August brings the famous “Feria de las Flores” (or “Flower Festival”) to the city of Medellin.
That name makes the thing sound extraordinarily dull, but don’t be fooled. There’s plenty of fun to be had over the following few days.
While you will find a couple of events which are rather flower-heavy, most are not. Instead, music, celebration and fun take centre stage, all washed down with a healthy serving of “guaro” (or “aguardiente“), the favoured local tipple.
You can find plenty of information on all the events involved at this year’s feria on other sites, but I wanted to look quickly here at a curious linguistic phenomenon that also emerges briefly along with the festival.
That is, the bizarre psuedo-greeting of “¿mucha feria o qué?” — an expression that can be used in Medellin for but a few days a year before it disappears again until the next round of celebration.
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What are these paisas on about?
Chat to your Colombian friends in Medellin during the festival and you’ll most likely find that they’ve ditched the standard “¿cómo estás?” type of small talk. Instead, they favour the following sort of conversation starter:
¿Qué más? ¿Todo bien? ¿Mucha feria o qué?
The first two questions (meaning something like “How’s it going? All good?”) will probably be familiar to you if you’ve been in Colombia longer than a week or so. They’re both extremely common. Yet, only the more seasoned Colombia follower will recognise the last.
Translating literally as “Lots of festival or what?”, “¿Mucha feria o qué?” is, on the face of it, a ridiculous way to phrase a question. But this is the way that our paisa friends, Medellin’s local residents, would express the more grammatically coherent, but much wordier, enquiry: “Have you been going to a lot of the events in the Flower Festival?”.
Doing the same is certain to earn you some serious respect among the locals for your Spanish skills.
¿Mucho [whatever] o qué?
Admittedly, you’ve only got a very narrow window to use this expression with your paisa buddies. Work into conversation a week or more after the festival and you’ll sound like a bit of a wierdo.
The good news is that once the feria is all done and dusted you can still use this sentence structure to ask about other aspects of people’s lives. For instance:
¿Mucha rumba o qué?
Would be “Have you been partying a lot?” (utilising, you’ll notice, Colombians preferred word for “fiesta, which is “rumba“). Alternatively, you could ask, to a more serious type:
¿Mucho trabajo o qué?
Which would mean “Have you been working a lot lately?” / “Have you got a lot of work on?”. While:
¿Mucho guayabo o qué?
Would be the way to ask if someone was really hungover after a night out on the town.
I suspect your Spanish teacher may not be over the moon with the way you’re deliberately flouting Spain’s accepted grammar rules with these questions, but that needn’t bother you too much.
Your Colombian friends, on the other hand, will think you a true language hero.
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How to Speak Colombian Spanish
Latin America’s friendliest inhabitants – the Colombians – have long claimed that theirs is the most ‘neutral’ Spanish on the planet. Ah, if only that were so. Chat to the locals during your stay and you’ll quick find that this beautiful sounding version of the language contains as many funny linguistic quirks as it does bits of local slang.
Moving to Medellin? Here’s How to Do It
Medellin today has become something of a mecca for Spanish-language students, retirees, remote workers and digital nomads alike. The weather is great, locals friendly, nightlife lively and the prices still fairly competitive. The availability of decent internet, infrastructure and healthcare have all helped make living in the city a feasible option for people from all walks of life.