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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ecuador: Not Just a Cheap Place to Live (Tough Love Edition)

Cuenca, Ecuador has once again topped the list of best places to retire in the world. This is good news for those people with investments (particularly investment property) here in Ecuador. Many people can hear the cha-ching of yet another positive report.
It's not just about me on this.
The country is highly touted as a CHEAP PLACE TO LIVE, but under NO circumstances should anyone move here just for that reason. There is so much more to Ecuador, that it's a crime to use that as top billing. Many people come just for that and are disappointed.

Let's be serious - this is an emerging country, with strong arguments to classify it as part of the second world nations. This is NOT a little United States, Canada or any other first world country. Not only that, but it's had hundreds (thousands, really) of years to develop its own culture, processes and identity; which for us is what makes it amazing. What you might see as backwards and frustrating is actually a step forward here; something that Ecuadorians have worked very hard to achieve and are very proud of.
Brand new park facilities...with a view and not the type we're used to!

Crazily dangerous things for the kids to play on...but they live to tell the tale.
If you come here to save a few bucks, you'll likely be wasting your time and, in complete frankness, your hard earned money. It's an expensive thing to relocate to another country, let alone finding out, after several months (or quite frequently less) that you can't tolerate the culture. 
We already knew we loved it, before we shipped our stuff.
To me, its ridiculous for people to complain that Ecuadorians don't speak enough English, or do things the 'right' way. This is a Spanish speaking country with its own laws and traditions and for anyone to expect a people to change to make a foreigner more comfortable is laughable. Bless the Ecuadorians for being patient with my mangled Spanish, my occasional social blunders and strange ways. I came here to change myself, not to change things around me.
The sign reads "Motorcycle parking prohibited" - classic!
If you like bright, loud festivals with many fireworks (at all times of day even 6 in the morning), unexpected parades (that block traffic and result in much car honking) and the occasional dousing in water (or spray foam, flour and confetti), then by all means come. If tatty sidewalks don't throw you off, and you have the patience of Job to process paperwork, pay bills and order food; then come. If you can handle seemingly nice, understanding people turning into complete lunatics when behind the wheel of a car, then come. If you want to at least attempt to learn Spanish, then please, pack your bags and hop a plane.
Take on Amazonian traditional dress (a first for me in the small parades)


Even angels and Bible characters get thirsty

Egyptians...maybe the Exodus??

Bands, floats and traffic mayhem!
But if you're looking to save a buck and still have the life you have wherever you are now, don't bother. Unless you're willing to embrace the culture and the country, please don't come here. You aren't doing yourself any favours, let alone the Ecuadorians and, worse, you'll just make it harder for the expats who really want to be here. (That's the cold hard truth that many happy expats think, but will not say - that's why I call it tough love.) We have come across Ecuadorians who just don't want to do business with foreigners, even if you speak the language and I can only assume that someone, sometime must have really ticked them off.

If you do decide to come, plan to spend the first three months adapting - it won't seem so bad really, even though things will be strange and overwhelming. The next three months are kind of a honeymoon phase: you know where to get groceries, you've taken the bus and a few taxis and you've met some nice people and the weather, well it's pretty darned awesome. The next six months are the real trial...trying to find a more permanent place to live, dealing with obtaining residency, realizing that not having a solid grasp of basic Spanish is a hassle and it's usually when you lose some of those nice people you met...they've headed back to wherever they came from because it was all just too foreign/more expensive than they thought/or several other reasons.

Please, do your research, come for a multi-month visit before you buy a property, sell all your worldly possessions and make the leap. My husband and I, well, we're really used to change and we did several things that positioned us really well to adapt to this new experience. It's not for everybody. Being away from family and long time friends is challenging. If you're set in your ways and can only use one brand of this thing or only eat that brand of whatever the change here will come hard and could be a deal breaker.

This life is a choice and we choose to embrace it as best we can, with good humour, humbleness and joy. Please, please make sure you want to do the same.