When I traveled to Colombia, I was surprised by how difficult I found Colombian Spanish to begin with. There were so many new words that I did not know the meaning of, so I started to write them down. My notes ended up becoming this post!
So, let’s brush up on your Spanish, so you are completely prepared to be understood in Colombia – and don’t make the same mistakes as me! To polish off your basic Spanish and help you get the perfect pronunciation, check out this essential Spanish guide from the Intrepid Guide.
I hope you will enjoy these 5 useful phrases you should know before visiting Colombia. And of course, let me know in the comments if I miss any good ones!
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#1 Tinto if you are a coffee lover
Now it is time to find paper and a pen if you are a coffee-loving person like me… Or well, maybe just that notebook program on your phone! Anyway, this is an essential word for all of us coffee lovers visiting Colombia. Because let’s face it Colombia is the coffee heaven on earth. So you better know how to order your coffee.
In Colombia, tinto is black coffee!
Yes, yes I know that your Spanish teacher properly once told you that café is plain black coffee. However, if you order a café in Colombia they think you want a café con leche (e.g. a coffee with milk).
So, you better be careful about what you actually want; tinto or café.
#2 Con mucho gusto can be used for everything
I think every country has some words or phrases which people completely overused in their daily life. For me, in Colombia, it is the expression con mucho gusto (e.g. with pleasure).
When speaking with Colombians this phrase was repeated so many times that it was almost funny.
Instead of saying “nice meeting you”, you can say con mucho gusto. Or it can be used as a response after saying “thank you”, you say con mucho gusto. Or in the shops after selling or buying something, you can say… Well, con mucho gusto. It simply can be used for everything.
So be sure to add a little bit of con mucho gusto when visiting Colombia.
#3 Chevere if you want to be cool
Ah, Chevere, the guy in the reception says nodding approvingly while he inspects my passport de Dinamarca, chevere (e.g. from Denmark).
In Colombia, chevere is used in a similar way as cool in English.
And it can be used in literally EVERY possible (and impossible) situation. So no doubt you will hear this while in Colombia.
#4 A la orden when you are out shopping
At first, I thought it was just something people in Bogota were saying.
Then, I visited a small town in the Santander region, and by entering a market, every vendor was saying it as well: a la orden, a la orden, señorita.
Directly translated it means “for the order” but the meaning is more something like “for your service” or “ready to take your order/request”.
#5 Mono if you are as white as me
After quite a big misunderstanding in the airport upon my arrival to Bogotá (read the whole story here!), I spent some days puzzled about whether mono really refers to a monkey in Colombia… Or something else!
Well, mono definitely is used for something else in Colombia! They use it to refer to people being as white-skinned as me!
If you are looking for more tips on traveling in Colombia, you should definitely check out this awesome complete Bible for Backpacking in Colombia by Thomas from Tom! Plan my Trip Colombia who is an expat in Colombia and a true expert on the country.
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