At Vaova, we believe that the best way to experience a place is living it like a true local, and that includes speaking like one. So, find below some of the typical phrases you’ll hear in Colombia, which not only attest to our creativity but are funny as hell.
Literal translation: ‘To give papaya’
Meaning: To unnecessarily give the opportunity for something to happen
This is probably the first Colombian phrase you’ll learn upon arrival. Most likely, you would hear it coming in the negative form, i.e. No dar papaya, meaning: 1) don’t make it too easy for evildoers to harm you, make smart decisions and stay always alert –as in do not use flashy accessories while touring the city or call an Uber instead of hailing a cab on the street–; or 2) may also be used to prevent you from giving your friends an easy reason to mock you or make fun of you. So, if in any case you decide to ‘give papaya’, try to stick to case number 2. Although Colombia’s bad rep is already gone for good, make sure not to give papaya and to check our safety recommendations here.
Literal translation: ‘To have a guava tree’
Meaning: To have a hangover.
By reading any of our previous posts, you probably already know that we Colombians are relentless pleasure-seekers, fearless drinkers, unstoppable dancers –in short, fully-bred party animals. That’s why we know that subduing yourself into hardcore partying can have serious consequences, and why we’ve come up with a unique name for the dreadful aftermath: guayabo. Look for the word in a Spanish dictionary and you’ll find it means nothing but a tropical tree –the one that bears guayaba (Spanish for guava), one of our staple fruits. Say the word to a Colombian and they would probably start listing their family secrets to survive the morning after. And it’s not that we like being preachy, but do follow this advice: eat well and keep yourself hydrated at all times while partying with us, you really don’t want to know what guayabo caused by guaro is like.
¿Quién pidió pollo?
Literal translation: ‘Who ordered chicken?’
Meaning: Hello there, beautiful!
We can’t be serious, can we? How on earth could chicken end up being part of a flattery comment? We really don’t know. We do know, however, that if someone says this to you while you are visiting, you are allowed to get a little cocky. Heard all over Colombia, this is a playful, funny way to say you are looking good, either in your best outfit for a special occasion, or just as the fully sexy bombshell you were born to be. The comment would most likely include a jaw drop and an astonished head-to-toe look. Oh, and it may be uttered either by your grandma while you wear your graduation suit, or by your peers when you enter the meeting room on a good-hair day.
Tenga pa’ la gaseosa
Literal translation: ‘Here, buy yourself a soda’
Used when: Tipping someone for a quick favor.
While visiting Colombia, you’ll notice that locals are always ready to help. Often, that help would come from our well-meant desire to lend a hand to those in need. Sometimes, however, your aider might expect something in return, namely… a tip. In those cases, it’s pretty usual to tell the person you are tipping: ‘tenga pa’ la gaseosa’ –which literally means ‘Here, buy yourself a soda’. An informal way of accompanying a tipping gesture, we believe the saying comes from the refreshing reward someone gets after making an effort. Similarly, the helper may ask you for ‘algo pa la gaseosa’, roughly meaning: ‘Can you buy me a drink?’ or, more accurately, ‘Can I have a tip?’ Don’t expect this from your bellboy at the hotel or a waiter, when actual service is to be expected (Check our tipping recommendations here). The phrase is more likely to appear on impromptu situations when you suddenly realize you need a hand and some fellow offers to help.
¿Durmió conmigo anoche o qué?
Literally meaning: Did I sleep with you last night?
Used when: Someone fails to say hello upon meeting somebody else.
We Colombians take social etiquette very seriously, and greeting when entering a place is kind of a rule of thumb for us. So, when a friend, relative or co-worker fails to say hello upon meeting us –most likely unintentionally– we might feel snubbed, which would probably take us to letting them know that their distraction will not be easily forgiven. Fortunately, we’ve come up with a playful question to express our outrage, while at the same time settling the matter amicably: ¿Durmió conmigo anoche o qué?, meaning, we didn’t spend the night together, so you’d better say hi to me.