Alecia Bailey, an English language assistant in Barranquilla, Colombia, explains why it’s important to make friends among the locals, and gives some tips for soaking up the Colombian nightlife.
Barranquilla is known as ‘the city of open arms’ and this is reflected in the everyday culture. If you’re lost, fancy heading down to el centro for some shopping or just want to find the only McDonald’s in the city, there is always someone to help. But to make friends in a foreign city means more than just asking for directions.
London, where I’m from, is a social playground. It’s easy to find things to do and people to meet wherever you go. Barranquilla, on the other hand, is not a tourist hotspot, which means you have to try a bit harder to find things to do. But if you stay curious and do a bit of research, you can uncover all sorts of social opportunities, from joining a salsa club to attending local cultural events.
It goes without saying that learning and speaking the language is essential to connecting with others abroad on a friendship level. Even if your language skills are not great, making the effort will always be appreciated. One of the best things about Barranquilla and Colombia in general is that people come from different cultural backgrounds.
It’s very important to be socially approachable too. Often, people are interested in you, where you come from and what you think about their country. I’ve found that it’s always best to be open to this curiosity and find positive things to say about the experience you’re having.
Five top places in Barranquilla for soaking up Colombian nightlife
Barranquilla is more commonly known as a stop-off point between historical paradise Cartagena and the natural beauty of Santa Marta and is therefore often overlooked. Here are a few reasons why you should check it out, especially if you want to have a good time and party costeño-style! [i.e., as originally in the coastal regions in some of Latin America].
1. La Troja
La Troja is a patrimonial and cultural venue that boasts a very chilled-out scene to the tune of Sabrosa Salsa. The great thing about it is that you don’t have to dance all the time. The bar itself is set on the corner of Calle 74, esquina Carrera 44, out in the open air, with loads of tables and chairs and friendly waiters ready to get you an Aguila ‘bien fria’ [cold beer]. It´s the perfect place to get some beers with friends and soak up some Colombian nightlife while you practise your newest salsa moves.
2. Calle 84
If mainstream is more your kind of thing, then Calle 84 [‘Street 84′] is definitely the place for you. Located in the Northern part of the city, this street blasts a variety of music such as R’n’B, vallenato, hip hop, dance, champeta and dancehall, to name a few. Ranging from cocktail bars to traditional cantinas, this party calle is sure to offer somewhere for you to bust a move.
3. Big Up Bar
For lovers of reggaeton and dancehall, Big Up Bar is the place to go to. Just a few blocks away from Calle 84, Big Up Bar is a classic Caribbean dance hall complete with all the Afro Latino trimmings. You can even meet a few people from the island of San Andrés there. If you manage to miss Barranquilla carnival, this spot will give you an idea of what goes on.
4. Alianza Francesa
This hipster venue usually hosts the French language facilities, but on weekends, you can always find an event or two. If they are not free, events will not cost more than $30,000 COP (Around GBP 10) and they are totally worth it. Soaking up foreign culture while listening to some electro champeta or Latin reggae is always a good time.
5. Sensi Party
Based in Puerto Colombia, this sound crew regularly visit Barranquilla spots with resident DJs boasting a prominent costeño vibe, from African-influenced champeta to bass-driven dancehall. If you can get to nearby Pradomar (less than 30 mins in local bus), they also have a weekly party at Club Kilimanjaro.
Finally, take a look at this events listing to get the latest for Barranquilla.
Find out more about becoming an English language assistant. The deadline for applications to teach in China and Spain is 21 February 2016, and for all other countries is 17 January 2016.