I’ve been living in Medellin for several months now, and while it’s an interesting city, full of friendly people, organized, fairly secure, one thing that I cannot fully get over is the nightlife. Let me explain.
A year ago today, I was happily living in Rio de Janeiro. I lived in Rio for 2 years, during the time I absorbed Brazilian culture, learned Português and trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was also the time in my life that I put it in the most energy into going out. Of course, I went out before, but in Rio it became my religion; I was ruthless about going out and seducing my prey as much as possible.
New vocabulary entered my world: hunting, pulling, pegação, fica mais tempo. My body language changed, and my whole world revolved around the hunt. Hunting those that wanted to be hunted. And boy did the girls loved to be hunted; they loved to be chased and eventually submit to the hunter. The hunter always won.
Fast forward to present day when I arrived in Medellin after spending several months in the States. Although I softened a bit after being in the States, which is prudent; as some of things that are acceptable in Brazil would probably result in a 911 call in the States, I hit the ground running and was ready to go out again.
My first night was cruising Parque Lleras with a couple of friends. Parque Lleras is a nice, albeit small, park where locals hang out before hitting the bars and clubs. It’s great for getting warmed up for the night ahead. Having been to Lapa (the main nightlife/street party area in Rio) tons of times in my life, I felt at ease mingling with various people.
The next day, an American who’s been living in Medellin for a while took me to one of his favorites hangouts near Parque Lleras. It was your typical bar with a long table surrounded by various chairs and tables with sufficient space to dance without leaving your table.
What struck me immediately is how closed off everyone was. Everyone was in medium to large sized groups mingling among themselves. When it came time to dance, people just revolved around the table, pretty much preventing others from encroaching on their personal space.
Eventually some mingling did happen. You either break into a group and figure out who is who, or observe the crowd for a lone wolf female in each group. There are always lone wolfs, which is why it’s important to be strategic about it. A good friend here likes to chill for the first hour, and just observe, then eventually when alcohol gets going, and lone wolf separates from the pack, strike. This has been working well for him.
This past weekend, I went out with a bunch of friends to a recently opened club with an American owner. It was an awesome club, but with even less mingling. Everyone was in big groups completely separated from one another. Fortunately each one of us had dates, so it turned out to be an excellent night. Had you not had the date, you’d been renegaded as a N-th wheel, as there was simply no opportunity for pickup.
If you view nightlife as an extension of culture, then what you get is a society that makes most of its social connections via other means: school, work, friends, etc. It’s definitely a more closed society than Brazil or the United States.
In Brazil everyone is always trying to pickup the opposite sex, whether it’s at a beach, the bars, the street, or the nightlife. At the clubs, the vast majority usually pares up by around 2am (club opens at 10-11pm), so if you get late to the club, you might be solo. In Medellin, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone try to pickup a girl (via a cold approach) in the nighttime. All I keep seeing is groups hanging out and having a good time.
To sum up Medellin’s nightlife:
- Forget nightlife as a time to meet someone. ESPECIALLY if you’ve been to Brazil before hand. Many nights I’d rather stay in and work.
- Meet someone at other times during the day. Try coffeeshops, streets, restaurants. People are friendly and will give out their numbers like candy.
- Guys are very possessive so be careful if you strike up a conversation with a girl without confirming whether she’s single. This was never an issue in Brazil.
- The flip-side of that is if you have a date, you will have an absolute excellent night. Get ready to dance though: girls absolutely love to dance to reggaeton, salsa, etc.
- You can have fun on a budget. I’ve had great nights with lots of drinks and all I spent was an equivalent of two dinners plus drinks in US.
The initial shock is slowly wearing off as I’m trying to give this place the credit its due, and stop making it into something it’s not.
One thing I’ve learned during my time in Brazil is that each city varies drastically from the rest. I still want to explore Cali and the Caribbean Coast to see how they stack up.
Although if I could do it over, I would’ve come here before Brazil.
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James Maverick used to work in a cubicle as a code monkey in Silicon Valley. Then, in 2007, he quit his job and a one-way ticket to Brazil. Ever since, he continued to travel, visiting over 85 countries and living in more than a dozen of them. He loved his location-independent lifestyle and has no plans to live in America.