Labradors kissing tortoises: How not to date Colombians

I‘m a feminist, so I think it’s okay for me to say that the easiest way to spot a feminist in a crowd of other women is to look for the one who is most visibly impatient.

I’ll always remember a pretty blonde girl I once worked alongside who told me, in no uncertain terms, that you had to go out and get what you wanted in life and that included men. She’d grown tired of the guys-brave-enough-to-approach-me filter and just did her own hunting (I think she’s happily married with a baby now, but that’s beside the point)

Anyway, over the years I’ve often remembered that girl and I guess, in a way, I’ve become her because I’m one of those women who has absolutely no qualms about asking men out. Even worse, I don’t even worry about it or, at least, I didn’t until I came to Colombia.

My first year in Bogotá was cataclysmic on the dating front. I’d just come out of a long-term relationship so it didn’t really trouble me but the few times I did dare to dip my toe into the dating water, I got scalded (a friend recently referred to my dating technique as that of an over-enthusiastic labrador and she may have a point)

Then I met my ex-boyfriend which probably only worked because we went out something like six times before I even realised we were dating, by which time he’d seen and accepted my control freak tendencies and I’d been floored by the idea of getting something I hadn’t foreseen, orchestrated and carefully controlled.

But take note people, that was six dates in something like three months. That would be unthinkable in England because there we like to do things fast – as fast as the March hare – and it’s the same in Australia and the US if my foreign friends are anything to go by. Those friends, I should add, find dating tortoise Colombians equally confusing. Here’s an example:

I met two friends for coffee yesterday, one is blonde and the other is brunette. Anyway, the blonde came bounding up to me first, looking not unlike an enthusiastic labrador puppy, it has to be said.

“How did it go with that guy from Saturday?” she gushed excitedly. “He was so cute. Gorgeous actually. Have you heard from him?”

I shook my head.

“What?!” she exploded. “What a git. Forget him. Whatever happened to the mid-week call to see how you’re doing? So rude.”

I laughed.

“Calm down lovely,” I replied. “It’s only Tuesday.”

They both looked a little quiet so to appease them I told them I would write the guy a message, if I hadn’t heard from him by Friday.

“What are you going to say?” my brunette friend asked cautiously.

“No idea,” I replied honestly. “Maybe I’ll just write hola and send a smiley face.”

There was a silence before the table exploded. I couldn’t write that, my friends cried, he’d think I was insane. He’d think I couldn’t use a cellphone and had accidentally pressed send before writing anything. I couldn’t just write hola. It was unthinkable. And anyway, how was he supposed to reply?

All valid objections you might think until you remember that this is Colombia. Not England, not Australia. Colombia. And I have lost count of all the funny things – the smileys and the single song lyrics – Colombians have sent me in gentle flirtation.

In fact, a Colombian friend told me once: “You know, the whole thing is just so awkward. I mean, really awkward. What am I supposed to do when I receive a smiley face? And then I go and do it. I just send one straight back.” It’s an epidemic.

But that’s not the point really. Patience is the point. Patience and lots of it. Smiling and flirting and sending smiley faces and one day, miles in the future, you wake up and find out he’s your boyfriend and you think: “Wow, I didn’t see that one coming,” which of course you didn’t because labrador puppies are still puppies and they’re so busy tripping over their own feet, they miss what is under their nose.

This must have played on everyone’s mind because my brunette friend called me last night, co-incidentally after I’d received a message from the guy I met on Saturday.

“What did it say?” she asked excitedly.

“It just said kisses,” I replied.

There was a silence.

“Just kisses?” she replied incredulously.

“How are you supposed to reply to that?”

I thought for a moment.

“I think I’ll just write yes please,” I said.

There was another long pause.

“Oh God,” she groaned.

“Well at least it’s better than hola.”

Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.


  1. Tesstastic

    haha! Kisses can only be positive thing right? Unless it was a bulk message sent to all of his lovers… God I am skeptical at the moment!!

  2. MadeBeforeMoses

    This is so interesting as me and my foreign friends have completely the opposite impression! As soon as you give a Latin guy your number you are bombarded by texts or calls, and as soon as you kiss them you are their girlfriend, in our experience…. There’s such a complete unashamedness about feeling and displaying emotions here, one of the things I love about Colombia, but it means playing it cool doesn’t seem to be an idea that has gained much traction! I even spent a whole Spanish lesson last year learning all the expressions I needed to try and calm down emotional Colombian men, such as “en Inglaterra no nos apresuramos”, “tomalo tranquilo,” y “si muestras tantas ganas, a mi me quitan las ganas…”!!! Speaking of feminism, “no me digas mujer” was also on the list!
    (Love the blog by the way!)

  3. TammyOnTheMove

    Ha ha, that’s hilarious! Love your posts! I currently live in Cambodia and my girlfriends keep telling me that Cambodian men don’t bother texting or do anything they promised to do. It is that whole loosing face thing, so they say whatever you want to hear without thinking about the consequences (i.e. I will leave my wife and kids for you to start a new life) and it is driving them insane. Luckily I am happily married, so I am not affected by this. 🙂

  4. Trish

    “And I have lost count of all the funny things – the smileys and the single song lyrics – Colombians have sent me in gentle flirtation.”

    I can so relate to this! 🙂 I love your blog!

  5. Ceri

    Hahaha I love this. I definitely need to get into the Colombian dating scene – The Mexican one is too intense. Once you acknowledge a guy here or even agree to go on a date with him, you’re flooded with messages, emails, calls, etc. every single minute of the day. It’s all too much too fast. Eek!

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