Are you Colombian?
by Carlos Thompson Pinzón
Another in a series of educational and entertaining culture tests. Carlos is an electronics engineer from Bogotá, but now studying mathematics.
You can't spell Santander without ant
- You believe in personal freedom in an individualistic way. You don't see any connection between this and politics.
- You're familiar with Jorge Barón, Pacheco, José Gabriel, Jota Mario, Sábados Felices, El Chavo del Ocho, the Flintstones, Plaza Sésamo (Sesame Street), Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, ... you still remember when US TV series were common and would probably remember The A-Team, The Beverly Hillbilies, Who's the Boss, Star-Trek, etc. but nowadays you can only see telenovelas on TV (unless you have cable).
- You know how football is played-- and of course, football is association football, not that extrange thing played in the USA and that only Americans understand. You are likely to know how to play basketball or volleyball but you are not likely to follow those sports. Baseball is very common in the Northern Coast, but the media in Bogotá pays little attention.
- You expect to have three weeks of vacation a year.
- You're fairly likely to believe in God. Most likely you are Catholic, at least by name, but today it's common that you are "Christian", which means non-Catholic Christian (probably Evangelical).
- You think of corrientazo (a one or two dollar lunch) as cheap food. McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. are cheaper than a formal restaurant but not your choice for a cheap lunch. Unless you have kids, you would rather go to El Corral than to McDonald's.
- You probably own a telephone and a TV set. Even poor people have TV sets.
- You don't heat your place at winter-- in fact, there is no winter. What you call invierno (winter) is the rainy season. Probably in Bogotá or inother places above 2000 meters, you will need heating at night, but usually an extra blanket will to the job.
- Your place has its own bathroom. You do your laundry either by hand or in a machine, deppending on your resources, but most probably you do it at home. You don't usually kill your own food. You don't probably have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.
The other universal language
- You don't consider dogs, cats, horses or humans to be food. Most probably you don't consider insects as food unless you are Santanderiano (in this case you won't be able to understand why people do not like ants), and you don't consider guinea pigs as food, unless you are from Nariño and Cauca.
- A bathroom does not usually have a bathtub in it. It might have a shower, but it certainly has a toilet.
- It seems natural to you that the telephone system and power companies are owned by the state, and neo-liberal governments are a bit crazy insisting on privatizing them. Auto manufacturers and airlines are privately run; and you can hardly picture things working differently.
- You expect that the phones will work, but if they don't, you don't expect them to be repaired quickly. Getting a new phone is becoming easier.
- There is no train system. It existed once and there are still a few tourist trains, but that is part of a nostalgic past. Planes are common and more reliable than roads, if you can affort them.
- A two-party system used to be natural, but there seems that there are no parties any more. You expect the politicians of either party to be responsive to business, solve the guerrilla problem, and to be concerned with the middle and poor classes. You don't actually know how parliamentary systems work.
- Socialism is still seriously defended, but Communism is usually not. However, you have better chances to meet someone defending Communism than Neo-Liberalism (free markets, privatizations, etc.).
- You are proud to live in a country without races and without racism. Of course, outside the mainstream population, you have some black and Indian minorities. You will usually call the mainstream population "white", but you are aware that it is really mixed.
- You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.
- You don't take a strong court system for granted. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court, but you have to be patient until a verdict is reached.
The best way to be in a war, really
- You'd respect someone who speaks English, French, German, or Japanese. You have been taught some English as school but you very likely don't speak it.
- It's not really that necessary to learn foreign languages anyway. You can travel the whole country using nothing but Spanish, and your neighbors also speak Spanish-- unless you want to do business with a non-Spanish speaking partner, but then you probably can find someone to translate for you.
- You think a tax level of 30% is scandalously high. But you won't be surprised if they pass it in Congress.
- School is supposed to be free through elementary school. If you can pay for a private school, you will probably put your children in one. College is expensive unless you get a scholarship.
- College is (normally, and excluding graduate study) five years long.
- Mustard comes in jars. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in plastic jugs or cardboard boxes.
- The month comes in the middle, usually, but you will usually have to guess if the date is at the beginning or the end: 18/08/89. (You probably don't remember that date exactly, but you know what happened then.)
- The decimal point is a comma, unless you are using US produced software. You separate thousands with a dot, and millions with an apostrophe.
- A billion is a million times a million, unless you are reading a US source from a careless translation.
You're very far from Japan, amigo
- World War II was a just war, and (granted all the suffering of course) ended all right. We didn't participate, even if we nominally declared war on Germany.
- You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Getting married by a judge is an option, but not a requirement; most marriages happen in church. You have a best man and a maid or matron of honor at the wedding-- a friend or a sibling. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time.
- If a man has sex with another man, he's a homosexual.
- Once you're introduced to someone (well, besides the President and other lofty figures), you can call them by their first name. You will probably use the first name preceded by a title like "doctor".
- If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless.
- A hotel room has a private bath.
- You'd rather a film be subtitled than dubbed, except for the most popular films aimed at children. You won't call a Hollywood-made film a foreign film.
- You expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes-- but this has not always been the norm.
- If a politican has been cheating on his wife, what has that to do with his ability to govern?
- Just about any big store will take your credit card. Grocery stores and small businesses probably won't.
- A company can fire just about anybody it wants, but usually compensations are high.
- You like your bacon crisp (unless it's Canadian bacon, of course).
- Labor Day is called May 1st. There is usually a parade, but it is just another holiday.
- You don't count on excellent medical treatment, even if you have it. You expect you're not going to die of cholera, yellow fever or other Third World diseases; chances are low, anyhow, compared to heart attack and high-momentum lead poisoning. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies. You think dying at 58 would be a tragedy, but you are getting used to too many tragedies.
- You've probably seen Star Wars, ET, Home Alone, and
Snow White. If you're under forty, add Terminator, Jaws, and 2001; otherwise, add Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, and several Mexican Ranchera movies. A European Movie might be a foreign movie but a Hollywood movie is just a movie. A Colombian movie is a national movie, and you probably remember La Estrategia del Caracol and Golpe de Estadio from recent times, and the movies of Carlos El Gordo Benjumea a little back ago.
- You may claim you hate Vallenato music, but unless you are from Cali you remember the lyrics of several Vallenatos. You know who Diomedez Días, Carlos Vives and el Binomio de Oro are.
- You don't hate salsa, and if you are from Cali (or even if not) you adore it. You know El Grupo Niche, Joe Arroyo, Fruko, La Sonora Matancera and La Fania. You cried at the death of Celia Cruz.
- How you feel about Tango, Rancheras, Boleros, Balada, Pasillo, Merengue, Pop, or Rock, will vary by region and age, but you have definitely listened to all of them. You know Carlos Gardel, José Vicente Fernandez, Wilfrido Vargas, Juan Luis Guerra, Michael Jackson, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra.
Did you hear the one about the Boyaco?
- You went over Pre-Columbian, Colonial and Republican Colombian History in school. Some History of the Americas and some European history which pretended to pass as world history. Russian, Chinese or Indian history is practically unknown to you.
- You expect the military to fight wars, not get involved in politics. You expect the military to fight the Guerrillas and other internal threats, but you wouldn't call it involvement in politics. If you read the papers, you surely know the name of the General Commander of the Armed Forces (Gen. Tapias).
- Your country has never been invaded by a foreign nation. (The Spanish did not invade, they just came to a savage country and colonized it, bringing civilization.)
- You're used to a fair variety of choices for almost anything you buy.
- You measure things in meters, centimeters, kilos and liters, except for a few liquids like gasoline where you use gallons (well, actually you measure gasoline in pesos-- the pump convert pesos in gallons). You still measure food in pounds (libras), but a pound is exactly a half kilo.
- You are probably not a farmer.
- Comics basically come in two varieties: newspaper comics and books; you can find magazine comics in specialized stores.
- The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Certainly not, say, authors.
- You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights except just after it turns red, after 11 PM, or after checking that nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian you will wait until all cars stop or there is a gap, even if you are trying to cross at a traffic light.
- You think of USA as the land of opportunities, followed by Spain where they also speak our language. Venezuela used to be the land of opportunities, despite the Venezuelans, but this is no longer so.
- You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small car, even if it is actually bigger than many medium-sized cars sold today.
- The police are armed. Street police do not usually carry submachine guns.
- If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
- The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
Space and time
- The nationality people most often make jokes about is the Mexicans, or the Cubans, or the Gringos; more jokes are told about other Colombians, mainly Pastusos, Costeños, Boyacos, Paisas and Cachacos.
- There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
- You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened at all in Bogotá.
- You wouldn't expect both inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 25%) at the same time.
- You don't care very much what family someone comes from.
- The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.
- You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments. It's likely you don't see that many plays, either.
- Christmas is in December; you spend it with your family, give presents, build a manger and put up a tree.
- You may think the Catholic Church is too powerful, or the state is; but you are used to the Catholic Church not being a state church, though very influential.
- You'd be hard pressed to name the capitals or the leaders of all the nations of Europe. Or the leaders of all nations in South America.
- You are familiar with Mafalda, Peanuts, Tintin, and Lucky Luke, but not with Corto Maltese, Milo Manara, Guido Crepax, Gotlib, or Moebius.
- You don't leave messages at the beep. Machines are not meant to be talked to.
- Taxis are generally operated by locals, who are often ignorant about the city.
- You don't know about welfare and unemployment payments-- you think people should earn a living and not take handouts, but giving the lack of opportunities it would be nice if our government could help the unemployed.
- If you want to be a doctor, just dress with a tie.
- There are too many lawyers. Mainly because you don't usually need them.
If you have an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're ten minutes late, and apologize profusely if it's forty minutes. An hour late is usually tolerable, and there is no delay that is inexcusable.
- If you're talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about a foot (30 cm).
- Everything is subject to bargaining, unless its price is printed.
- Showing up at someone's place is not uncommon nor considered rude.
- When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, and you make negotiation a social event. To 'play hardball' is a little rude.
- If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than half a day or so.