Water in plastic bags, ducks who don’t pay their tickets… This is a list of curious observations I made about the Colombian culture.

I’m interested in the mundane things of different cultures. I find these minor details such as different ways of eating and greeting very interesting.

Here are 7 curious thing about Colombia that I noticed during my stay.

Bogota water plastic bag

I got very excited about these water bags. Yes, I can get very excited about very minor things.

1. Selling Water in Plastic Bags

In most countries, large amounts of drinking water are usually sold in big, round plastic containers. While this also the case in Colombia, they also have something I had not seen anywhere else: water sold in plastic bags.

The 6-7 liter bags are I made of thick plastic, so small scratches shouldn’t break them. On a side note, the water also tastes pretty bad.

The Saturday market of Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

It’s very easy to bump into people in Colombia.

2. Collisions with People

I collided with a lot of people in Colombia. No, I don’t mean that I had arguments or anything – I just literally had lots of people bump into me. I didn’t have people bump into me very often in Mexico, but it happened three times during my first full day in Bogotá!

Perhaps Colombians have a very small personal space, or they’re just not used to my erratic wandering. I guess I’ll never find out.

Ahora El Pato Paga sign on TransMilenio Rapid Transport System, Bogotá. Curious things about Colombia.

Ahora El Pato Paga – Now The Duck Pays

3. People Are Ducks

One day I took TransMilenio (public bus in Bogotá) with my Couchsurfing host Ricardo. As we were waiting at the platform, I noticed signs about patos (ducks). I asked my Ricardo about them, and we had this amusing conversation:

“Yes, a duck means a person who travels without paying their ticket.”
“Ah, in Finnish we don’t have that word. But we call people who take your food or drinks without asking seagulls.”
“In Colombia, we call those rabbits.”
“Oh. In Finland, a rabbit is a person who travels without paying their ticket.”

So, a Colombian duck = a Finnish rabbit. Got it?

Santa Claus in Colombia.

Santa Claus seems lost. And I’m not even questioning the presence of snowmen.

4. Santa Claus Is Everywhere… But He’s Unemployed

I arrived in Colombia a few days before Christmas. Bogotá was full of Christmas decorations such as fake Christmas trees, snowmen and the Christian nativity scenes with infant Jesus and the three wise men.

Santa Claus was also very visible… even though he doesn’t give any gifts.

In Colombia, Christmas gifts don’t come from Santa Claus. Instead, the presents are given by Baby Jesus. Well then, what’s Santa doing here? Is he on a holiday?

Nutella backpacker. a jar of Nutella in a backpack.

Nutella breaks the grammar rules.

5. The Pronunciation of Nutella

In Spanish, a double L is pronounced like a y. Therefore a tortilla is a tortiya and a villa is a viya.

Nutella, though? Nutella is always just Nutella. Whenever I tried calling it Nuteya, locals would correct me and ask if I meant Nutella. Go figure.

Do I look German? A selfie in Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

Do I really look that German?

6. “Are you from Germany?”

When you meet a foreigner and want to know what their home country is, what do you ask?

“Where are you from?” might be a popular choice, but no. A lot of the time, Colombians would directly ask me if I was from Germany. No, I am not, but thank you for asking!

I have some faint recollections that this might have happened in Southeast Asia during the first year of my trip around the world. Yet that was a long time ago, and I had completely forgotten about the question.

7. Tejo = Pétanque with Explosions

Sadly I didn’t get a chance to try tejo, but my host showed me some videos of the sport. The basic idea of tejo is very simple: You have a heavy metal disc which you try to throw into targets several meters away.

In other words, the premise is quite similar to pétanque or Finnish throwing games mölkky and kyykkä. However, tejo has one twist: the targets are filled with gunpowder, so they BLOW UP when you hit them.

For some reason, I think that sounds like a very Colombian thing.

What are the most interesting cultural differences you’ve noticed during your travels?