Sam - How To Expat
Sam - How To Expat

Downsides Of Living in Medellin

Living in Medellin Downsides

When you think about Colombia, it’s all too easy to get lost inside the idea of moving to such an amazing place. Colombia boasts such a rich culture, beautiful landscapes and scenery and one of the most diverse species of flora and fauna in the world.

Medellin, in particular, is one of Colombia’s more vibrant and colorful cities and it’s also one of the central hubs of Colombia’s famous nightlife which is renowned for dancing and different styles like reggaetonor salsa. It’s hard to imagine there being any negative aspects to living there, which begs the question. Are there any downsides to living in Medellin and if so what are they?

The answer to this is yes. As with making a move to any new country, there is plenty of food for thought before turning this idea into a reality. Below are some of the realities to consider before embarking on such an adventure like living in Medellin.

How Safe Is Medellin?

Safety in Medellin.

One of the biggest worries before making a move here is whether or not you’ll be safe in Medellin. There’s no doubt that safetyis a concern in Medellin however unlike in the ’80s and ’90s where gang violence was rife and fuelled by drug cartels, the levels of violence in the city have decreased noticeably since then.

Today while Medellin is certainly a less violent city, It’s still important to be aware that crime is still an issue when living in Medellin. The most prevalent of which is petty street crime. This relates to muggings, petty theft or pickpocketing or scams on the streets and as such demands you exercise a degree of caution when venturing outside the house.

Vigilance is also necessary for everyday interactions as, owing to the financial situation, many Colombians will try to take advantage of foreign people when they can.

At the same time, as this is a reality in Medellin it is also true of any big city in the world from Madrid to London to New York. So in reality living in Medellin doesn’t require any other special precautions you wouldn’t take in most of the big cities globally. 

Finding A Nice Apartment With Local Prices Is Hard

Getting An Apartment In Medellin

Getting an apartment in Medellin can be quite a tricky affair depending on what you’re looking for and how much you are willing to pay. The goal here is trying to get as much return as possible for your money without breaking the bank. However, this can be quite the balancing act. Medellin is divided into 6 different zones based on the financial situation of each respective community.

Neighborhoodsin zone 1 are the poorest and residents here pay the lowest rent and taxes. This is in contrast to zone 6 where the residents pay the highest rent and highest taxes in order to subsidize amenities in the poorer areas. As you can imagine, there is a correlation between the money you pay and safety in Medellin.

Another potential hurdle here is the “fiador” or co-signer. Given that it’s illegal to ask for a deposit in Colombia, a guarantor is needed when signing the lease. This person will cover the cost of any losses in the event that you cannot make regular payments and this person must be a Colombian citizen which gives rise to further headaches.

Unless you know someone willing to act as a guarantor you may need to sign an unofficial lease which could lead to problems down the road.

Not A Lot Of Locals Speak English

Lack Of English In Medellin

Colombia is a predominantly Spanish speaking country and this is something that cannot be overlooked. Something which is almost always taken for granted is the ability to get by within English in many countries globally but this will undoubtedly be more challenging in Colombia.

Colombia ranks 68th of 100 nations on the English proficiency index which is a very low score. Not alone is Colombia a very poor English speaking country internationally it is also just shy of being the worst English speaking country in Latin America 17/19. Spain, by comparison, was placed 35th on this index which is considered to be an average result.

The lack of English will have a big impact on day to day life. Almost all contact outside the four walls your apartment will be done through Spanish from ordering a coffee to opening a bank account. This can at times be extremely frustrating. Although ordering a coffee involves a few simple Spanish expressions that can easily be mastered, more complex interactions like going to the doctor require a much higher level of proficiency.

With this in mind, knowing or learning Spanishbecomes an invaluable asset. Being in a situation where you are fully immersed in a language can make learning much easier but it still requires dedication and work.

Getting A Job In Medellin

Low Paying Jobs In Medellin

Work in Colombia and Medellin is stretched as it is and so it can be quite a difficult finding work here. If you do manage to find work herethen one of the biggest issues relates to finding a decent paying job. The minimum wage in Colombia is the equivalent of 300 dollars a month and so coming here in the hopes of making some quick money is not a practical aspiration.

Alternatively, if you’re receiving money from your respective country you could be in a better situation financially in Medellin otherwise it could be best to reconsider Medellin as it can be quite an expensive city, especially for an Expat.

Traffic In Medellin

Traffic In Medellin

Less important than the previous three mentions but still a noteworthy downside in Medellin is the level of traffic congestion. Medellin is an extremely large city with 2.5 million inhabitants and chaos ensues come rush hour between 7:00 and 8:30 and 5:30 and 7:00.

Medellin is well known for its issues with traffic and has implemented strategies to try to alleviate some of the pressure. Pico y Placa is one such method whereby access to the city center is permitted on predetermined days depending on the numbers on your license plate. This is a strategy that has been implemented in many other cities around the world with varying levels of success. While this measure hasn’t completely rectified the issue it has helped.

The metro is a possible alternative here but it’s also infamous for being unpleasantly crowded during the rush-hour times. Traffic behavior also varies quite a bit. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way in Medellin This high volume of traffic means combined with less regard for pedestrians means it’s important to be conscious of surroundings when crossing roads in Medellin.

Pollution In Medellin

Pollution In Medellin

Not unlike many other big cities in the world pollution is a con in Medellin. The large volume of vehicles and traffic congestion contribute to the pollution in Medellin. The topography of Medellin is also one of the causes of the pollution and the encircling mountains serve as a means to trap the pollution generated in the city and prevent it from dissipating effectively.

This is definitely something to bear in mind if you’re health-conscious as this can have a negative impact on overall well-being and health down the line. It’s also very important information if you happen to be asthmatic as this could further exacerbate symptoms.

Bureaucracy In Colombia

Bureaucracy In Colombia

Coupled with the relaxed and laid back Medellin lifestyle are the issues with bureaucracy. Due to serious issues in the past with drug and gang violence paperwork in Colombia and Medellin, in particular, can be far more strict. There is a lot of red tapes here and little room to manoeuver.

This can become incredulously annoying as there are tonnes of paperwork for something as seemingly innocuous as renting a small apartment. Also, seeing as the lifestyle is so calm things which are very important to you but not for someone else get put on the long finger and everything becomes tomorrow.

A delivery for Monday becomes Wednesday and delivery for Wednesday arrives on a Friday. Espera! which translates to wait is a phrase that’s said here frequently.

Is Life In Medellin For You?

Should You Move To Medellin?

With all this in mind is it still a good idea to move to Medellin? The answer to this boils down to personal conviction and how badly you want to go. It’s definitely worth taking the time to account for these potential problem areas as these are issues you may encounter upon arrival or a few years further down the road, nonetheless, the benefits of living in Medellin far outweigh the drawbacks.

Medellin has year-round temperate weather and its inhabitants are famous for their similarly sunny disposition. In addition to this Medellin is home to a large array of different animal life and plant life which help contribute to an increasingly famous culinary scene. The lifestyle is undoubtedly more relaxed and laid back here and offers an insight into an exceptionally unique and welcoming culture.

Sam and Tacha
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