One thing that happens when we travel is that we open our minds to new perspectives of the world and we start to see that the way we do things is not the only way to do them, and maybe not even the best way. These new experiences enable us to rethink our own cultures and traditions and allow us to choose to carry with us in life what we like and believe in. And when it comes to daily routines, each country has its own peculiarities, and Colombia is no exception. Actually, we have so many that if we wanted to mention them all we would likely take months or even years to finish. So, for now, we will focus on grocery shopping and we will explain all about one of the most distinctive commercial establishments in Bogotá and the rest of the country: local shops.
Local shops are small businesses that are different from supermarkets and often confused with convenience stores, but they have some characteristics that make them unique and authentic.
Why do people like these stores so much?
- Location: These stores are very well located, close to residential buildings and in almost every neighborhood, so they are very convenient. Instead of having to go all the way to a supermarket, you can just search for the closest local shop (or ask someone on the street; they will definitely know where to find the closest one).
- Basic goods: These stores are usually stocked with the most basic ingredients and hygiene products that any family might need. Rice, sugar, oil, coffee, snacks, drinks, beer, and toilet paper are just some examples of the products you will always find in these places.
- Smaller portions: Many households in Colombia live with the minimum legal salary, which does not always allow them to have enough money to purchase the regular-size packages that we find in supermarkets, so these stores provide smaller portions of basic goods and the prices are usually slightly lower.
- Delivery service: In addition to the fact that they are very well located, most of these local stores provide a delivery service, so if you are feeling sick, it is raining, or you are just super lazy, call your nearest store and they will bring what you want right to your door!
- Social place: For many people, these stores have become a place where they meet their neighbors and they catch up; some of them even meet there to grab a beer or just hang out and talk to the store owner. More than just a place to buy things you need, these stores are places for interaction and even entertainment for people in Colombia.
- Credit: Last but not least, these stores are one of the few places that still carry on the tradition of “Fiar.” This is a way of selling on credit. It allows people to pay for goods sometime after they purchase them because they don’t have the money available at the moment. This is a very common practice in Colombia and it helps millions of people who don’t have enough money or who face unemployment, to have food for the day.
In addition to these stores, we also have small, medium, and big supermarkets. In these places, you will find a wider variety of products, more brands, etc., as you would find in any other country. Some examples of the most well known big supermarkets in the city are Jumbo, Exito, and Carulla, but if you want something slightly smaller you can check out Olimpica, Colsubsidio or Cooratiendas. There are also options for all tastes and budgets and if you want something fancier with a wide variety of “bio” and organic products, be sure to visit Gastronomy Market. Don’t forget to check our article on the most popular supermarkets and grocery shops in Bogota to see more examples. In all of these places, unlike in the small shops mentioned above, grocery shopping is more of a transaction people do in the rush to get home.
Even small store owners don’t see their stores as competitors to supermarkets because they know that people will go to larger businesses when they need more specialized goods or when they need to buy groceries for longer periods. But they know their customers will always come to them when they need smaller, everyday products. Also, they are aware that the service they provide goes beyond selling products, so they always try to be friendly and helpful and that is also a reason why people keep coming back.
So, whenever you want/need to make some grocery shopping in Bogotá because you’re missing some rice or oil to cook your traditional dinner, just walk a couple of blocks or ask a person on the street and you will find one of these stores.
If you want to keep learning about all the peculiarities of our city and country, keep an eye on the articles to come because we will be explaining them one by one!