Michael: Attitude shifts, coffee differences, diet changes and more came to light. It has been a few years since we visited The United States. After our ten days of experiences and talking with relatives, friends and people everywhere my wife and I discussed the changes we noticed.
Colombia is seen differently now
Graciela: Curiosity has replaced drugs. Eleven years ago it seemed that mentioning we lived in Colombia prompted comments only about drugs and violence. On this trip only one person made any mention of the two subjects. We found Americans now curious about the country and asking many questions.
Michael: We accompanied my mother to her appointment with the doctor. While in the waiting room the receptionist heard me tell my mother about our $100 a month insurance, no co-pay medicine and private hospital rooms at no charge. “Where is that?” the doctor’s employee asked with an incredulous sound in her voice. Then she proceeded to ask many questions about this South American country.
Graciela: People questioned us about weather and seemed amazed that there are no seasons. I explained that Bogotá is 40% more above sea level than Denver Colorado but averages between 4.4 degrees (40 Fahrenheit) to 21 degrees (70 Fahrenheit) all year round. Medellin, Colombia is warmer like an eternal pleasant spring while the country has many very warm places including those on the Caribbean coast.
While some thought they knew Colombia because the cruise ship stopped in Cartagena others believe the entire country to be mountains and jungles. Colombia is both as well as large cities with many skyscrapers. My husband and I often explained there are flatlands such as the Llanos and coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific. There are even two Caribbean islands, San Andres and Providencia. These places are less touristy and more unspoiled than many other islands in that body of water.
Michael: We know that most Colombian restaurants serve healthy food. But eating in restaurants every day in the USA showed us a huge difference between countries. Though I must admit that I enjoyed again finding the taste of two things not found in Colombia, coney dogs and ruben sandwiches. However all menu items seemed to be more heart unhealthy than such things as the Ajiaco, natural fruit juices and grass fed beef that is normal in Colombia. Then at the supermarket to find non-GMO products seemed almost impossible. It appears to me that the food in the United States has gotten more unhealthy in the last 11 years.
Graciela: The dishes we got in the USA were tasty. However, though the menus are extensive, I found the selection boring, basically just slight variations of the same things. Then it seemed too many choices included fried items, bacon, french fries or fat laden sauces. Also compared to Colombia the plates are much more expensive.
Michael: Citizens of the USA drink four times as much coffee per capita as Colombians. While the statistic is amazing to my wife, I understand it some. Americans drink coffee at home, in their car, at the office and even walking down the street. It seems to be taken more for its caffeine high effect than taste. And the taste is more often than not very bad. I wrote about that earlier
Colombians treat coffee as a pleasure, something to be enjoyed especially with friends and good conversation. Consequently there are coffee shops, it seems, almost every block. Our local mall has seven such shops in it. My wife and I are use to going daily to a different shop. Consequently one of the reasons we profiled Our ten favorite coffee shops in Bogotá. But in two malls we visited in the USA there was not even one such place to partake our daily brew. Though we eventually found some places that served the drink, none matched up to what we normally encounter in Colombia.
I enjoy the occasional good glass of wine. Though my palate is not up to that of the true afficiandos of the grape product I have done my fair share of wine tasings. Have enjoyed several times the winery tours in the New York area. Much of the six years I lived in California was spent searching out and tasting the products of that state. In Colombia the stores carry mostly Chilean and Argentinean wines. And indeed many are very good. My wife and I hit wine stores while in the USA. There the selection seemed devoid of those countries represented in Colombia. The North American wines dominated the shelves but there was also a good representation of French, Spanish and German bottles. So it is difficult to compare prices for equivalent brands. However, according to my tastebuds in comparing merlots and cabernet sauvignons you get an equivalent tasting wine in the USA for a much lower price.
Spelling Colombia correctly
Michael: The number of people spelling the name of the country incorrectly seems to remain at a very high level. I saw the incorrect spelling everywhere. My son informed me that the plant he works at is doing a job for Colombia and everyone has spelled the name wrong including the shipping manager. I told him that Colombians are more likely to work with you if you spell their country properly. He advised the company owner, who at first argued with him that it is spelled with a “U”. After looking it up he found my son correct. Now we need to see if a memo goes out advising the drafting, sales, shipping and other departments that it is Colombia not Columbia.
Graciela: Colombia has women’s clothes. We even annually host a South American fashion show that draws over half a million buyers from 36 countries. Of course you can also find the super cheap poorly made clothing items. But for good sale prices on quality clothes the United States is better. We usually hit the outlets and superstores. My favorite is always the sales rack in Macy’s.
Michael: Men’s clothing in Colombia is a completely different story. This is especially true if you are an over six foot tall 200 pound gringo. I use the U.S. trip opportunity to load up on clothes that fit me and are a good value. This includes underwear, T-shirts and pants of brands not easily available in Colombia. Dickie brand is just one of them. Quality sweatshirts are reasonable prices is another thing that is difficult to find in Colombia, but easy in the USA.
Graciela: We were asked to take the time to check out such things as strollers, bath tubs, clothes and other items needed for babies. It is amazing to me. The same brand and item in Colombia is often three and four times as expensive. For instance, one stroller we looked at costs approximately $700 USD in Colombia. The same one at Baby’s R Us in the states cost $149 USD.
No problem, just ship it and save much money. Well Colombia is a very expensive place to ship both out of and in to compared to many other countries. Why? I have no idea. But the stroller we were looking at cost $700 USD to ship to Colombia. The same package going to the United Kingdom is less than half, only $300 USD.
Michael: OK, I have to throw my two cents worth in here. To me this is just one more example showing that the Free Trade Agreement started by President Bush and finalized by President Obama was a bad thing for the average citizens of both countries, but helped the corporations and rich.
Graciela: This is an area where Colombia definitely comes out ahead. We flew out on Copa Airlines Colombia (formally Aerorepublica) and back on a U.S. based United Airlines plane. We were served food on all the Copa flights going. Though it took us 12 hours including transfers to get back, United Airlines served a total of one soft drink.
Michael: There is a reason that United Airlines constantly receives the most customer complaints and the lowest customer survey scores. No food is just the tip of the iceberg with them. I am sure their collection of $1.38 billion in excess baggage fees does not help their reputation. I have a couple more complaints. To begin with they left us stranded with our luggage before reaching our destination city. The whole itinerary was made by United. On the flight to North America we flew into Chicago O’Hare airport on Copa to take a connecting United flight to Michigan. Even though your bags are checked to your final destination, with U.S. customs it is necessary to claim your bags on your first landing in the country. Then you have to give your luggage back to the airlines. They have a United luggage acceptance place just outside customs. So there we were with our 50 pound suitcases. Our next flight left from the other side of the terminal. But United had no one manning the luggage drop off. The security guard on the other side of the one way door told us the employees usually do not arrive for another six hours. Well we lugged out pieces to the opposite end of the terminal and even then pretty much had to beg a United employee to accept them.
A big difference for me between the Copa and United Airlines is the size of the economy seats. From traveling I know that many non-U.S. based airlines are giving more room to passengers, United seems to be working towards putting your knees under your chin. Many believe this decrease is to the detriment of safety and health. A good piece was recently written in the Washington Post regarding the subject.
Good, Bad and Ugly
Each country has their strengths and weaknesses. I like the USA for shopping. But I think Americans should travel to Colombia. Fly Copa Airlines to have room to enjoy the flight. In this South American country you can eat healthy food and enjoy many fruits not available in the States. Easily find and taste excellent coffee. Visit warm unique cities. Then appreciate more the things you have different in the USA.