like me all the Mother Mary statues, baby Jesus pictures and crosses needed a bit of getting used to at the beginning (especially around Christmas time), but with time I started to really appreciate it. Why? Because people are incredibly generous and caring. When you say goodbye they always say “Dios lo Bendiga” – May God protect you. Actually, the word for bye in Spanish is “Adios” and carries in itself the word god. They also always wish you “Bendiciones” which means blessings. I really love this word because they have the view that everything that happens is a blessing because it needs to be like that. In that way, they live in total acceptance and appreciation of life.

Besides the Catholic religion, indigenous culture is very present in all of Colombia. With more than 85 indigenous tribes come a lot of different beliefs and traditions. I got to know a lot of young people that are searching to reconnect with their ancestral roots and to integrate this culture in modern time. What all these traditions have in common is the close relation to nature. They all believe that we humans are inseparable connected to nature and are not above any of its wonders. They pray to many different gods. “Madre Tierra” – Mother Earth, “Padre Sol” – Father Sun, and all the plants, stones and animals are gods. It is a beautiful way of reconnecting with our roots. I am not Catholic or indigenous, but I can for sure learn from the values any religion or tradition communicates.

I am thankful every day for the opportunity to learn from a different culture and grow to be a better human being. Gracias, Colombia ♥️


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