Rolos, Paisas: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

By bogotapost July 30, 2014

Dutchman, Adriaan Alsema, discovers Bogota isn’t so bad after all


Bogota and I have long had a difficult relationship. My first introduction to the capital was in 2007 when, on my way from Bucaramanga to Medellin, I got stuck in El Dorado airport and was forced to spend the night in Bogota. Dressed in no more than shorts, a t-shirt and the iconic flip flops, my balls froze off almost immediately.

Our columnist didn’t get a good impression of Bogota his first time around, but enjoyed it on his second visit -- when he came properly dressed for the city’s cool climate.  Photo: Creative Commons

Our columnist didn’t get a good impression of Bogota his first time around, but enjoyed it on his second visit — when he came properly dressed for the city’s cool climate.
Photo: Creative Commons

I was taken to a rather luxurious hotel near the airport only to find that despite being high up the Andes Mountains central heating isn’t as common as in my native country, The Netherlands. I remember desperately trying to cover myself in sheets to warm up, but even in bed I was unable to recover my natural body heat.

Even now I still get the chills when I remember that night. In fact, I got so horribly cold that I made myself a solemn oath: “I will never return to this fucking hellhole.”

At 5am, seven hours after initially getting stuck, I was back on the airport trying to get on the first flight out of the capital.

When I actually moved to Medellin in 2008, it was quite easy staying away from Bogota. In fact, my refusal to visit the capital was applauded in Colombia’s second largest city where the people apparently carry a bit of a grudge against those from the capital.

My decision to boycott Bogota because of its Scandinavian climate found massive support among the Paisas who were delighted to teach me everything I needed to know about “rololandia.”

According to what I was told, the cold wasn’t even the worse thing about Bogota. The bogotanos, or “rolos hijueputa” as they are often called here, are also horrible I was repeatedly assured.

Apart from that I learned that Bogota doesn’t even have a metro, that taxi drivers overcharge and that the women are butt ugly.

Seeing as both people from Medellin and Bogota are Colombians, I assumed that the Paisas knew what they were talking about and had more experience with the capital than myself.

Consequently I simply didn’t visit the capital until 2012. I was happy in Medellin. And the images of a rainy and grey Bogota I saw on Colombian TV or in photos weren’t very attractive.

However, by 2012 my Dutch passport needed renewing and I returned to the capital for the first time since my traumatic baptism. This time I did bring clothes.

Soon after my arrival I noticed that Bogota is very different when you’re not in flip flops and that the people aren’t horrible at all.

I learned immediately that bogotanos actually eat proper breakfast, that the capital has 40 times the architecture my city has, and that Bogota youth are extremely fashionable and cool.

I was amazed by neighborhoods like Chapinero and Usaquen, but didn’t really fall in love with the city until I visited the Candelaria, which struck me as the most magical of places.

I immediately regretted having taken so long to return to Colombia’s only capital city and have since stopped believing Paisas’ word so readily.

I think you guys need to talk.


Adriaan Alsema is the founder and editor in chief of Colombia Reports, South America’s largest news website in English. Born and raised a Dutchman, Alsema has been living in Colombia since 2008.


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