One thing that travellers to Colombia talk a lot about when they get back home is how friendly and welcoming Colombians are to visitors. In spite of the stereotypes which people harbour about the country, the vast majority of Colombians are unwaveringly welcoming to foreigners and go out of their way to make people feel at ease. But why are Colombians so welcoming to visitors?
For decades, Colombia was the equivalent of a black hole on the global travel map: a few hardy travellers may have ventured there, but to the majority of people it was a total no-go zone. Civil war, violent drug traffickers and a shockingly high kidnap rate made Colombia an undesirable destination. Colombians, who are incredibly proud of their country, were naturally hurt by this international perception and the unfair stereotyping that came with it, and most Colombians have a sad story of being detained at customs or denied entry to a country because of their Colombian passport.
As Colombia’s global travel reputation has improved immeasurably over the past few years, with the country even being named Lonely Planet’s top travel destination for 2017, the number of international visitors has soared, with 2017 the most successful year of all time. In a country where foreign travellers were once a rare sight, this influx of visitors is seen by many Colombians as a vindication of their pride in the beauty and wonder of their country; people are finally waking up to what they have known all along. Therefore, when Colombians meet a foreign tourist, they are often keen to make them feel as welcome as possible in their country.
It also helps that foreigners are still a relatively rare sight outside the big cities, so many people are simply curious and pleased to see you. Colombians are gregarious by nature, so there’s no awkwardness in coming over to say hello and ask where you’re from.
The negative stereotypes which Colombians still battle with are evidently another factor in their welcoming nature. If so much of the world sees you, with little justification, as a likely drug trafficker, or feels the constant need to crack jokes about Escobar and cocaine, then you might wish to keep the world at arm’s length. However, Colombians, with their strong national pride, seem instead to work hard at breaking those stereotypes. When a random Colombian comes over to you to shake your hand and say, ‘Welcome to Colombia,’ they are showing you that the vast majority of the country’s people are good, kind, and decent.
It’s important to note that you may find Colombians less welcoming if you are in thrall to the aforementioned stereotypes: ask a random Colombian for cocaine, or make a crack about Narcos, and you may find yourself in for a distinctly frostier welcome. After so many years of hurt and heartache, most Colombians simply wish to move on and look to the future; reminding them of their suffering won’t endear you to them. Talk to a Colombian about the stunning landscapes of their country, or their music, and you will be met with nothing but smiles and open arms.