When I first came to South America as a 24-year-old backpacker one of the things I relished most was the idea of dating Latin women.
In every South American country in which I travelled, from the tip of Patagonia to the northernmost reaches of the continent I met wonderful women. They were friendly, kind, sweet, generous, sincere and in many cases overwhelmingly beautiful.
And nowhere in South America is this truer than for Colombian girls.
Having lived in Colombia now for well over a decade I have a fair amount of experience dating Colombian women. Most of my experiences have been very positive. But it has taken a while to hone my dating skills.
There are some big cultural differences that exist between the typical European or North American woman and Colombian women.
The following is my impression of Colombian girls that I have formed over many years of living here from numerous dates and also a couple of serious relationships.
Will I generalise? Of course I will. It takes all sorts, as they say. You can find pretty much any type of woman (and man) in Colombia just as you can in other parts of the world. But being aware of some of the trends and characteristics that apply to Colombian women and the dating scene in Colombia may prove invaluable if you’re looking for some Latin romance.
It is difficult to generalise when it comes to describing Colombian girls physically since Colombia is such a racially diverse country.
In the coastal regions, for example, the majority of the people are of black descent, whereas in the area around Medellin and the coffee region the population is much whiter. In parts of central and southern Colombia many people come from an indigenous background.
One physical characteristic which is common to the vast majority of Colombian women is that they tend to be much shorter than women in North America or Europe. This is also true of Colombian men.
One thing I can guarantee is that in pretty much any Colombian town or city you will see beautiful Colombian girls.
But not only are Colombian women beautiful, they can also be incredibly flirtatious. Many Colombian women enjoy being the object of admiring stares in the street, although most resent the hissing and wolf-whistling which Colombian men can sometimes be prone to.
That said, a female Colombian friend once remarked that she had felt oddly unattractive while living in the USA. She would walk past numerous construction sites and be met with nothing but a disinterested silence, something that would be unimaginable in Colombia.
She joked that she had considered walking back past the construction workers with a couple more buttons undone in an attempt to elicit the kind of hisses and sordid comments that would have annoyed her back home!
On the whole Colombia is a country which seems to be increasingly comfortable with sexuality (especially among the younger generations), despite some strong conservative traditions.
In some Colombian cities, most notably Medellin and Cali, it has become quite common to see women with silicon implants.
This supposedly goes back to the days of the drug cartels, of which the Medellin and Cali cartels were the largest and most powerful. The tremendous wealth which was generated from the trafficking of drugs created a culture of elaborate spending.
Pablo Escobar famously imported elephants and other exotic animals to his Hacienda Napoles resort. And many Medellin girls got silicon implants, lured by the glamorous lifestyle that being the girlfriend of a 'Mafioso' could provide.
The elephants have long since gone, but the culture of silicon enhancements has remained.
I've found approaching and engaging Colombian girls to be much less daunting than in, for example, my home country of the UK.
Depending on how you make your move you will very occasionally get the cold shoulder, but more often than not the girl will be happy to talk to you even if she’s not interested in anything more than friendship or a quick chat.
One thing to be wary of is that many Colombian girls will also be happy to give you their phone number even if they are not in the least bit interested in seeing you again.
Whereas European girls would tend to invent an imaginary boyfriend to deter your advances, Colombian girls are much more likely to give you her number and then either dodge your calls, make excuses for not going out with you, or worse still, accept a date and then stand you up. It’s something I learned the hard way in my first year or so in Colombia!
Being able to communicate reasonably well in Spanish definitely helps when it comes to spotting if there is genuine interest there or not.
If you hear either “Es que esta lloviendo / esta hacienda mucho frio” (“The thing is it’s raining / it’s very cold”) or “Es que tengo mucha pereza” (roughly translated as “I can’t really be bothered”) then alarm bells should start ringing!
Another favourite brush off is “De pronto salimos en estos dias” (Maybe we can go out sometime soon). Don't hold your breath!
At the same time, however, you have to realise that in Colombia the onus is on the man to call and to make arrangements. But if you make an effort and keep getting fobbed off then it’s probably best to cut your losses.
OK, so you’ve met a girl and she’s agreed to go out with you. There are some general rules to which you should adhere to in order to increase your chances of making a good impression.
Colombia is still a very conservative country and many Colombian girls will expect you to collect them in your car or in a taxi on your way to a date (particularly the first few dates), and when going home.
Sometimes there doesn’t seem much logic in taking a taxi halfway across town to pick the girl up when your destination is back in the opposite direction, but from experience it’s best to suck it up, at least to start with. You may well be about to spend a large amount of money treating her to dinner and drinks, but by asking her to get her own taxi and meet you there you can still come out looking stingy!
If the girl does agree to meet you there make sure you’re on time. While it’s often acceptable for the girl to arrive 20 minutes late, if you leave her waiting just five minutes there could be trouble.
There is a bit of an obsession, predominantly among the upper classes, with money and material wealth. I’ve met various Colombian women from wealthy backgrounds who turn their noses up at the idea of dating a man if he doesn’t own a car. And a decent one at that.
To most Colombia women, however, being “detallista” (attentive to the details) i.e. opening cars doors for her etc is more important than wining and dining her in a fancy restaurant. Not that it hurts!
People in Colombia dress smartly when they go out. And hygiene is viewed with an even greater importance than it is in Europe and North America.
Colombian girls take huge pride in their appearance and will often spend an hour or two getting ready.
If you’re a backpacker, try to dress up as much as possible and remember that in cities like Medellin and Cali where the climate is perfect for shorts and sandals, the locals seldom wear them, especially at night.
When it comes to paying the bill you should always offer to pay. There are actually many Colombian girls who insist on paying or at least making a contribution, but it’s always polite to offer.
The concept that the man should pay the bill can be so taken for granted that you sometimes don’t even receive a simple “Gracias” as you leave. This is something that still annoys me, but as with many things it’s an aspect of traditional Colombian culture which it’s best just to try to accept.
While some Colombian women will accept a kiss on the first date, traditionally the unwritten rule seems to be at least the second if not the third date. Coming on too strong on the first date could blow your chances completely. Try to read her signals as best you can. Touching her hand and then judging her reaction can be a good way to test the water.
All in all, I find dating Colombian girls less stressful than dating girls in Britain. There isn’t so much emphasis on impressing the girl with your career, studies or sophistication.
Simply being a nice, gentlemanly guy can be enough for her to consider the date a success.