Before I came to Colombia, I’d never been stood up for a date. Girls had canceled on me, sometimes at the last minute, but I’d never actually gone to meet up with a girl and stood around waiting, only to have her ultimately never show up. In my first three weeks in Medellin, I was stood up for first dates by four different girls. No cancelation, no apology, usually no contact ever again.
It wasn’t a big blow to my ego or anything, but it was really inconvenient. I don’t have a lot of “structure” in my day, so having a date scheduled means that’s the one fixed block of time I have to organize my day around. There’s the time cost of going to the meetup spot, waiting fifteen minutes, and returning, but the biggest hassle was having whatever else I was doing be interrupted for no reason.
I asked around and the general consensus was that Colombians like saying yes to things even if they have no intention of actually doing it. Plans weren’t really plans until you called again to confirm. “Even if the date is just the next day?” I asked. Yes, even then.
Okay, more confirmation. That sounds simple enough. If I was constantly doing this in America, I think it’d come off as really needy and insecure. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 9. Oh, but I’m going to call you a couple hours before to make sure you still like me and still want to see me, okay? Cool! Later!” But in Colombia, this is actually what works. I set the date for sometime in the following two days, then tell the girl I’m going to call her a few hours before to confirm. If I can’t get through, I know the date’s off and I don’t bother going to the meetup spot.
I haven’t been stood up at all since I got this figured out, but it’s still not completely smooth. One girl invited me out for the following night, but then I couldn’t get ahold of her to confirm that day so it just never happened. Another time, I had loose plans to meet up with a girl for drinks, but we didn’t get things finalized until 9:15 PM. The plan was to meet at a bar 45 minutes later. I thought surely in a case like this, I didn’t have to confirm plans.
I got to the bar at 10 and she wasn’t there. This wasn’t particularly surprising because I’ve only met one Colombiana who’s ever shown up less than 5 minutes late for everything. After a few minutes, I get this text: “Are you there already? Ill call the cab now.” I found out later it’s kind of common to do an “okay, I’m leaving the house” confirmation to make sure the other person’s coming.
I’m kind of impressed that they’re able to cram all these confirmations into the date arranging protocol. I don’t know what I’d ever do if a girl dropped by my apartment unexpectedly to invite me out. I imagine S.O.P. is something like I immediately close the door, shout a confirmation request through the door, then open it again if she agrees.
I was really excited once I figured out how to do the confirmation trick. Much more efficient than getting stood up! But I realized overall it’s still a pretty inefficient system. The girls are still really flaky, so if she agrees to a first date, there’s only like a 30% chance of it actually happening. The problem is that I don’t get a final decision until a few hours before and at that point, my night’s dead because if I call other girls, they won’t agree to plans on such short notice. I sometimes double book to hedge my bets, but only with girls that have flaked before. Otherwise it could mean that I’m the flaky one in the relationship, which, given the standard here, would be really embarrassing.