Being from Colombia, traveling to other Spanish-speaking countries is always a fun experience. Just in the linguistic aspect, it's always a surprise when you're mid-conversation with someone and they suddenly hit you with a word you have never heard before. For me, some examples of these are "popote," "cuenca," and "frutilla." Suddenly, I was left wondering: "Do I not speak Spanish?" or "Is my vocabulary much worse than I thought?" But, after a few slip-ups, I found that the differences in Spanish throughout Latin America in Spain could be quite funny.
Recently, though, I thought about what it may be like from the opposite angle. When Spanish-speaking people visit Colombia, what are the strangest things they hear? We certainly talk strangely at times, especially when you get down to the slang and the casual expressions but knowing these little quirks can, not only make Spanish more fun, but also make you sound more like a native during your time in my country.
As a heads up, a lot of these are from a specific region in Colombia called Antioquia where the locals call themselves "Paisas." Though they'll be understood in most of the country, they'll definitely know you learned them from a "Paisa."
Most people come to Colombia and are casually asked "¿Qué Más?" when greeted informally. This can come as a shock since that expression literally means "What else?" People suddenly think..."How do I respond to that?" or "What else what?" but, fear not, people are just asking "what's up?" and you can respond with "bien y tu?" or more informally "todo bien."
"Hola ¿qué más?" - Hey what's up?
"Todo bien, y tú?" - All good, you?
Parcero or its shortened "parce" is one of the most used words in Antioquia. Think of it as the equivalent of "dude" or "mate." You use it informally with friends.
Example: "Hey, parce, ¿quieres salir con nosotros?" - Hey, mate, you want to come out with us?
Tipo or Man
These two words are each casual ways of referring to men. Usually, very young people will use these to refer to men who are strangers or not close to them.
Example: "Ese man es muy alto." or "Ese tipo es muy alto." - That guy is really tall.
Lucas and Palos
They way people refer to money in Colombia is very funny. When talking about the local currency (the Colombian Peso) they'll often call thousands of pesos "lucas" and millions of pesos "palos."
"El cafe cuesta tres lucas" - the coffee costs 3,000 Pesos.
"Me gasté siete palos en una moto"- I spent seven million pesos on a moto.
This is something you'll hear a lot in Medellin about busy times at establishments or even rush hour. Usually, it will be used in the context of restaurants, cafes, or busy businesses.
Most common ways to hear it? "Qué voleo" - It's /it was so busy! or "¿Mucho voleo?" - Has it been busy?
This is a common place of misunderstanding in Colombia. When someone calls another "gordo" or "gorda" they're- nine times out of ten- speaking to them with endearment. This word, though it literally means "fat" never actually refers to the other person's body. Consider it a friendly way of someone using a cute nickname or term of endearment like "dear," "buddy," or "friend."
So, here you have it. Six quick, funny quirks that we have in my region of Colombia that can really throw you off mid-conversation. You might run into them during informal exchanges, especially with young crowds, and now you'll know exactly what they're talking about!