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From London to Colombia: Richard McColl

08 August, 2013 08:56  Erin Erin

richard mccoll Cano Cristales Colombia I’m Richard, a Londoner now resident in Colombia dividing my time between Mompos, where I have a hotel, and Bogota where I work as a journalist.

1. Why did you move abroad?
I come from an international family. My mother lived overseas in the US when she was younger and my father had spent considerable time in Brazil and so it was never really a surprise that I felt that I should look for opportunities overseas.

2. How do you make a living?
I am principally a journalist writing for various outlets and now am a hotelier as well. Excitingly I have just recently started hosting a weekly one hour radio show called “Colombia Calling” which is available for download on iTunes. Previously I have worked as an expedition guide in the Andes and Amazon and as a social projects coordinator in Brazil and Ecuador. But, with so much experience now, roughly 16 years in Latin America, I get sought out for work which is both useful and flattering.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
In truth, I communicate pretty infrequently. Usually we’ll skype. Obviously we do fire emails back and forth with questions and updates.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Colombia?

I have to say that I have carved out a very enviable lifestyle where I am my own boss. I could never have done this back in the UK on my salary. I work incredibly hard but I get to see the fruits of my labours. And then when I want to take a break with my wife Alba, we can hop on a plane almost anywhere and within a couple of hours be in a desert, jungle, on a beach, the savannahs or close to the mountains. There is everything here to do, see and enjoy.  

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Colombia?
Colombia, like so many countries, is a bureaucratic nightmare. They love paperwork and red tape. Despite the current government declaring that they are making it easier for foreign investment, I don’t see this with regards to small businesses.  

6. What do you miss most?
I have been overseas so long that I find it very easy to adapt, but as you well know it’s the little things that are missed more such as some food and the availability of reasonably priced good wines.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?

I speak the language and so this is a must for any expat thinking of relocating. I do not immerse myself completely in the expat community since so many people are coming and going, and speaking Spanish to Colombians shows a level of respect. Through work I get to meet a great deal of interesting people.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
In Bogota, people will not sit on a warm bus seat in public transport. Make of it as you will!

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
This is Colombia, there are so many unjustified myths about the county that usually involve cartels, kidnapping and cocaine. You are not going to be kidnapped as you walk off the jet way, you are not going to be forced into becoming a drugs mule and the cartels are not after you.  

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Colombia is undoubtedly cheaper than the UK but, it’s far from being an affordable country. Taxes are quite high, property prices in Bogota are out of control and if you wine and dine in the most upscale locations in the major cities you will find yourself out of pocket quite quickly.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language, read all of the relevant literature and plunge yourself into the country’s rich vein of culture to get the most from your stay.

richard mccoll brail12. When and why did you start your blog?
As a jobbing freelance journalist I did not want to start a blog as I thought it would be time consuming but it’s become a good calling card when I just need to do some cathartic writing and of course publicize my other work. It’s been going for about a year and visits keep increasing so this is a plus.  

Blog LinkRichard McColl's blog


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