Oli’s Big Topic: Have you become a bitter foreigner?

Oli's Big Topic, bitter foreigner
Oli Pritchard starts his new column as he means to go on – direct, honest, and maybe a little bit sweary…

If you’ve been anywhere as a migrant long enough, you’ve probably met the obnoxious foreigner constantly complaining about their adopted country. We look at when it’s time to just keep moving on.

“They just can’t do anything right.”

You know the type. You’re sitting in a bar, or if you’re very unlucky, your own abode, and a bitter, twisted expat is chewing your ear off about Colombians. Tellingly, Colombians are usually referred to as “them.” A literal ‘them vs us’ dichotomy being clearly established right from the off. This guy (overwhelmingly, this is a male thing) has just had a steak that was a bit overdone or had a problem at Migración Colombia. This, of course, is proof to him that Colombia is a singularly useless country, apparently designed entirely to annoy him.

We all have our own reasons for leaving our countries of birth and journeying across the oceans before washing up here in Colombia. Make sure those reasons remain. If you’re in Colombia simply out of laziness or a lack of momentum, maybe it’s time to start thinking about continuing your adventure from here. If bitterness is settling in and you’re here merely because you don’t know how to leave, then it’s time to start looking at exit plans.

To be honest, this also applies to the odd local too. One of the reasons I rarely like to go north of Avenida Chile is that a few times in the Zona T, I’ve had people start conversations with excoriating attacks on their compatriots, bemoaning the fact that they’re still here and expressing surprise that I would choose to come. Frankly, anyone who introduces themselves essentially as a racist is going to get short shrift from me. All the more so if I’ve been dragged up to the gomelolandia and already have a stinking mood.

So, how do you know it’s fuck-off-o’clock? Start thinking about what you’re pissed off about. If it’s big things like corruption and traffic jams, congratulations! You’re not the only one. If it’s little things like getting the wrong empanada, you’re probably overreacting. If you feel like all Colombians act a certain way, you’re definitely overreacting.

None of this is to say that you won’t miss things about other countries, of course not. I often find myself wistfully considering the tang and bite of a lump of real mature cheddar. That’s fine. We all have our peccadillos, and losing out on those to gain the chance to see armadillos wandering around their natural habitats is part of the trade we make when we come here.

Obviously, this isn’t to say Bogotá doesn’t have its problems. Of course it does, and part of settling into life in la nevera is complaining about those problems. But if those problems are ‘everything that Colombians do,’ then the problem might be looking back at you in the morning when you brush your chompers. Living in Colombia and complaining about people dancing a lot or speaking Spanish is really strange.

Related: Going Local, daily situations in Bogotá explained

Here’s the thing though: when those people who can’t stop complaining talk about their own countries, they’ve got rose-tinted glasses on, for the most part. Generally, Bogotá works fairly well, even more so for these foreigners in their ivory towers of white privilege. They forget that not everything is perfect back home: cars rarely indicate anywhere in the world; banks are cunts the world over; visa offices are world-renowned for inefficiency.

If you really think everything in Bogotá is terrible, feel free to take a taxi to El Dorado, moan about being overcharged, get on a plane and jog on. No one is forcing you to stay. If you’re really not enjoying life here, put yourself out of our misery. Frankly, we’ll all be able to enjoy the good things more easily without you.

Oli Pritchard has been writing for The Bogotá Post since the very first edition. He’s tried his hand at every section from news to sport – including our only attempt at satire. A fan of Partridge, Nathan Barley and Monkey Dust, he’s been slipping references to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace into the paper for years. Now we’ve let him off the leash and given him his very own column. He hasn’t got the tagline of ‘gives it to you straight’ yet.


  1. What I find odd is the lack of non Spanish speakers/ foreign born people anywhere in Colombia. Also, the amount of aid in materials and cash Colombia receives on a yearly basis from the USA is staggering. I find it questionable the author disapproves of any criticism of Colombian culture/government by foreigners. Does the author also demand the tens of millions of illegal immigrants living in the USA to also take a flight back to their native lands?

  2. I tend to think that if you live in Colombia and are bitter about the experience then it is probably time to move on. However, it is certainly true that the grass is not always greener on the other side and that often issues you have in one place will follow you somewhere new. After all the one thing that will never change by moving is yourself.

    Having lived and worked in countless countries from Angola to Iraq over the last 17 years i have found that everywhere in the world there are differences from home and that you either choose to embrace them or to let them wear you down. Personally i find that regardless of mind numbing traffic, incredibly bureacratic immigration or miserable weather you will always feel at home when you surround yourself with good friends and a loving family.

    Andrew (Bogota)


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