20 December 2017

Mike Mackenna - Expat in Colombia

Mike Mackenna - Expat in Colombia

We’ve had the chance to talk to Mike Mackenna, 35, an American expat who has moved to Colombia. Mr Mackenna, who has been living there for seven years, now works as a teacher. Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?
A: Niagara Falls, NY, USA


Q: What made you move out of the US?
A: I wanted to see other countries, and I could have a better quality of life working overseas


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: Bogotá, Colombia. I got a job I really liked, and I got married, so I decided to stay


Q: How long have you been living in Colombia?
A: 7 years


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: With my wife, son and dog; but they were all born here, so they’re not expats


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: No, not at all


Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: Very friendly and easy to fit in with. I do sometimes get irritated with lack of punctuality, unsafe driving habits and lack of consideration for public space


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Colombia? How did you manage to find a social circle there?
A: It was easy. My best friends here are expats, who I met through work


Q: How does the cost of living in Colombia compare to your home?
A: Much cheaper


Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: 2 dollars

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: 4 dollars

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: 15-20 dollars

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: 10-15 dollars, 1-2 dollars


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Colombia?
A: They need first to get a visa, and then a local ID card, which means they need a job to sponsor their visa, and that can be difficult to find


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: Very easy, because my schools have mostly taken care of it, and those processes here have become more efficient


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Colombia is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: Yes, if you can pay for it. I would say Sura health insurance is excellent, and their network of clinics is very good


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or Colombia? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: Host. All the same essentials as anywhere else, though you should try to get international coverage, too


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Colombia? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?
A: I just packed suitcases. No movers


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: Adjusting to the culture at schools, which is much more relaxed than in the US


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Colombia?
A: Positive for an expat- very good pay, easy to make friends with locals, lots to see as a traveller
Negative- culture clash between Anglophone culture and Colombian culture- Colombian culture is more relaxed, and rules are a lot more flexible


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: Go travelling. Big cities like Cartagena and Medellin, islands in San Andres and Providencia, Amazon jungle, etc.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: No


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: Learn Spanish and learn to be flexible with rules and be tolerant of impunctuality


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Colombia?
A: Bogota Post, Colombia Reports