Whether you are visiting Colombia or have relocated from a foreign country, it is difficult not to immediately fall in love with Medellin. From its year-round great weather, to its natural beauty, low cost of living and ideal location, Medellin quickly captures the heart of tourists from every walk of life.
However as with any country, one does find a number of odd customs and habits that leave you scratching your head. With that said, I present to you the Top 10 Crazy Things that Paisas do!
- Paisas are extremely worried about their cars
If you learn one thing from this column, please remember this advice: never, ever slam the door of your taxi when you enter or exit. In fact, close it as lightly as you can.
For whatever reason, paisas are overly sensitive about their cars. Doors need to be treated as if they are made from glass. Speed bumps might as well be mountains. It does not matter if it is a BMW or a Renault, paisas take extra care of their vehicles and are easily upset if you do not treat their car with the same respect.
- Police lights do not mean anything
If you are driving in Medellin and see a police car behind you with their lights flashing, ignore it. You heard that right.
The police in Medellin and throughout Colombia often drive with their lights on. This does not that they want to pull you or anyone over. They just do. If they are targeting you, they will use the sound.
- After you wipe your private parts, don’t put the toilet paper in the toilet
This one applies in several other Latin American countries as well. We are told that piping in Latin America is weaker than Europe and the United States, but that seems hardly feasible. Regardless, you are expected to wipe and place the paper in a wastebasket next to the toilet.
So the next time you enter a bathroom in Colombia and it smells, well, awful, the most likely culprit is that wastebasket filled with other people’s feces. Yuck!
- Everyone stops at round points
Round points are probably my favorite European attribute. You won’t find them very often in the United States, but you will in Colombia. Unfortunately, the same rules that apply in Europe do not seem to apply here.
If you are driving behind a car as he is entering a round point, even if no cars are coming, expect him to stop. Why? Well I don’t know, but they just do. Be prepared so as not to rear end the car in front of you.
- Assign seats for movie theaters but not for sporting events
When you buy movie theater tickets, you will be walked through a complicated process that involves selected your seats. Your seats, you see, are assigned.
However do not expect the same treatment at a soccer match. Your tickets will indeed be assigned seat numbers, but when you arrive at the stadium your seats will probably already be occupied – and that is normal. Anything goes in stadiums and sporting events in Colombia, so buy your tickets but sit anywhere that you like!
- Play their music at an obscene volume level
It is not enough for paisas to play their music loud. It needs to be played so loud that it will leave your ears ringing for hours after, and loud enough that your neighbors three blocks away can hear your music. The problem has become so pervasive that the local government had to pass new laws to control noise levels, including the ability to cut electricity to residences that refuse to comply.
Even so, little has changed. According to our own recent investigation, an astounding 7 of 10 calls made to the attention line of emergencies within the first trimester of the year were noise and disturbance complaints and there has been a 108% increase in complaints since 2016.
- Where braces well into their 30’s
If you have been to Medellin, you cannot help but notice it. Everywhere across the city, braces are ubiquitous, and especially among men and women in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s. While in most countries, braces are associated with adolescence, here they are worn in adulthood and for more years.
One cannot help but think that braces are somewhat of a status symbol in this ciudad paisa.
- Applaud when their plane lands
When you fly with Colombians, and paisas in particular, prepare yourself for the applause when the plane lands. The reason that paisas clap their hands when their plane lands is not clear, but the applause is often loud and boisterous.
Before takeoff, it is common to see passengers make the sign of the cross, presumably to ask God for safe passage to their destination.
- “La Cresta” (The Crest) Hairstyle
If we have no explanation for why paisas clap when their planes land, we have even less explanation for this hair style that is used predominantly in Medellin’s rougher neighborhoods. Called La Cresta (or The Crest) for its resemblance to the crest of a rooster, the style is used seen throughout Antioquia and is especially popular among teenage boys.
- Eat mangos and popcorn at nightclubs
To the surprise of many foreigners that arrive in the city of Medellin, the bottle of rum placed at your table at the night club will often be accompanied by slices of mango and a bowl of popcorn. These are provided free of charge, and will be replenished throughout the evening.
Like everything else, we haven’t been able to find a good explanation for why mango and popcorn should accompany rum, but nor are we complaining. It is, in fact, a fantastic combination and we enjoy it!