We recently interviewed our friend and colleague David Moscow, an American lawyer who has embarked on a remarkable journey of relocating 2500 miles from bucolic Chester County, PA to the dynamic metropolis of Medellin, Colombia, to start a new life there.  In this insightful conversation, David shares his firsthand experiences, challenges, triumphs, (and even where to find a taste of Philadelphia in the Andes Mountains) as he navigates the intricacies of living abroad. From cultural adjustments to embracing a different way of life, join us as we delve into the motivations behind David’s bold decision to move to “La Ciudad de Eterna Primavera” and uncover the lessons he’s learned along the way. 

Why did you decide to move to Medellin, Colombia? 

There are several reasons that I chose Medellin over other locations. First and foremost, Medellin’s nickname is the City of Eternal Spring. The only weather I can compare it to is San Diego, however, it does rain here. It’s also a metropolitan city. Top-notch restaurants, high-speed internet, etc. All the comforts that Americans are used to are available here.

From ‘Yo’ to ‘Que Mas Pues’: Our Interview with American Expat David Moscow

What preparations have you made in terms of language skills? 

I started learning Spanish around 5/6 years ago when I started to represent more and more Spanish speaking clients (I am a criminal defense attorney licensed in Pennsylvania). I started with applications like Rosetta Stone, Babble and Duolingo. However, apps can only get you so far. So, during the pandemic I started with live classes over zoom and became proficient. However, in the two months that I’ve lived in Colombia full-time, I have gotten much better. Hopefully, I will be fluent by the summer.

Are you concerned about safety in Medellin, given its history

No. Medellin, at least to me, is similar to any large city in the US or Europe. Obviously, you need to take precautions, but I don’t feel unsafe. However, I rarely go to the tourist areas that are more dangerous. Nor do I use the dating apps that can become a honeytrap for foreigners. 

What cultural differences have you learned about, and how do you plan to adapt to them? 

First and foremost, as much as I love Colombians, they’re almost never on time except for football matches (soccer). And there’s nothing you can do about it. I have learned to be patient. On the bright side, I have made friends with the bartenders while I wait for my friends to arrive.

From ‘Yo’ to ‘Que Mas Pues’: Our Interview with American Expat David Moscow

“When you arrive on-time in Colombia”

What are your expectations for healthcare in Medellin? 

Well, I’ve already had experience with the healthcare system in Colombia. First, I have prepagada insurance (Sura Global) that allows me to see any doctor in the country, as well as Sura will pay for me if I get injured out of Colombia. It costs only 8 million pesos (around $2000 for the year). Obviously, that’s not a lot of money for insurance compared to the States, however, only the extremely rich can afford it. For example, the minimum wage in Colombia is around 1.300.000 pesos a month ($325 a month) so most Colombians have national healthcare (EPS). As a visa holder, I have EPS too, however, I haven’t used it. 

I recently broke my pinky and had to go to Clinica del Campestre emergency room. I was in and out within 90 minutes. Had x-rays done and, unlike the States, was seen by an actual M.D. The emergency visit was completely covered by my insurance. I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor and was in and out within 20 minutes (x-rays included). 

How do you plan to stay connected with family and friends back in the U.S.? 

Its 2024. With WhatsApp, facetime, etc. its extremely easy to be connected with anyone in the world.

Columbia us expat
Medellin at Nighttime. If you don’t like Mountains or year-round springlike weather, Medellin might not be for you. 

Have you considered the visa and residency requirements for living in Colombia? Is there a naturalization process similar to the one we have in the United States?  Do you think you would like to pursue Colombian citizenship some day?

I currently have a Migrant Investor Visa. I obtained it by buying an apartment in Colombia. There are many requirements to receive a visa that change yearly, so I would recommend speaking with my Colombian Immigration Attorney Owen Taylor, if you’re interested. After 5 years having my investor visa, I can then apply for a residency visa. I currently have no desire to pursue Colombian citizenship, however, things might change in November 2024.

What cultural activities or hobbies do you plan to pursue in Medellin? 

I take siestas daily and I love to go to the gym. I take classes and personal training 6 days a week. 

How do you plan to handle any homesickness or culture shock?

Honestly, Because I’ve been traveling to Colombia for years, I don’t have culture shock nor homesickness. I have incredible friends here, who are like family, and my Philly teams still break my heart because I can watch all the games here. The NFL package was around $30. Yes, I paid $30 to watch the Birds implode.

Is there anything from home that you miss?  Is there anything that you recommend an ex-pat bring with them from the States that they can’t get here?

Cheese, spices and good Chinese food. Pretty much anything else you can get here. Price Mart (Latin America Costco) is within walking distance from my house.

What is one thing you realize is totally crazy about life in the United States now that you have left?

The amount we spend on organic food. The food in Colombia is much cheaper and healthier. In fact, every Monday we have farm fresh eggs delivered to my building. 30 eggs for $5. 

What is your favorite “Paisa” saying?  

Well, the one that’s family friendly is “Queliace”. It is what it is. 

What does “No Dar Papaya” mean?  What is an example of someone who Da Papaya? 

It simply means don’t give a criminal a reason to target you. As I stated above, the minimum wage in Colombia is around $325 so you shouldn’t be wearing gold, Rolex’s or any designer clothing.

Since you are a Philly boy, (Chester County counts in this case), where is the best place to get a Philly style Cheesesteak in Medellin? 
There’s really only one: Philly Steaks in El Poblado, Barrio Manila. The owner Carmen, from Philly, even makes a good roast pork as well. But it’s obviously not Angelo’s or Steaks West Chester. It’s all about the hard, seeded Sarcone’s style roll for me.

From ‘Yo’ to ‘Que Mas Pues’: Our Interview with American Expat David Moscow

Our Expat friend with some of his Parceros