South America is no one thing. From Colombia in the north to Argentina in the south, the level of diversity is incredible. Home to some of the friendliest people on earth, it’s cultures have endured conquistadors and rapid environmental changes among other things. Sure, it can be raucous and at times treacherous, but anyone who has travelled through the continent will be able to point to at least one city and say, “Yeah, I could live there”. For the uninitiated, if you identify with any points on the below list, it might be time to start packing and saying your farewells to friends and family.
#1 You look great in a Panama hat
But what’s that you say? Panama is in Central America? This is true, but the Panama hat in fact originated in Ecuador, and that’s still the place to find the finest examples. Both tough and breathable, the Panama hat is perfect summer wear, whether strolling through historic Cuenca or padding the sand in Manta. The finest panama hats are said to be impervious to water and able to be rolled and passed through a wedding ring.
#2 Tango is your dance of love
If you like your dancing to be romantic, melancholic and given to fatalism, you’d be well suited to the tango milongas of Buenos Aires. As Argentina’s most famous cultural export, it’s quite normal to find yourself entwined with your partner – after the best steak dinner of your life– in the twilight of a brisk evening sashaying through the vibrant streets.
#3 You adore wearing colour
If drab greys make you look forlorn and you want the world to see you shine from the clothing out, you’ll definitely feel at home in South America. Traditional dress throughout the continent is a cacophony of colours – cool weather Andean attire of the layered poncho-like Lliklla of Peru contrast vividly beside the near-nudity and brilliant body paint of those indigenous to the humid Amazon basin. While traditional dress is rarely worn among young city folk, it shouldn’t dissuade you from living your most fluorescent life.
#4 You love to walk on the wild side
The Andean mountain ranges run the length of the South American continent from Colombia through to Chile. If you’re up to it, there is no better place in the world to find adventure. Whether trekking to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay pass, mountain biking in Banõs, crossing mountain gorges on grass bridges or rock climbing Pulpito Del Diablo in Colombia – if living on the edge of a cliff is your thing, why aren’t you here already?
#5 There’s no such thing as too much partying
Carnival. If only we could harness the kinetic energy produced by this enormous snaking line of half-naked, vibrating humanity – surely there’s enough energy there to power Rio De Janeiro for the duration of the century. If partying is what you love to do, then join the throng in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo or Salvador for an extreme seven days and nights of revelry.
#6 You are intrigued by failed social experiments
Located deep in the Amazon basin, Henry Ford attempted to create a rubber factory and an American neighbourhood as a way to push his idealist view of contemporary society while also cutting his dependence on British produced rubber for his Ford motor cars. The operation was an entire failure. The abandoned relics are slowly returning to nature much like the Ford Falcon my childhood neighbour kept on bricks in his backyard.
#7 You like the high life
No continent in the world boasts as many cities at high altitude as South America. Seventeen of the world’s top 20 highest cities are in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Quito, the capital of Ecuador and Bogota, the capital of Colombia both sit higher than two-and-a-half kilometres above sea level. And while visiting such great heights can cause altitude sickness, the body does eventually adapt. It’s also been suggested that living at altitude can keep you slim. Just don’t be in a rush to hike up any mountains – the thin oxygen makes the required heavy breathing difficult.
#8 You’re praised on your driving skills
If you’re a post-career F1 driver, you might consider making the move to Venezuela. They have the cheapest petrol on the planet – you can typically fill up for less than one dollar. Road laws are implied rather than implemented – Venezuelan police revoked a driver’s license for the first time in 2011. You’ll need your driving skills to negotiate roadways that are more like a demolition derby than orderly traffic. You know things are going to get rough when the taxi drivers’ preference is a solid ‘70s American muscle car.
#9 You could live on tropical fruit
Fruit is the true hero of digestive tracts across South America. There are only so many days you can eat plates filled mostly with meat and rice before things just, you know, stop moving. A daily dose of fibrous fruit is basically a requirement and the diversity of fruit is incredible, especially in low-lying countries close to the Equator. Situated deep in the Amazon basin, Manaus market in Brazil is especially interesting with hundreds of different local tropical fruits on offer that are impossible to export.
#10 It’s time for your 2pm nap
Staying awake through an entire day is difficult, and there’s nothing like a siesta to see you through. Living within a culture that mandates a daytime nap is by far the most compelling reason to emigrate. Even Brazil, a country that doesn’t benefit from this Spanish colonial tradition, is getting in on it.
#11 You like to play by your own rules
Do you hate standing in orderly queues or waiting your turn at the deli counter? Do you feel as though music should be played as loud as possible, whatever time of day? If you have an energetic personality and a vague disregard for order, you’ll thrive in South America. Arriving from orderly Australia into the wonderful “do whatever you want” South American lifestyle is certainly a refreshing change. That is, until your neighbourhood fishermen start blasting reggaeton at 4am to get the day started.
This first appeared at AWOL.com.au