I am writing this post from under my blanket on the sofa, this fine Sunday morning. I think now is a great time to tell you about my lifestyle here in Bogota, and I hope that you too are sitting as comfortably as I am.
One of the first things I LOVE to do when I arrive in Bogota is go straight to the peluqueria and get a manicure and pedicure.
Oooooh, fancy you say? Well, not really as for the price of a Pret sandwich, you can spend an hour in a beauty salon being attended to hand and foot. This makes me very happy. You see, here in Colombia, appearance is everything. Literally. And this for me is the biggest difference between my two cultures. In Britain, where chipped manicures and that ‘just rolled out of bed’ look is hailed as creative, here in Bogota, you are judged and classed based on what you’re wearing, where you went to school and where you live. Classes here are literally divided into ‘stratas’ which is like the ultimate postcode lottery. ‘Strata’ is the grade allocated to your apartment which is rated 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest. This rating is granted based on local amenities, access to health and education, the number of teen pregnancies etc. Here in Colombia, I am blessed to be at the top end of the scale and as a single girl from London, this is presenting all kinds of social nuances. For a start, it means that I am advised to only date from the same social class, after all, I’m told that it’s easy to slip down the grade, but not so easy to climb up. This is where you get the ‘neuvo rich’ who have the wealth, but not the genetic lineage. Yes, this is England back in the nineteen hundreds on steroids.
Stratum 1 : Lowest income.
Stratum 2 : Low-Middle class.
Stratum 3 : Middle class.
Stratum 4 : Upper middle class.
Stratum 5 : Upper class.
Stratum 6 : Wealthy. Only the 6% of Colombians fit this category.
So, how do I meet these eligible bachelors who are from the right families, schools and location? “Te presento a mi prima”. Yes, in Colombia, relatives and friends “present” you to each other and then you network. This sounds so privileged and old fashioned, but actually it is the warmth and Colombian spirit which makes it so much fun and guaranteed to wave the magic wand of providing you with the best time of your life. Relatives soon become your best friends, strangers your next awesome Saturday night out. People literally bend over backwards to accommodate you, and if you’re new to the city, you’re rapidly “presented” to as many friends of friends or cousins twice removed, and quickly develop friendships which in Britain would take months to build and only over a few too many wines and “ooops, I’ve missed the last tube” blurry night out.
Where do these people hang out you say? In North Bogota. This is my stomping ground. It’s where the best restaurants, bars and clubs are, and not just from Colombia, but around the world. The prices aren’t cheap either as you’ll be paying Western prices for washing down your drink nestled in the most interesting architecture I’ve ever seen. Here is where the most beautiful people hang out. And by that, I don’t mean in a pretentious or silicone-enhanced way, but just naturally absolutely stunning, which is like a reflection of their surroundings.
I wanted to share this with you as it is my biggest transition here in Colombia, every detail of which I promised to reflect on my blog. My life here is incomparable to London, and yes you might think that I am extremely lucky, and privileged. And yes I am. I am so lucky to be given the chance to live in a beautiful city, and privileged to have the best, most welcoming family that I could ask for. My parents’ three bed terraced house in Palmers Green certainly feels miles away.