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Colombian Family: Understanding Values and Traditions

Family eating dinenr

Colombians, like most Latin Americans, belong to a culture of collectivism, where everything revolves around family, society, friends, and groups of people. If you find yourself immersed in this way of living, it may strike you like a different or quite “dependent” one. Even more so if you come from the U.S. or most countries in Western Europe. This is a guide to understand how family works in Colombia, its deep meaning, and its connection to the rest of the culture.

What is Family?

woman playing with two children in the woods
© Photograph by Nikoline Arns on Unsplashed

Family in Colombia is way more than what you might think. Extended family members like an aunt, uncle, or cousin are sometimes as close as the nuclear family. As in some other cultures, Colombian nuclear families can be made up of different members: not always the classic form of a dad, mom, and kids. It is also common to be raised by grandparents, uncles or godfathers. Either way, there are several characteristics that most Colombian families share.

First, there is a strong sense of connection between members. Family members are very close to each other and possibly grew up together, even if they are distant relatives. Colombian families tend to express their love and sense of caring for their family, which is one of the most important pillars in people’s lives. 

It is common for families to take care of the elderly and live with their grandparents. They are an important part of society that is included in daily routines and weekend plans. Parents also wish for their kids to take care of them when they grow older. 

Living with Your Family

Colombian family
© Photograph by Cesar Senatore (Familia) on Unsplash

In comparison to many other cultures, Colombian kids tend to live with their parents for way more time than average. When going to college, many adolescents must move to another city to study. However, most of the people in Colombia prefer to still live with their parents and commute to their university. 

Also, parents expect their kids to stay with them and would never “kick them out” at age 18, as might be the case in other cultures. Here in Colombia, you are a kid until you are 30 – that is the reality and people are ok with this custom. Of course, if this is the case, it’s also because “kids” enjoy living with their parents for a long time. Read more about this and other interesting Colombian facts here. 

Sunday: Family Day

photo of mug with hot choco
© Photograph by Giancarlo Duarte (Choco) on Unsplash

Sundays for Colombians are “family days,” which means people may turn you down for plans on Sundays since they will spend this time with their family members. If you want to know what a typical Sunday looks like for most families, it includes having breakfast, lunch and/or dinner together. Families enjoy taking this whole day to catch up and do an activity together, like watching a movie, going to the park, going out to a restaurant, playing typical Colombian games, etc. 

For some other families, there is also the sacred “frijolada” or “chocolatada.” The first one is usually a big lunch (with beans) hosted at the grandparents’ house, where all the extended family gets together, eats, and catches up. For the second one, people get together in the afternoon, around 4-5 pm, and drink hot chocolate with a variety of bread and cheeses. Colombians always get together around homemade food, music, and drinks. 

If you ever get invited to one of these reunions, you will feel like a family member from the start, never like an outsider. Colombians have a special way to make you feel included. Do expect lots of physical contact, hugs, kisses, plenty of food, music, and laughter. Tiny tip: you can compliment people on their cooking and their house, but try to avoid stereotypical or controversial subjects, like drugs. 

Catholicism and patriarchy

man kissing woman on her forehead - Colombian familiy
© Photograph by mari lezhava (L) on Unsplashed

Colombian families were founded on Catholicism. This means there are still some stereotypical family roles, like the housework being assigned to women and professional work to men. Also, there are social pressures for people to be in a committed relationship and get married young. However, families are also very diverse and liberal in Colombia and you can find a little bit of everything. For sure, Colombian culture is advancing and evolving every day. 

Remember:

It may feel overwhelming at first, but family life has some key aspects that can bring you joy, which include proximity and feeling loved, heard, and understood. Try to get out of your comfort zone and embrace Colombian families and you will see how much fun it can be, especially around holidays, like Christmas. The only danger here is eating and laughing in excess. 

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