Continuing the expat advice series, FT Residential focuses on Bogotá this time. We invite readers to participate in a short survey and share their expat tales from around the world and the lessons they learned.
Last year David Torres and his family relocated to Santa Barbara in north-east Bogotá. Here he discusses how to get hold of well-known brands.
I work for a global IT company. I lived in Venezuela until 2016, when I realised that my children, now aged 23 and 19, faced increasingly limited opportunities due to the country’s economic difficulties. The idea of moving to the Colombian capital came to me while visiting my company’s Bogotá office.
We chose to live in Santa Barbara because you can access major roads and public transport, but also walk to the mall, restaurants or health centres in a few minutes.
Having grown up in Venezuela with apparently infinite economic resources thanks to the then-booming oil and gas industry, I was accustomed to enjoying products and brands from around the world.
Once in Bogotá, we began to look for the food, clothes and products that had been part of our everyday lives.
Those who have relocated will have experienced searching for something from their regular diet and not finding it. Among those things for us were smoked pork chops; we couldn’t find them anywhere.
Fortunately the day came when a friend — with a face like they were revealing how to reverse hair loss — told us about Koller, a specialist pork shop that has it all.
Aftershave proved another problem. My favourite products in Venezuela were Brut and Gillette, but in Colombia they were nowhere. Furthermore, in Bogotá basic aftershave seems not to exist. I have had to get used to more sophisticated products, with moisturiser and other add-ons. I guess this time my face has won.
Most people in Colombia are loyal to locally produced brands. If you crave the taste of Heinz ketchup or Kraft mayonnaise you will need to watch out for their occasional appearances on the supermarket shelves. Or why not live like the majority, with good Colombian brands?
What I wish I’d known before moving: Do not drive your own car until you learn the Bogotá way.
Photographs: Shutterstock/Fotos593; Krzysztof Dydynski/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image; John Coletti/Getty Images/AWL Images RM
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