The Subtle Difference Between Colombia And South Korean Foods

Whether you decide to visit Colombia or South Korea, one of the things that have to be on top of your priority is whether you will like the food or not.

I am very picky when it comes to food. While many people eat to be fill whenever I eat, I notice the most flimsy things like the quantity of cheese or oil, spice, salt, and so on.

Armed with this uncanny sense for food, I would like to tell you the difference between Colombia and South Korean foods which others might likely miss.


South Korean foods are highly spiced with red pepper.

South Korean foods are highly spiced with red pepper. However, I learned that this practice started not more than half a century ago.

One of the reasons why South Korean foods are now looking all red is because the restaurants are competing to produce stimulating dishes that will pacify the growing American and European tourists.

Colombian foods, on the other hands, do not contain the same level of spice like their South Korean counterparts.

Colombian dishes tend to have lower spice and not all cuisines are heavy on meat. However, this does not reduce their level of flavor because Colombians have found another way to spice up their foods.


One of the most consumed beverages in the world is coffee.

One of the most consumed beverages in the world is coffee. Across Asia, Colombian coffee is the most accepted because of its high quality.

I have had a taste of South Korean and Colombian coffee and the latter is obviously creamier. Obviously, I am not the only one with this view.

During the 2012 Seoul Food & Hotel, a lot of people from across different Asian countries had the opportunity to taste Colombian coffee. Kim from Hanwha Trade had this to say,

“Coffee from Colombia is known in Korea for having the highest quality that is why I want to incorporate it in my product portfolio.”

Source: Pro Colombia

The Most Popular Foods

South Korea calls theirs Samgyeopsal while Colombia calls theirs Lechona.

South Korea and Colombia share something in common when it comes to their most popular foods; they all have pork as a component.

South Korea calls theirs Samgyeopsal while Colombia calls theirs Lechona. In any major gathering one of these countries, there is a huge probability that you will find these foods there.

In Samgyeopsal, the pork is cut into sizeable chunks and grilled. It is served with sauces and other side dishes and rice liquor, Soju. Lechona, on the other hand, is a suckling pig that is stuffed with onions, rice, space, peas, and herbs and roasted.

It is then cooked in a large oven for a few hours. Lechona is served with potatoes or arepas. Lechonas come in different sizes for serving twenty or more people. Both dishes are great, but I love the Lechonas because the pork has a deep taste and characteristic flavor owing to the stuffing. Samgyeopsal, on the other hand, have a taste that is dependent on the amount of spice on the surface.

My taste will likely differ from yours. However, there is something special about the Korean dish and that of the Colombians that accommodates a large variety of people irrespective of their taste preference.

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:


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!