More than giving Colombian roses or Santander chocolates, dating in Colombia has etiquette. Although you may be ready to take the plunge, there are rules to live by if you are new to cross-cultural dating.
Before you get to say “I do” in Colombia, you must get to “I care.” This may sound easy when sharing martinis in the Gastro-zone. Although Bogotá may be the place of the moment, a date can go terribly wrong if you try to get to “second base” without having stepped to some salsa.
So go slow. It is easy to get carried away in bars and surrounded by beautiful people. Give yourself a couple of days to understand the pack mentality that involves a night on the town. Colombian girls tend to go out together in large groups to have a good time and not necessarily to pick up the quirky Gringo. The “pick up” mentality in Colombia comes down to the gentleman’s wallet. Nothing else. No fancy one-liners. Just credit or debit.
If you are planning to seriously date a Colombian, cash in on treasury bonds, life insurance and other liquid equity as you’ll be paying for everything well into retirement. If you decide to “go Dutch” on a date (never a first) you are likely looking for love on the wrong continent.
Dress accordingly. Just because we are near the Equator, doesn’t mean Bermudas are cool. In fact, they’ve never been in and you’ll most likely disappear from the dating game faster than a ship in the ‘Triangle’ if you wear them. Sneakers are another No! No!. Nikes may be nice for dunking, but if you wear them on a date, you’ll be bumped.
With the language of love things get tricker. Take for example the word “stupid.” In North American culture, one could easy exclaim to one’s partner: “Don’t be stupid.” It’s rather inoffensive. In Colombia “estupido” is a weighted word. Never utter estupido in any context, whatsoever. The same applies to knowing the difference between a cojín (pillow) and a cojón. Don’t tell your partner you need a new set of…pillows!
Colombia is a country bound together by interpersonal relationships. Look at Facebook to confirm how Colombians “like” friends and collect them by the thousands. But at the top of the social pyramid is “Mama.” Never to be referred to as “la Madre.” And Mama should never be your Mamita.
When dating there will come that time when you will have to come face to face with the matriarch. Here are some tips for leaving a good impression. Wear a tie and take flowers. Never kiss “Mama” on the cheek unless she is already your future mother-in-law. Refer to her always as “Señora.” Eat with your mouth closed at the family table and offer to help out with the dishes.
And a kiss is not a kiss. While it’s nice to be affectionate, you need to know some basic rules when it comes to whom and how to kiss. If you meet someone for the first time a handshake is polite. Never go straight for the cheek. If you know that someone relatively well or have been introduced socially several times then you may reach over for the courtesy besito : Greeting kiss. But don’t smack the cheek. Leave an delicate impression tapping more air than skin. Don’t go for both cheeks. We’re not in Spain.
And when to give roses?. In a country where roses rule, it’s nice to give them. Yet, here rules apply also. A red rose generally implies passion and sexual interest. Don’t give red roses to your future mother-in-law for example. Don’t take red roses to the airport. Never leave red roses with a receptionist where your girlfriend works. In fact, only give red roses, the day after.
Another key issue of dating in Colombia comes down to doing the homework. For most of us no matter how many years pass, we are still guests in the country. There’s no easier way to end a date than to start-off running down the country. Colombians have been through a lot and talk of drugs is a conversation killer. Don’t ever say: “So, how’s the cocaine business doing?” or “Did you ever meet Escobar?” And get to know some Colombian facts. Talk highly of the generous spirit of the locals and praise the beauty of the countryside. This should help you navigate some of the do’s and don’ts of dating in Colombia.