Expatriating to Bolivia is no easy feat, with mountains of paperwork, a puzzling new culture, and all the pitfalls of a poverty-stricken country to contend with. Yet those who have lived here share a series of learned truths which are infinitely more perceivable through the lens of an outsider. Here’s everything you need to know.
Things never happen on time
Nothing ever happens when it’s supposed to in Bolivia. Even more than elsewhere in Latin America, business deadlines are entirely fluid and start times of social meetups are open to interpretation.
Patience is a virtue
Bolivians have to queue endlessly for menial tasks the rest of the world can do online. And after such endless queueing, it’s completely normal to be inexplicably ordered to come back another day.
Protests are a way of life
Protests are the primary method of political discourse in Bolivia, with roadblocks and dynamite taking precedence over tactful negotiation. Expats in Bolivia know their travel plans depend entirely on the political climate at the time, and that citywide blockades are a great excuse to take a day off work.
The dangers are exaggerated
Bolivia has an unjust reputation in the western world, considered by many to be a lawless no-mans-land where murder and kidnapping are the norm. In reality, it’s among the safest countries on the continent.
Todo es posible, nada es seguro
“Anything is possible, nothing is certain” is a worthy motto to live by in this vast, unpredictable land.
There are no road rules
To be fair, there probably is an old book of traffic rules buried somewhere in the Legislative Assembly in La Paz. Nevertheless, your gung-ho driver will pay little notice as he speeds through a red light on the wrong side of the road without a seatbelt.
Safety is an afterthought
Whether it be shoddy construction work, drunken bus drivers, or ill-equipped adventure tourism outfits, profit sadly comes before safety in much of this largely under legislated land.
Parties are important
Bolivians love their fiestas, at times getting so inebriated they are unable to stand or speak. With numerous booze-fueled festivals taking place all throughout the year, drunkenness is a near-constant state for some.
Folklorico is life
Each area has their own distinct music and dance, a source of regional pride held dear to the people’s hearts. But during Bolivia’s ubiquitous entradas, these contrasting genres blend together seamlessly to proudly form Bolivia’s national folkloric identity.
Food is a source of pride
The people are wonderfully warm
Once you get to know them, Bolivians are incredibly friendly and warm, despite perhaps seeming a little aloof at first.
Bolivia is bloody crazy
Whether it be punching on for Pachamama, prisons that produce cocaine, or a festival to worship skulls, there’s no doubt Bolivia is among the maddest nations on earth. And we wouldn’t have it any other way!