One Family's Return Trip: Bus Etiquette #1

I am starting a new series, based on taking our little Colombianito back to Colombia for the first time since his adoption. Home just days before he turned 2, he is now 5 1/2 years old. Our journey will be labeled: One Family's Return Trip. You can follow daily here, or click on the label to the right in August to catch all of the posts in the series. I am also looking forward to bringing you more information from Emily -- One Family's Journey (to the right) -- as she talks about issues like: "What it was like to come home?" and "What to expect once you return?"


In preparation for our return trip to Colombia, we have been discussing etiquette in our home. There have been the usual reminders for the boys -- "Remember to say Por favor and Gracias." But, there have also been a few reminders about etiquette issues that bear mentioning here. Over the next few days, I want to review several important etiquette tips for anyone that will be taking public transportation. Today starts THREE days of good advice.


Buses in Colombia can often be crowded. Even when the bus is totally crowded, the driver will stop to let more people on. The philosophy is "There is always room for one more.**" There will be a lot of jostling and pushing. Finding an empty seat can be hard and they are often coveted. On my first trip to Bogotá in 1995 (has it really been that long), I remember getting on the bus and seeing one empty seat. There was a woman standing next to the seat holding the rail, so this gringa thought, "HMMM, guess she doesn't want that seat!" I quickly plopped myself down -- much to the horror of my husband, the woman and several onlookers. I recognized right away that I was being an ugly American, but I had no clue as to why sitting in an empty seat could be so horrifying. In my mind, if the lady -- who was already on the bus -- had wanted the seat she would have sat down. WRONG!!! Here is where the etiquette comes in.

Colombians will not sit down on a "silla caliente" (hot seat) in the bus. The definition of a "hot seat" is one where someone has just left. So typically, once someone leaves the seat, a person near the empty seat will stand next to the seat for several minutes while the seat cools down. Once some time has passed, that person will take the seat.


When you get on a bus and see an empty seat, look around you and if someone is standing nearby ask, "¿Se va a sentar?" (say vah ah cenTAUR?) If they say ".", be prepared to stand. If they say "No.", stand next to the seat for about 20 seconds and then sit down.

** This philosophy does not apply to buses labeled "EJECUTIVO" (executive). The EJECUTIVO buses do not typically allow people to stand. This means that if it is full, the executive bus will keep driving past where you are waiting. They are also more expensive to ride.


Lalis said…
HAHA! This definitely brought back memories of riding the buseta with my mom whenever we had errands to run!

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