Attractions Especially For Females in Colombia and South Korea

When it comes to moving to a foreign country like Colombia or South Korea, many expats will experience mixed emotions. Ladies who move solo will probably want to know well in advance, where to find essentials, companionship and the other necessities of life. I’ve put together this list of attractions that will especially please women expats in Colombia and South Korea.

Attractions for females in Colombia

As a single woman in Colombia, there were certain “attractions” that I was really grateful for.

Cali for Salsa

If you love to dance, and you love to dance the salsa in particular, go to Cali. This is the salsa capital of the world. In Cali, go to Juanchito, which is a little out of town and the hub of salsa. Here you’ll find the club Chango, where dancers are seriously skilled and take their acts late into the night. Salsa is great if you have a partner. Even if you don’t, you can go as a tourist and watch at a club like Siboney.

Colombian beauty shops

 

Manicures and pedicures are really cheap, as are haircuts if you don’t have hair that is too different from the Colombian type.

Onces

Onces

Puerta Falsa Onces

A meal where it’s the custom to eat bread, cheese and hot chocolate? Yes please! For those of us who love cheese…it comes in everything – in your fruit salad and your hot chocolate. I couldn’t get enough of cinnamon-flavored Colombian hot chocolate with cheese, so now I make my own.
Supermarkets: There is such a variety of exotic fruits and vegetables here, that I’m always eating something new and exotic without spending a bomb. Paloquemao Market is an excellent market for foodies.

Medellin’s digital nomads

There is a big community of digital nomads in Medellin. If you’re not traveling as a teacher, you could live out your dream of writing while you travel with others like you. Stays in Medellin are affordable if you try AirBnb.

Crepes & Waffles

They offer some of the best crepes and waffles for the sweet tooth, ladies. You’ll find them everywhere in the country. They used to have upper class prices once. Not anymore!

Shopping in Bogota

Pasaje Rivas Market

Bogota is where you can buy coffee products, leather bags, inexpensive jewelry and handicrafts, uncut and cut emeralds. Pasaje Rivas Craft Market in Cundinamarca is a great traditional market for clothing, souvenirs etc. away from crowded tourist areas. Buy souvenirs as well as certified emeralds at Hacienda Santa Barbara.

Attractions for females in South Korea:

I found it easier making local friends in Colombia than in Seoul. The people of Seoul are friendly, but shy. Then there’s a language problem. Some days, you’ll find yourself feeling lonely or in need of something but you don’t know who to ask. Those are the days you’ll want to dip into this list for female concerns.

Korean Makeup Shops

etude house

Best Korean Etude House Cosmetic Products

Let’s face it. With beauty standards in Korea being something of a mania and cosmetic surgery being as accessible and easy as a visit to the dentist, it’s hard not to get drawn in. Especially when there are so many delicious smelling, beautifully packaged cosmetics and makeup available in various budget ranges. And Korean makeup is probably something of an art-form that you or I have yet to master.

I suggest you visit The Face Shop or Aritaum, which you’ll find at almost every street corner, for good quality and reasonably priced makeup. You can pick up lip tints, nail polishes, liners, eye shadows, famous Korean BB and CC creams from these shops.

If you can’t find a suitable foundation, and the porcelain doll look doesn’t suit you, you should probably look for good foundations at high end stores like Lotte Department Store or Shinseage. If you’re trying to save money, like I was, you should look for cheaper foundations at Watsons or Olive Young.

Dermatologists

If you want to get rid of your skin problems, Korea is the place to do it.

 

 

Dermatology is quite cheap here, much cheaper than the US.

 

 

Doctors have a lot of experience. You can consult a dermatologist for about 10,000 KRW or about $10.

Shopping

Finding clothes that fit you won’t be as difficult here as it may be in Japan, though I still have more hips than the average Korean girl. You’ll find many underground shopping malls where things are “free-size”and can’t be tried, which is often only suitable for petite Koreans.

You can shop instead at Western stores like Forever 21, Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, 8 Seconds and Top Ten. Of course be prepared to shell out more for Zara and H&M than you would at home.Don’t hesitate to shop online. Locals do it a lot.

Language Exchange Groups

A classroom may not sound like your idea of fun. But language exchange groups are actually great places to not only pick up Korean language skills and make friends, they’re a great place to meet Korean men. If you’re single, adventurous and looking for a date, that is. It’s definitely a better option (at least, for me) than hookups through Tinder, OkCupid, Hello Talk, Interpals and similar.

Female Hash Group

 

Get together with other expat ladies for running, walking, drinking and hanging out one Saturday a month. Check out their Facebook page.

 

The Seoul International Women’s Association: This group is larger and more mixed, with members from all over the world. You’ll also find some Korean women are part of the group. Membership is not free, but it’s a cheap 60,000 KRW or about $53. This group is more formally organized; there are tours, food tours, charity galas, events and regular meet-ups.

A Female Expat’s Life in Colombia and South Korea

I found some similarities and some differences in the life I led as a female expat in Colombia and in South Korea. I want to share them with you here. I hope they can help you prepare for your own stay.

An Expat in Colombia

Bogota Market

Here’s what the general experience of women expats in Colombia is:

  • Queuing is common and long. Be prepared to have locals jump lines to get ahead of you. Also be prepared to have a smaller personal space than you’re used to, in public areas.
  • Expect Colombian men to pay for everything on a date, even if it hurts your pride to do so.
  • Colombia is noisy. People are loud, vehicles are loud, fireworks are loud. Take some noise-cancelling headphones with you.
    Be prepared for invasive questions, though they may be well-meaning.
  •  Men can seem entitled. Be prepared for stares, cat-calls. Gender roles are clearly defined in the country, and I hear of rampant misogyny and violence.
  • You have to learn Spanish. Locals speak very little English.
  • Appearance is important. Thankfully, hairdressing, manicures, pedicures, plastic surgery and teeth whitening are cheaper than in the west.
  • Expect people to be very hospitable, friendly and welcoming, and invite you to their family gatherings.
  • Colombians love to dance, whether at home or at the nightclub. Be prepared to dance too!

I had been warned against going solo in Colombia. But I don’t regret it, even after some hearing some horror stories that, I’m ashamed to rejoice, didn’t happen to me. Somehow I escaped the worst of misogyny and violence that some other women I met told me they experienced.

 

I saw some of the apathy of the more peace-loving locals, having suffered through years of drug-trafficking and related violence.

 

But I also saw the friendliness of Colombian locals. And I learned and was forced to speak Spanish, a language that I didn’t know before I went, would become such a big part of my life. I was finally able to read Paco Roca’s Arrugas and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original!

In the one year I spent in the cities of Bogota and Medellin, with a short trip to Cali, I grew to love my life in Colombia. I didn’t want to leave. It helped that I had found fantastic neighbors during my stay, who helped me quickly slip into the rhythm of the chaotic and frenzied city of Bogota. And I couldn’t get enough of Medellin’s year-round spring weather. Simply writing about it is bringing back the memories and given a chance, I’d go back to Medellin. Retirement plan? If I don’t find another favorite.

And later in South Korea

My friends sent me off to Korea with long lists of cosmetic product requests and said, “you’ll probably be the largest in the staff room”. And at 5 feet 7 weighing 160 lbs, I was fully expecting to be. And also the least knowledgeable about makeup in a country (largely) full of beautifully made-up fairies, but then I found the picture I had in my mind was full of stereotypes.

Korea temple

Korea temple

South Korea was very different from Colombia, and in thinking about it, I realized that I had gone there with some preconceived notions about the country. In my year at Seoul (with some trips to the countryside) I went on to revise most of my ideas about South Korea.

South Koreans are not all obsessed with appearance, test scores (over experience), work, alcohol, buying things and other stereotypes. At least, not any more than the average person in a modern, capitalist country. And they are not all small. There were some women in my school about my size.

But like in Catholic and conservative Colombia where gender roles are clearly defined and must be followed, there is deep-seated misogyny in South Korea. It’s evident in the lower participation of women in the workforce, and in the rising cases of violence against women (though not in the scale of chauvinist violence in Colombia).

 

In most of Korea you’ll hear women shouldn’t smoke, or that women are not going to be included in some after-school activity for teachers.

 

But there’s more to life in Korea than gender inequality. Here are some of my observations on what a female expat can expect in South Korea:

kimchi

Delicious Kimchi

  • Most locals you’ll meet will be very friendly and helpful, after you get to know them. In most other places, you will stand out and be stared at. Foreigners are not too common in places outside some Seoul neighborhoods.
  • Some clothing stores may not let you try on clothes for fear your big foreigner body may stretch them.
  • If you’re not in Seoul, you may not find other varieties of food. Rice, soup, kimchi is the staple. Be prepared to do your own cooking.
  • Wearing clothes that show your cleavage, shoulders or back are not okay in small towns or at school, though micro-shorts and skirts are.
  • Life in Korea can get very comfortable for a teacher. Food and transport are cheap, alcohol is plentiful and it’s easy to live without responsibilities outside work.

Have you lived in Colombia or South Korea? Do you have more advice to share on expat living as a woman? Let me know in the comments!