July 23, 2015

Are Mainstream Retirees Adopting a Foreign Persona When Moving Abroad?

Some people move to Cuenca Ecuador or any other foreign retirement destination and they become different people; for the first 6-months to a year, they seem to behave in ways that is not normally understood "back home".   Behaving “out of one’s normal character” when moving to a foreign land could only mean one thing; they have adopted a "new persona".
 

Being a "new persona" could be alright when we’re a visitor or guest because everything is wonderful; the people, the food, the culture, the laid-back slowness of everything, even the traffic, noise, or smog seems almost unnoticeable, who cares, right?  Everyone becomes enchanted with their new paradise; no one is immune to it.
 

However, once we are permanently living in a place AS A RESIDENT that means we are no longer a guest or a visitor; it means we are not on vacation anymore; it means we’ll need to interact on a daily basis with the local community and businesses, and go out into the environment to buy groceries, take a taxi, go to the bank, or enjoy a local event, dine out for a meal; you know, the usual mundane parts of life...it is only after around the 6-month mark most people begin to notice the world around them once again and let go of the new persona they adopted when they first got here.

In Cuenca Ecuador we are personal and up close to this; we see how enchanted newcomers can get and some of them have been here longer than one year.
 

1.  Socializing with our Next Door Neighbors - Because we’re new to an area, we think we want to go spend our days socializing with our next door neighbors. 

For instance, when we first moved here, our Ecuadorian next door neighbors would often invite us over for events they were hosting; they were very friendly and kind and really curious about us. At the same time we were also curious about the local culture and customs. For the first three months of living here, we got to know them and they got to know us. Early on we realized that these particular Ecuadorian neighbors liked to drink too much and they pushed the drinks, and so we had to stop going there. 

We’re still friendly with each other in passing-by but with our different values and lifestyles, we could never be very good friends with them and we certainly would not want to go “plant ourselves on their front porch” as they probably think we’re boring people for not enjoying a drink with them.
 

If we do not know someone very well we believe, or perhaps we “hope” we can be really good friends, especially when we’re the foreigner in a new city.  Newcomers want to feel as if they “belong” to the community. But many times, once we get to know someone on a more personal level we realize that we have absolutely nothing in common.  No matter where in the world we choose to live, we still must choose our friends wisely.
 

As foreigners, our only responsibility to the local population is to be respectful, and not “overly friendly” or “overly anything else”.
 

2. We Behave TOO Trusting.  For some reason our "new persona" tells us that we can trust all the people in the new land we retired in because we're the foreigner.  Here’s several ways we might behave too trusting.

A. We allow anyone into our home.  Of course we understand things need repaired and Internet installed, however when service techs and repairmen come into your home, it is a good idea to move out of eye view anything of value, if possible. Out of sight out of mind does work; its amazing.
 

As far as allowing strangers into our home, we have to be discerning.  What would you do if you were back home and a stranger rang your doorbell? The rule for us is: if we don’t know you, we aren’t going to let you into our home, or open the gate!
 

B. We hire anyone off the street, without references or credentials? In N. America this trusting behavior is unheard of. But abroad it happens all the time?
 

C. We sign contracts and agreements we do not understand and in languages we cannot read. This is a common occurrence in foreign lands.
 

D. We believe everything we are told.  When we first moved here, we believed what many of the people said, only to find out that some of them we’re lying to us! For instance, we believed a real estate agent about a rental house with only a built-in stove top when she said, “Yes the owner will add a built-in oven to the rental home”.  We even asked her again to make sure this was going to get done. Well, wouldn’t you know it; the landlord didn’t want to add the oven, so we decided not to take the rental. When we asked for the deposit money back, she wouldn’t give it.  We asked her three times for the deposit money, but she would not budge.  She is one of the few real estate agents we quit bringing business to because of the unethical practices.

E. We get pick-pocketed - Part of our new persona is the fact that we are not aware of our surroundings like we should be because after all, we're enjoying the beauty of the new place we are in, or we are concentrating on something else that takes our attention from the thieves who are eying us out....and oops, there goes our cell, iphone, purse, etc, you name it. 

F. Some of us enter into business relationships without truly knowing the person.  Sometimes we can’t always know a person too well before entering into a business agreement, such as signing rental leases; in those cases you absolutely NEED to hire someone you can trust to help you, especially if you do not speak the language well.

These are all aspects of being too trusting and allowing naivety to control us because we’re outside of our "usual persona".

3.  We give overblown praise and flattery. One thing that is readily apparent is how some of us over-flatter or exaggerate our feelings with the locals.  It is way over-done. We see a lot of this on public forums, blogs and websites because the poster wants to be noted for being the perfect foreigner to the local population; and that’s fine as long as it is genuine.
 

I don’t know about you but in the states people do not act like that to anyone, unless of course they want something.  So it seems to us, when we see it going on here, it seems a bit contrary, inconsistent and usually way overdone.
 

All of the above scenarios happen daily in countries where unsuspecting foreigners reside.  Truly, most of us wouldn’t act like this if we were still living in N. America but the enchantment that believing we're in the "paradise"  of “name your city” makes us behave off our normal guard most of the time.
 

Back home we’re on guard; we check every single credential and reference before we hire someone or allow them into our home. But here in Cuenca the "paradise enchantment" has overtaken us for about 6-months to a year. Only when the spell wears off do we begin to tell others about some of the negative encounters we have had while living abroad. “Name your country”.
 

Disclaimer:  Most Ecuadorians can be trusted; but it does seem some of the ones that are dishonest, unethical, or not to be trusted are the ones that work with foreigners in some capacity.  We’re just saying to take heed and get to know someone well before allowing them into your private life. When you find one you can trust COMPLETELY, treat them well because you have found a gem that is worth keeping.


We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! We travel the Ecuador coast often and we recently spent five weeks adventuring off the beaten path Panama. Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!

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