When Traveling in South America: Don’t Give Papaya!

After having my cellphone stolen by a taxi driver in Bogotá (see post) I was given a lesson about an expression used in Colombia that explains how many locals percieves steeling or as they see it, letting others steel your stuff. The expression they use about such situations is “a papaya dada, papaya partida” which more or less can be translated to “what has been given, can be taken”. In other words you should not give papaya to anyone (not let anyone be able to take your stuff) and if you see papaya you can take it! (because it was their own fault!)Papaya is on of the most common fruits in Colombia, and the fruit is just a metaphor for basically anything or everything that can be stolen or misused. The papaya rule does not only apply to stealing, but also to saying something stupid that people will misuse for the rest of your life, walking around in miniskirt giving papaya to all the boys looking at your legs, or simply leaving your valuables unnatended. If they say you are give papaya, it means that you are not acting very smart.

If you see papaya you can take it, means that if others let down their guard, for example by saying something stupid then you have to make fun of them according to the papaya rule. Back home we would say that the friends who laugh at each other are not very good friends, but here that is not true. Here they would still be their best friend, because it is not you who should be blamed when they say something stupid that they should not have said.

The expression is not meant to scare you, but merely to think smart and take care of your belongings and what you say and do! After having actually given papaya in Colombia I will remember this rule in order not to have my thing stolen the next few months while travelling through the rest of South America.