Foreign guys often complain when their paisa dates ask for cab fare. After all, in other countries it's not common for someone to pay their date's transportation costs. At best, it feels transactional, unromantic. At worst, this behavior gets lumped in with (mostly incorrect) perceptions about 'gold-digging' Colombian women.
It's true that men usually bear most or all of the expenses on a date with a paisa. But that doesn't explain the cab fare situation. You can be sure that she doesn't want to ask you for money, any more than you want your date to feel like a transaction. So what is it, then?
The truth is...
Taxis in Medellín are actually quite expensive
Taxis often seem super cheap to foreigners arriving to Medellín. The peso's recent and historic collapse only exaggerates this impression.
You take a ride across town and it comes out to $2.50. Doing the math, it's obvious you could do laps around the valley for under $30 US. Well, yes, but that’s a relative price. You’re comparing the cost of a local taxi with the purchasing power of a foreign currency.
To understand what a taxi ride really costs in Medellín, we need to understand its price relative to other local prices, or its price relative to local (average) earning power. That is, how much does it cost compared to what local people make? To illustrate the concept of real or relative prices, let’s do a comparison between Chicago and Medellín using earning power (via legal minimum wage) as a baseline.
Medellín taxi prices vs. earning power
- The Colombian minimum wage is 689.000 pesos per month, which is based on an assumption of 40 hours of work, 50 weeks per year
- That means the Colombian minimum wage is roughly 4.134 pesos per hour
- The minimum taxi fare in Medellín is 4.600 pesos, and the meter starts running at 2.700
- A 10-minute cab ride with light traffic will cost around 10.000 pesos, or (currently) about $3.08
Chicago taxi prices vs. earning power
- The minimum wage in Chicago is $10 per hour
- The minimum taxi fare in Chicago is $3.25, plus various surcharges for extra passengers and time and miles driven, etc.
- A 10-minute cab ride with light traffic will cost at least $12, or (currently) about 39.000 pesos
Medellín taxis are twice as expensive as Chicago taxis
In gross terms, a Chicago cab ride is four times more expensive than an equivalent cab ride in Medellín (39.000 pesos vs. 10.000 pesos). But in real terms (ie relative or adjusted terms), the Medellín cab is far more expensive. Why? Because we have to compare apples to apples. We have to compare the Medellín price to the baseline earning power in Medellín, and do the same for Chicago.
Here is what we get:
- A minimum cab fare in Medellín is 111% of the hourly minimum wage (4.600 COP fare vs. 4.134 COP/hr.); a minimum cab fare in Chicago is only 33% of the hourly minimum wage ($3.25 fare vs. $10/hr.)
- An average (10 minutes, light traffic) cab fare in Medellín costs about 2.5 hours of minimum wage work; an average cab fare in Chicago costs about 1.2 hours of minimum wage work
So, in terms of real, local prices (ie prices relative to local earning power), cabs in Medellín are literally 2-4 times as expensive as cabs in Chicago.
We could do the same analysis with these prices relative to the costs of other goods and services in their respective cities, and it would further demonstrate how (relatively) expensive taxi rides are in Medellín.
It's not gold-digging. It's economics
The point is, the next time your paisa date balks at the idea of taking a taxi and paying for it herself, just remember that for her, taxis are probably not a trivial expense. If she's from a 'normal' family, a 15-minute cab ride home could easily throw off her whole budget for the week, even if she has the money.
So relax. She's not going to flee the city with your 20.000 and retire to a life of luxury. It isn't gold-digging. It's economics.
Caveat: If she asks for more than 20.000 for cab fare, she may well be trying to take advantage. If you go out with her again, pick something in the day and offer to help her arrive/depart via public transit, and see how she reacts.