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The Disbelief at the Young Gringo Expat in Latin America

Published January 21, 2022 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 2 Comments

Years ago when I lived in Colombia, I remember meeting for the first time the family of an ex-girlfriend named Marcela.

I stopped by their house and we had food basically.

During the moment, the most memorable part about it was seeing the mom stare at me strongly.

Almost as if I was from another planet to her.

At any rate, she eventually stopped doing that.

I think she was just stunned to see a foreigner stop by her neighborhood in a city that, relative to other Colombian cities, doesn’t get too many foreigners stopping by.

That was my impression anyhow.

But it wasn’t the only thing that she was seemingly surprised by.

Outside of being surprised that Marcela was able to obtain a superior American boyfriend to what she could get locally, the mother was also surprised by my age.

At the time, I must’ve been 21 or 22 if I had to guess.

Definitely on the younger side!

While it was no issue between us, she was simply just surprised at first hearing my age.

Not because I look older (most of my life, I’ve looked younger than I am) but because it isn’t as typical to see someone so young living in another country.

Either way, she understood that I was simply studying at a nearby university in Barranquilla and that was it.

Similarly, I remember another incident only some odd months beforehand where my age was a surprise.

Hiking Through Peruvian Mountains

Some months before that, I was hiking towards Machu Picchu as part of some group of tourists with a guide.

At any rate, I remember being inside some restaurant having a “last night meal” before the morning that we were set to see Machu Picchu.

We all had to rush though to get some tickets or something from a nearby office that night.

Anyway, I remember all of us just casually talking about whatever while eating our food and some Latino dude from the US that I had been speaking with on different occasions during the trip began talking with me.

He was traveling with his girlfriend and she asked me “how old are you?”

At the time, maybe I was 20 as it was right before my 21st birthday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Anyway, they seem equally surprised by how young I was but traveling around.

Though the guy said something like “he’s seen other young backpackers in the area. Mostly Europeans though.”

And, as a side point, that might be true actually.

I have no idea how true it is really in the grand scheme of things but, in my experience, younger folks traveling do tend to be Europeans instead of Americans or Canadians.

Of course, you do got young Americans or Canadians that travel but, if I had to generalize, it does seem like Europeans do travel more at a younger age than we do for whatever reason.

At any rate, while there are a few other examples I could bring up, let’s end this with one last one before getting to some main points.

Apartment Hunting in Mexico City

Some odd months ago, I am now 27 as I write this and was apartment hunting in Mexico City.

There was a guy I messaged online who had a place near Agricola Oriental.

I showed up to the Metro station closest to his place.

And waited for him to show up to take me over to his place as I’d have no idea how to get there myself without an Uber as I’m terrible with directions in places I’m not familiar with.

As we’re walking along, the walk that I hoped would maybe be 15 minutes was actually 30.

Initially, the area we were walking too didn’t seem too bad but then we crossed some area that did look rough before reaching some streets that looked normal.

If the apartment had been closer to the metro, I probably would’ve chosen it as a place to live in to be honest.

The place itself was nice and the owner and his girlfriend seemed very nice also.

All around cheap too and in an area that I had little knowledge (which is why I chose to look for places in that area as I like to see new neighborhoods no matter their reputation for being dangerous or not).

Along the walk over though, the dude asks me “how old are you?” and “what do you do for work?”

When I said I’m 27, you could see in real time the dude doing mathematics in his head.

“Wait a second … when did you say that you arrived to Mexico?”

That’s when he realized that I had been here for 4.5 years roughly.

“Wow, so you were here since like 22 or 23?” he asked.

And the dude himself was maybe 40 more or less?

He clearly seemed surprised at how young I was when I moved to Mexico.

Then the usual questions came up that follow after any surprise like this.

“You got family in Mexico?” he asked.

Basically, questions that try to get at if I have any family support here or to at least understand why I chose to live in Mexico at a young age and for so long.

Either way, I explained that I like to travel and that’s it.

Final Thoughts

Just in the last week, I had two incidents that kinda hinted at my age again.

One was when I went to some event where some foreign chick thought she had more time in Mexico than me based on how young I look.

The other was when I stopped by to buy some gorditas (a Mexican food) from this woman right outside my house who makes them on the street.

She’s a young woman around my age that I’ve bought enough gorditas from now as they’re pretty good.

While I’m waiting on her to finish cooking them, she’s been asking more personal questions.

“What do you do for work?” “Do you live in the area?” “Do you rent or own a home?” “You got a girlfriend?” “How old are you?”

With the last one, she did seem a tiny bit surprised as to my age and living in her neighborhood. Asking those same questions of “you got family in Mexico?”

Which is the first point already brought up.

First, when some people are surprised by either your age and/or your long time living in a country regardless, some will ask the “you got family here?” question. Personally, I feel it’s because they’re trying to figure out why I live there (like if I have family that brought me here or something).

Second, areas that have less tourism I feel will have more people who are surprised by either the sight of a gringo and/or the sight of a very young one.

The “young digital nomad working from his laptop” is a more common sight in Condesa than my neighborhood of Pedregal de Santo Domingo where you don’t see other gringos really.

The same applies for cities also I’d bet.

The sight of a younger expat living in Medellin is probably more common than Barranquilla (at least in 2016 or whatever year it was that I lived in Colombia).

Third, obviously you do got some older expats in their retirement years who get a little bit jealous at the sight of someone like me skipping retirement to just live abroad. Eh, they can suck my nuts.

Fourth, obviously these days it’s more common to see more people living abroad as expats in general. Given the recent changes we’ve seen in the last year with more people working remotely, I’d be willing to bet that the young expat in his 20s is more common. Though, going back to the second point, I’d bet most of them still stick to certain areas like Medellin or Condesa.

Fifth, as a side point, I think Europeans tend to be less surprised generally speaking than other nationalities at a young person traveling the world.

Sixth, I wouldn’t entirely mind fucking that chick who makes the gorditas as a side point. She has more indigenous background it seems and so hearing her say “dame hijos blancos, papi” would be a huge turn on.

If  only I could get her to scream during sex “soy de la selva lacadona y ME ENCANTA EL PENE BLANCO DE LOS GRINGOS!!”

Sorry for changing the topic. Let me put away this bottle of rum….

Anyway, that’s all I got to say.

Drop any comments below.

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Thanks for reading.

Best regards,



Dazza - January 22, 2022 Reply

Australians and New Zealanders have something called the OE (the overseas experience) where traditionally – they go back to the mother country (usually the UK but in more modern times, Italy, Greece, the former Yugoslavia or wherever their parents or ancestors are from) but these days – you see young Aussies and Kiwis all over the world from the ages of 18-25 backpacking and taking in everything.

The OE is a right of passage for a lot of Australians and New Zealanders and it is something their parents and grandparents did – usually done on graduation from university but plenty do it at a younger age. Israelis also do this after their mandatory military service and zero in on places like Goa.

    Matt - January 22, 2022 Reply

    Interesting detail about Australians.

    Israelis for sure. When I was running around South America, I remember getting the impression that Bolivia was quite popular for Israelis.

    When you go to Rurrenabaque to see the Amazon in Bolivia, there’s a high point after you do some hiking where you can see a lot of trees and this little river that they have you canoe through. At that spot, there’s some little cross in the ground to honor some Israeli dude who died from what I remember. The dude basically decided to get on top of a tree for a photo but the tree snapped or something and he fell to his death.

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