Giving Papaya and “¿Qué Más?”

When you’re meeting up with someone you know in Colombia, there are a few common smalltalk questions they might ask you. Most are pretty similar to what you’d hear in other South American countries like, “como estás?” [“how are you?”] or, “qué tal?” [“what’s up?”]. One that seems unique to Colombia is “¿qué más?” [literally: ‘”what else?”]. I’ve been told that it’s equivalent to “how’s it going?” and so if that’s the first question I get, it’s easy to just say “bien” [“well”]. I get tripped up if they ask me “¿qué más?” when I’ve already used up my bien. For example, I get this a lot:

Me: ¿Hola, como estas? [Hi, how are you?]
Colombian: Bien, ¿y tú? [Well. And you?]
Me: Bien! [Well!]
Colombian: Ah, bien. ¿Qué más? [Ah, good. What else?]
Me: Umm… almorcé un sandwich hoy… [Umm… I ate a sandwich for lunch today…]

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to answer the last ¿qué más? because the subtext to me always seems like, “Your first response was inadequate. Tell me something that’s actually interesting.” I’ve had a few times when the person keeps ¿qué más?’ing me until I just have to surrender and admit that I can’t think of any more interesting facts to share about my day.


The other Colombian expression I really enjoy is “dar papaya” [literally: “to give papaya”]. If you do something stupid or careless that results in something bad happening to you, that’s referred to as “giving papaya.” So if you went into El Centro (a more dangerous part of town) at night to take pictures with your $3,000 DSLR camera, then you got robbed, people would say, “¿Por qué diste papaya?” [“Why did you give papaya?”]. In other words, why did you do something you knew you shouldn’t be doing? They even have ads on the metro that say things like, “Take care of your valuables while on the train. Don’t give papaya.”

I’ve mostly heard it in relation to robbery/theft, but it extends to other things. Another way it’s used is in the context of someone cheating on their girlfriend, but not being discreet about it. A guy takes the girl he’s cheating with to a bar where people know his girlfriend, so he gets caught. People say, “Well, what did he expect? He was giving papaya.”

It also turns out that you can change the expression slightly to convey an especially stupid decision. One girl was telling me about a time she went out biking with her friend and stayed out too late and had to bike home through a dangerous neighborhood. She said that nothing happened, which was especially fortunate considering, “dimos mucha papaya!” [we gave so much papaya!”]

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