Colombian Men: No Means “Maybe?”

While organizing my new apartment in Chicago, I stumbled across a cute (and very seldom-used) journal I had purchased in Colombia in an attempt to write daily.  I then wrote in it a total of two times:  First, notes about one of my English students and her progress.  Secondly, a long rant on Colombian men.  To give you a taste of the three page diatribe…

I will literally punch in the face the next male that touches me.  I know “no” CAN mean “maybe” in the US when it comes to men’s pursuits, but how does “no” translate to “maybe” 99% of the time in this country?  I am at my wit’s end with Colombian men.  I hate to say that because there ARE some very nice and respectful men here, but right now I am sick of them touching me, taunting me, and overall acting like disgusting chauvinistic animals.  At first, the attention is cute.  Hell, who doesn’t like men pelting you with catcalls when you walk down the street?  But, I’m done.  Touching and yelling repulsive things everyday is too much for this gringa to handle.  I’m working on saying “no me jodas” (which translates to a very rude “don’t bother me”) with the straightest face I can muster…

Yikes.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a man-hater.  Quite the opposite.  I like men.  Love men.  Usually I took the comments, gifts, and ogling from men as a compliment.   It sure was more pleasant than men in Chicago that won’t look up from the sidewalk while rushing to the train with headphones lodged in their ears.  I think I’ve been hit on a total of two times in five years living here.  Trying hard not to let the compliments boost my esteem too much, I was also confused by their actions because I dress like a nun compared to many of the gorgeous and glitter-loving Colombian women.  I warned my dad when he visited, but he was completely shocked when an older man tried to hit on me while we were walking in a cemetery together (!)

Every country has their fair share of wonderful (and rotten) men (and women).  The rant was a combination of a very bad day and a run-in with a very bad Colombian male specimen.  There are countries that are notorious for their aggressive men (Italy, Spain, Greece) and entire continents where the men are famous for their pursuits.

Outside my Apartment in Medellín, Colombia

The event that caused my man-hating rant involves the group of older alcoholic men that loitered below my apartment window.  One of them owned a cigarette/candy/cell phone “minuto” stand and a group of anywhere from two to twelve men would be huddled around drinking aguardiente from 9am until they passed out.  Most of the time, I enjoyed practicing my Spanish and enjoyed having a cup of coffee or a shot of aguardiente with them.  I also liked the comfort of having people I “knew” in front of my apartment at all times (and the free candy was a perk).  I decided things were going downhill when one of them started calling me his “girlfriend” (none of the men from the photograph).  He had asked me out numerous times and I always said “no.”  When I corrected him on the “girlfriend” comment and told him I had a boyfriend (false), he started to get angry and started yelling in my face.  My Spanish wasn’t great at the time, but I could tell he wasn’t happy.  Things got ugly, but I’ll spare you the rest of the details.  I endured death stares from this man every single time I walked by the group up until the day I moved out.  After that, the rest of them were generally decent to deal with, minus a few unwanted hugs, salsa lessons, and kisses on the cheek (something I never got used to in Colombia).

This event definitely sent me over the edge of feeling flattered to feeling scared.  Compliments and a bit of flirtation are great and healthy for any girl’s self-esteem, but full-fledged verbal assaults and physical invasions of privacy are totally uncalled for.  I enjoyed their company, trusted them, then felt betrayed and scared to continue my friendship with them.  I was much more reserved with them after I felt intimidated by him and used any excuse possible not to drink with them.  I’m sure all Go Girls have experienced something similar.. unfortunately.

[There were a handful of Colombian men that were beyond kind to me- calling taxis for me, keeping me safe, walking me to my apartment, helping me find a laundromat, and making me comfortable in their country.  To them, thank you, thank you, thank you.]

A self-proclaimed people-watcher, Nicole has been searching the world for the best spots to do just that. Her love of observing people (ideally with a cup of coffee and book in hand) has brought her to Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, and a couple of other places. After finishing her undergraduate degree in June from DePaul University, she decided to uproot her life and try out the people-watching (and coffee) in Colombia. She’s currently trying to make a home in Medellín studying/struggling with Spanish, practicing yoga, job-hunting, and having a daily battle with getting lost.

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    1. Great article! Its fun to hear about all your adventures. You are such a heartbreaker when it comes to men!

    2. Ugh, unfortunately I know *exactly* how you feel!!! I used to get so angry when guys made hissing sounds when I walked by in São Tomé…and I couldn’t get over it being just “culture”. I also had a similar experience with a bunch of Philippino men that hung outside of my apartment in Haiti…and I also, in much the same way, learned to avoid them a little too late. So many things to say right now…but in fewer words, I hear you sister!!

    3. It was such a part of the culture in Spain that I stopped noticing it while I lived there. Then, I moved back to the states and realized that I missed the noise of the ‘piropos’. Luckily, (insert sarcasm) I get plenty of whistles and honks and winks (including one from a fireman DRIVING a fire truck) while on my bicycle, or while wearing heels, or while grocery shopping in Chicago. What really frustrates me is that this is the first step in objectifying women, making them into things instead of beings. Every female traveler will face something of the sort in her home town and on her adventures.

    4. Enjoyed the article it explains a lot about why some Columbian girls are really leary about American men. You must have a lot of blind men in Chicago.

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