03 May 2017

Uncover Colombia Interview: Matt Barfield – Falling for Colombia

Posted in Blog

Matt Barfield sticks out on the streets of Bogotá, Colombia. He has light skin and blonde hair, but don’t call him a gringo – he hates that. The Englishman has felt Colombia’s pull since 2009, when he visited after hearing travelers in other South American countries singing Colombia’s praise.

“Ever since I (went) back to England, it’s just not been the same. So my plan was always to come back to Colombia.”

The 27-year-old returned in 2013 for a year-long stint teaching English and now he’s been back in Bogotá since June 2016.

“I basically fell in love with the country,” he told Uncover Colombia during an interview.  

traveling in Colombia

Uncover Colombia: A lot of people say they fell in love with Colombia, but what does that mean in your case?

Matt: “In Europe, everything is very predictable, everything has already been built and established. Whereas in Colombia, you never know what’s going to happen. I love having that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow. But also, everything here is new and developing, so it’s interesting to see all the new projects, new buildings and the economy growing as well.”

Uncover Colombia: It’s one thing to visit Colombia for a holiday, but moving abroad is a whole new beast. Were you scared to move to Colombia?

Matt: “The only reason I was a little bit nervous was because everyone I told about moving to Colombia just said ‘you’re crazy!’ But I knew it was something I wanted to do and once I arrived, I knew it was the right decision.”

Uncover Colombia: Where do you work right now?

Matt: “I manage an internship company called Intern Colombia. We provide first-class internships to students, graduates and young professionals from Europe and North America. We combine that with an authentic intercultural experience, so they can get to know the real Colombia. We want to share our love for the country with other people, so they can experience it as well. Through bringing foreigners here, we also hope to help businesses and NGOs grow and develop.”

Uncover Colombia: Where is your favorite Colombian city to visit?

Matt: “My favorite is Popayán. The people there are really friendly and it feels like you’ve gone back in time to the real Colombia. It just feels authentic.” 

traveling in Colombia

Uncover Colombia: What advice would you give to people who want to travel around Colombia?

Matt: “Try and avoid the mainstream tourist traps, and try to go to the small towns like Salento and the Coffee Region because the people there are the friendliest people you will ever meet. They’re not extremely popular tourist destinations yet, so you’ll still get the authentic Colombian vibe.”  

Uncover Colombia: What’s your advice to people who want to visit or live in Colombia, but don’t know a lot of Spanish?

Matt: “Start listening to some Reggaetón or Salsa and read the lyrics at the same time. Once you’re here, don’t fall into the trap of only making friends with other foreigners. Make friends with locals and go out with locals to speak and practice Spanish."  

This interview was edited for length and clarity. Are you a foreigner traveling or living in Colombia? Let us know and we could interview you, too!

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traveling in Colombia

The Uncover Colombia Team