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How Not to Dress Like a Rich American in Cuenca Ecuador - UPDATE 2016

Bringing you another update four plus years later. We first published this article on December 2011 and there's a few new things we want to add, so enjoy the updates in red text. 

One of our sons said in a video in 2011 "Gringos should do research before coming here so they don't come here and "look rich" This comment spurred the comment below.

It would be good to have a video about how not to dress like a rich American. Although some of us are on severely restricted incomes these days, a lot of our wardrobes were purchased when we had good jobs and could afford more expensive items. What would be considered "normal," and what is considered "flaunting it"?

Update 2016:  Now really, is there such a thing as someone wearing clothing that makes them "look" like they have money? Looking rich is not just about clothing but includes attitude, mannerisms and behaviors. 

In Latin America the gringo is being watched out of curiosity and they notice our behaviors and that is why behaviors matter here... so it is not just about dress style but how we handle certain situations. Do we flinch when a over-inflated price is quoted? Do we try and bargain the price if it sounds too high? Or do we simply pay whatever asked? Do we talk in English real loud about the expensive restaurant and hotel we are staying in? Etc, etc.

And then there is the wearing of  expensive jewelry. It might be ok to wear diamond rings and Rolex watches in Chile but Ecuador and most other places in Latin America, no. 

We have observed that both the men and women in Cuenca wear a lot of bling-bling that is worthless and if you want to wear jewelry we suggest you do the same. Recently we've been seeing more bling-bling rings with diamonds as big as a small button. The women working in the banks like to wear flashy watches with fake diamonds around the dial and big silver rings on their fingers. Sure, you'll find a few that wear gold bands or diamond rings but not very many; its rare here.

One thing we have learned since living in Latin America is you want to blend in by doing what they do. If you want to wear a big watch, go for it but just make sure it is not a pricey name brand. Wearing anything bling-bling (not real) will fit in just fine in Ecuador, if that's your thing. 

Hi there. Thanks for your question. We’re not sure if a whole video is needed about how not to dress like a rich American. Even if you wear jeans and a t-shirt many of the Ecuadorians think you’re rich. It is a position that continues to thrive here and this is why many gringos become targets to higher prices. 

The problem is many North Americans pay the higher price because the cost of living is better here than compared to the states. When we compare we always will pay the higher gringo price. So you see, we contribute to this attitude. What we have to learn to do is not compare. This is not North America, it is a country that is still developing. Why pay almost North American prices in South America Ecuador? Is that wise?

We’re trying to explain how it is here through our blog and keep Cuenca livable for everyone. And if more Americans when they move here would do the same, it will catch on that this rumor that all Americans are rich is really just a fairy tale.
We’ve already written a pretty detailed post about how Ecuadorians dress so newcomers can blend in better by bringing the same type of clothes with them when they come here. You can read this post here

Update 2016: It's not so much about how foreigners dress but the attitude they carry around with them when it is time to pay for something. Meaning you could arrive here wearing holey pants and a ripped up t-shirt (and some gringos do) but if you vocally and mannerly express how everything is cheap and hand over monies without a care in the world or finding out what the real price is, well then, it won't matter what you wear because, you're rich!

1. You're coming to a country where minimum wage is less than what most foreigners pay for rent.

2. You're coming to a country where everyone negotiates for everything. Ecuadorians do not just hand over money for something without trying to bargain for a lower price.

Unfortunately though, since the onset of foreigners moving to Cuenca we have noticed less and less Ecuadorians that are willing to negotiate with gringos and that is simply unheard of in a culture that prides themselves with getting the best possible price for things. Whose fault is that? It's our fault for being in such a hurry with our wallets.

3. You're coming to a country where some homes do not have computers and refrigerators!  Have you looked at the price of electronics and appliances here?

You asked about flaunting? Flaunting is if someone is dressed flashy with lots of expensive jewelry, flashy gold rings and bracelets, expensive watches, dangling gold earrings, gold chains, etc. Wearing flashy, expensive jewelry will make you stand out, and knowing that it makes you stand out and you still do it would be called what is termed “flaunting.”   

It doesn't matter if the jewelry is fake or not, it still gets noticed by thieves; they don't know if it is real or not, and they might follow you to your apartment for it.  Flaunting is seen in the whole persona of a person, not just in how they dress but in their attitude—how they behave. We have not noticed too many gringos here flaunting themselves with a bunch of jewelry.

It’s fine to wear a simple watch and even a silver wedding band or a pair of simple gold or silver stud earrings that cannot be pulled from your ear lobes.

Update 2016: You absolutely do not want to be wearing diamond and gold jewelry or expensive name brand purses and clothing if taking local transportation, traveling cross country, shopping at the local outdoor mercados, and when trying to keep from being a target in Latin America.

Pulling out money clips, or name brand purses and wallets in Latin America is also a "no-no".  We quit using purses and wallets the minute we moved here...just another worry off our shoulders of them getting stolen. In our back packs we NEVER keep anything of value either, not even our cell phone. Backpack is used for water, tissues, umbrella, and copy of cedula and that's it!! If it gets stolen, so certainly will not be a hardship of needing to replace an important document or expensive valuable. 

As hard as one tries to blend in here. there is no way a gringo will ever blend in fully; but when you dress like them, simple, conservative and casual, not a lot of flashy jewelry, you’ll do just fine.  

The women don’t wear dresses here, or it is rare. They wear jeans and slacks, blouses and sweaters. Basic colors are the norm. Watch the web cam videos under the category “what is Cuenca like?  to see how the Ecuadorians dress. You will notice it is not much different than North Americans except for more conservative...with the exception of tight jeans which the women love to wear...and is part of the culture here.

It’s entirely fine to wear nice but casual clothing here because most Ecuadorians wear nice casual clothing. They take pride in their attire much more than some folks back in North America. They don’t dress sloppy here. Seeing holey jeans or baggy pants is rare sight here especially on family days of Saturday and Sunday. Bring your favorite casual clothes, a light jacket for the evenings, some good walking shoes, and you’ll blend in just fine. 

Update 2016: Last year we were talking with a middle aged gringa who has been living here for over six years and she told us that a policewoman once stopped traffic for her so she could cross the street and the policewoman told her that she should be careful about dressing too nice in Cuenca because she could be targeted and followed by thieves. And this coming from a Cuencana policewoman who has lived here all her life.

Until the next might like to read these articles about how the Ecuadorians dress and other cultural traits.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. I would not want to live in a place that I had to worry about what the hell I was going to wear...comes a point where what's the attraction here in Ecuador ?


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