You Know You Live in Bolivia If/ When..?

”On living in Bolivia through the (winking) eyes of the expats”

[Polska wersja artykułu —> KLIK]

One day, Stephanie, fellow expat in Bolivia, asked on a Facebook page a simple question: YOU KNOW YOU LIVE IN BOLIVIA, IF/WHEN…?, hoping for a bit of the laughter. And I must say, she hit BINGO, as her thread became probably one of the most popular in the history of the group!

Some people would say, that the question had triggered a wave of whining about living in Bolivian reality, but I see it differently – it rather exposed the little quirks that make our Bolivian experience unique, interesting and somewhat funny, as from the perspective of time, some things tend to look less serious or maybe we just got used to them? I compiled the answers (which sometimes contradict each other!) for you to get the feel of living in Bolivia, though some situations have to be lived to be fully understood :)


  • …you eat bread and tea for breakfast and dinner [just like in Poland;]
  • Can’t imagine life without a water kettle
  • You send your teenage nephew to buy you beer
  • When you can have fresh squeezed Mandarin juice with breakfast almost every day and not break the bank
  • When against your better judgment you pronounce the word “HOTDOG”-“HAAADO” because it is the only way to actually be understood
  • When bananas from anywhere else just taste like cardboard
  • When you realize jam is ham and mermalada is your jelly and no one knows marmalade
  • When you get a 3 course lunch for 20bs
  • When you can’t get a damn beer at Easter
  • When suddenly you want to eat all things maracuya – yum!
  • When you are the only one at the table wondering why everyone prefers their cooked veggies served cold
  • When your Segundo [second course] includes 3 or even 4 different simple carbs
  • Comida rapida, pollos copacabana, comida medio rapida, pollos brosto, comida restaurant pollo pollo polloo [basically, chicken everywhere:]
  • Your local corner shop tells you the can of sardines you are buying is “original” leaving you wondering if fake sardines actually exist
  • Your president tells everyone that eating chicken turns you gay and that coca cola is for cleaning toilets (and is then photographed drinking coca cola)
  • When you can eat one of your favourite dishes, in a burger! Long live the trancapecho!
  • When saying you’re vegetarian is met with a look of horror and wonder, but mostly horror
  • When organic and free range is cheaper than anything
  • Eat locoto hot sauce and mayonaise on everything
  • When you are eating a nice lunch on a restaurant patio and someone walks up to you and asks if you want to buy a broom from them….
  • When you buy 3bs worth of bread to share with the street dogs along the way.

And last buy not least:

  • When you spend approximately 8000x more time on the toilet than before and bless the days you don’t feel at all unwell.


  • You hear dynamite and fireworks and don’t even care to know who is protesting what this time
  • Every weekend is party time, loud music, block the roads and loads of cerveza
  • …and the neighbor’s fiesta goes until full blast until 6 AM, keeping you up, and you weren’t even invited!
  • You start showing up 2 hours late to parties knowing that you will still be the first ones to arrive but at least you wont have to wait for the host to get out of the shower or accompany them to IC Norte [supermarket]!
  • When you get used to the constant sound of dogs barking at midnight…and constant car alarms
  • When you learn to use a rubber squeegee on a broomstick and a cloth to mop the floors instead of an actual mop…
  • When in a school football game the fathers end up fighting, passion for the game
  • When if today there isn’t a feria [another fair], it’s a feriado [another bank holliday]!
  • When the cities come to life at night with more people out and about past 7 o’clock at night and more restaurants open than even in the day time
  • When friends come over for lunch and apologize that they have to leave early, 5 hrs. later.
  • When people are outside walking around in the streets everyday instead of living in their house glued to a tv most their life.


  • When you get a 12-2 lunch break!! And you still can’t figure out how 6 hours of work results in good profits. And above all double auginaldo!! [actually, the day is still 8 h work, as you need to work later, buy yes, you get double pay at the end of each year;]
  • When you just bought 25 oranges for less than a dollar and you still say “yapame pues” [give me something extra] And, they do.
  • Where you have to stand in line forever when 3/4 of all bank workers are sitting around doing nothing!
  • When the desk worker says they just need one photocopy of this tramite [document] and you make 6! Just in case! Then find out you are still short 4!
  • When owning a business that the only service is selling photocopiest is a sustainable business
  • When you have your own casera [a seller at the market] who doesn’t charge you extra for being an extranjero [foreigner]
  • When you realize a system called anticretico where you pay 12months rent in advance and get the entire amount back when you finish your contract
  • When movie piracy is a legit business
  • When you buy something for three bs and they store doesn’t have change or gives you a candy instead
  • When you realize that 30 USD is actually quite a lot of money. Minimum wage is 250ish, a month
  • When you realize Bolivia is only a cheap place to live, if you eat offal and do without hot water or basic amenities. Then your 30 dollars doesn’t even feed your family for a day… and when you want to take your family to Spain, for a better life.


  • When you risk your life in a micro [bus] which is as old as your grandparents
  • When the man driving the mini [mini-van] drives 2 inches from the edge of the road and all you see is a thousand foot drop to certain death
  • When the micro driver ‘facebooks’ while driving
  • When it doesn’t matter how screwed your car is, provided the horn works
  • When you need to wait on the green light for all these speeding cars to pass and then you run across the street in between the cars that somehow managed to stop
  • When the traffic laws don’t apply as long as you have your hazards on
  • When you have learned to walk as far from puddles as humanly possible
  • When drivers going round a curve with no exit indicate yet never indicate when they are actually turning off at a junction
  • Taxis drivers tell you they aren’t going that way when you tell them the destination thus negating the whole idea of a taxi
  • When local authorities run of green lights for traffic lights so just install some blue ones instead as its close enough
  • When you see 20 people piled in the back of a pickup or a family of four on a motorbike
  • When you’re quietly walking on the sidewalk, and suddenly realize the micro driver has decided it’s HIS sidewalk!
  • When you order something online and you are not sure if its gonna get held up at the airport, at the post office, arrive at your house, or just disappear
  • You think a road with only a few potholes is a great road.


  • When you meet real witches in a witches market
  • When your amazed when you see the majestic Illimani [La Paz]
  • when you can cross through extreme economic differences in a matter of minutes
  • When you’ve “finished” seeing everything on the tourist trail and discover there is still 1000 and 1 amazing things left to experience
  • When you leave La Paz for Coroico and it’s like a whole different world – and so breathtaking [applies to every place outside the big cities]!
  • When you take an overnight trip on a bus and you have to go to the bathroom but can’t
  • When you get into a taxi to go from Samaipata to SCZ on New Year’s Day and you have to push the driver out of the driver’s seat and start to drive yourself because he is too drunk to do so himself….
  • When it is common to hear someone say “si, estoy llegando ahorita” [I am comming now] when you know they are still 20 miles away

On language & (tele)communication: YOU KNOW YOU LIVE IN BOLIVIA WHEN…?

  • When Java script becomes ‘Hava’ script and you think its a new tech language
  • When good old Lama is now pronounced as ‘yaamaa’ (llama)
  • When y becomes e and e becomes i
  • When ‘Papa’ is not dad but potato.
  • My favourite people from Spain speak rubbish Spanish and Bolivians speak better
  • When your Skype call inadvertently stops and you realize your internet has ‘run out’
  • When people call YOU and ask “con quien hablo [who am I talking to]?”
  • You stop bothering to be polite and wait your turn in shops and start to just interrupt the sales person because you know that’s the only way they’ll actually serve you…
  • When you get a text from a stranger who bought your stolen iPhone and demands the password to unlock it. Bahahahaha!!!!!
  • When people use cell phones like cb radios holding it in front of their mouths to talk to it and then moving it to their ear to listen to the answer
  • When everyone’s reason for being late starts with “es que…” [the thing is]
  • And apologies are “vas a disculpar” Really? I am? I was so sure I wasn’t going to forgive you this time but gee since you are ordering me to…
  • When you spend over a year living without internet only to eventually get it, but it’s slow as shit
  • When you start typing your laughter on whatsapp as JAJa instead of Haha [jajaja]


  • When it is considered a serious security offence if someone else comes up to the bank counter with you (because they have the details of the account you are sending money to) but its perfectly fine for a person in a full zebra suit to accompany an old person next to you without anyone blinking an eyelid;)
  • When this is a police photo fit sketch (that can be the cover of the book I reckon)

suspect in Bolivia

  • When for 200bs you can buy a fake law degree but 60% of the practicing lawyers didn’t bother
  • When you get out of a DUI with a 300bs bribe [that is actually a fine;]
  • When one of the most corrupt institutions in the country is the public university
  • When you wait in line in the morning to get a ficha [number] that allows you to wait in another line in the afternoon [applies to hospitals and immigration, etc.]
  • When you think you are ahead of the game, because you have a list of the things you need in a government office, given to you by an employee, and bring them all and find out that you should have also brought something else
  • When you buy a vehicle and find that you can not lift and carry all the paperwork that goes with it
  • When you get university credits for dancing in parades
  • When you can legaly ‘masticate’ (chew) coca leaves that give you a great kick of energy, make your mouth numb and eyes red;)


  • When little kids take a pee right on the sidewalk in plain sight and nobody cares or even looks twice
  • When you can buy anything from house slippers to clothes, toys, anything for the house all on just a short walk to the store. Where almost every house is a store plus vendors lining the sidewalks
  • When your attempts of an urban jog always results in being chased by sheep, dogs, and your neighbors bent over in uncontrollable laughter!


  • When you start to see the beauty of placing family above all.

But the most honest answer to the question: YOU KNOW YOU LIVE IN BOLIVIA WHEN? was:

  • When only expats are answering this post.


4 thoughts on “You Know You Live in Bolivia If/ When..?

  1. Glenda Hurlstone says:

    You know you live in Bolivia when you sign Blank Documents and hope the Lawyers do something afterwards

  2. Miranda Booher says:

    Great Post, that was neat you created this. I never read the whole thread on fb but by this summary, I am a little surprised there were so many negative points! I love this place through and through and have been treated so sweetly by all the people here. I believe this is a uniquely special place to live. Even with the little quirks, to me it’s just cultural but patience truly is a virtue!

    • boliviainmyeyes says:

      Thank you, Miranda! To be honest, the Fb included even more negative comments, but I tried to choose the ones that I could relate to myself, not just single experiences. But I also included some of them, too keep objectivity and to show how people may have totally different feelings about living in the same reality.

Let's talk! / Porozmawiajmy!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.