A Look At Colombian Culture Through a Millennial Lens

Interview by
Diane Danvers Simmons
Natalie Simmons
Published on
July 19, 2021

In this episode...

Diane & Natalie recall their pre-pandemic trip to Colombia and talk with millennial host and native Cartagenera, Natalia about local culture, relationships, language and the role that classism plays in modern society.


Natalia Naranjo

With degrees in marketing, communications and sociology, Natalia has a passion for understanding culture and how it affects society. As a guide and host in her country, she has dedicated herself to introducing visitors to her motherland.


Our last trip before COVID hit was to Cartagena, Colombia. We were extremely lucky to have taken the trip and made it back into the USA before the borders were closed. In this episode of Mothers and Daughters Unfiltered, we have a conversation with our host and guide while we were in Colombia, Natalia Naranjo. She shared her home, restaurants, markets, and gave us a good sense of her culture. This episode shines a light on the differences in our cultures and relationships. It’s a peek into life in Colombia from the perspective of a Colombian Millennial woman.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • [1:00] Life in Colombia from the perspective of a Millennial woman
  • [3:26] Learn more about Natalia Naranjo
  • [5:26] Relationships in the United States vs. Colombia
  • [12:00] The diversity, culture, and history in Colombia
  • [17:54] How college differs in Colombia vs. the US
  • [19:24] The American perception of Colombia
  • [21:25] The family system in Colombia
  • [30:55] Natalia’s challenge to Americans

Natalia’s experience in the United States as a Colombian

Natalia was born and raised in Cartagena, Colombia. She learned to speak English because she lived in Chicago for six years before returning home. She believes that building the youth is the only way her country will strive toward a future they want to be a part of. When Natalia left home, she wanted nothing to do with her home. When she came back, she saw it from a different perspective—the eyes of someone seeing Colombia for the first time. 

Natalia came to the United States because she thought she didn’t want to stay in Colombia. She wanted to go somewhere where she felt there were more options for food, dancing, and meeting new people—so she went to Chicago. In Colombia, people are very warm, personal, and touchy, even with people they don’t know. They are welcoming. As most people know, the US is quite different. It was difficult for Natalia to adjust and she was quite homesick.

When people in America say “Hi,” they try to avoid touching you, they cherish their personal space. Natalia points out that people in Colombia are more spontaneous. If you see someone in the street and you can hang out at that very moment you will. People reach out to you all the time, even just to say hi. If you have one minute to spare, you go above and beyond a simple greeting. 

The diversity of the culture in Colombia

Natalia shared that the Arepas Huevo is representative of the three strongest ethnicities in Colombia. It is a corn tortilla that’s fried twice with an egg inside. The corn is indigenous, the egg was brought by Spaniards, and the frying technique is African.

The most important neighborhoods in Cartagena used to be separated by a bridge. One neighborhood was for the slaves and the other neighborhood was for the people with money (i.e. the Spaniards). As the city evolved and urbanized, the bridge disappeared. They were no longer segregated. Natalia notes that racism doesn’t really exist in Colombia but classism does. They’re grouped by the poor, middle class, and rich. Schools depend on whether or not you can pay, not where you live. 

You’re born into a certain economic level or stage that’s numbered 1–6 (in Cartagena) that determines your taxes, healthcare, etc. Natalia’s parents lived in a stage-6 neighborhood but she went to a stage-5 school because her father wanted to spend money elsewhere. Natalia knew people that lived in 3-level neighborhoods who wanted to spend their money on good education. Natalia’s parents came from 3 and 4 level neighborhoods, but her parents wanted a better life for her.

So how is college different? Is the American perception of the safety of Colombia true? Listen to learn more.

The family structure in Colombia

Natalia emphasizes that family is very important in Colombia but it’s structured far differently than in the US. Her parents are divorced, which is unheard of in Colombia. It was expected that even if your husband cheated on you that you stayed with him—and cheating is 100% normal in Colombia. Natalia’s notes that her Dad is the typical Latino macho man who cheated as many times as he wanted. Since Natalia was little, she told her Mom that she didn’t have to stay. But women are expected to accept it and are taught from a young age to be very submissive. How else does Colombia differ from the US? How is it different? Listen to learn more about Natalia’s fascinating culture. 

Connect With Natalia Naranjo

Connect With Diane and Natalie

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