September 15, 2015

Do Foreigners Respect Cultures Abroad or Try to Change Them?

Generally speaking, most people who move abroad seem to be respectful and kind to the local people and customs. There is always going to be that few people who are unhappy inside and reflect their unhappiness onto others. 

However, when we read about expats to countries like Mexico and Costa Rica we see a pattern of negativity coming from the local community concerning the expats; the complaints are about shooting up prices, living in gringo enclaves, not caring to learn the language, and simply not being nice foreign resident.  Let’s take a look.  

Gringo's visiting Cuenca
Let’s look at what “respect” means when it comes down to folks expatriating to another country. Does it mean to get down on your knees and beg for a welcome? Not exactly.

1.  Respect means wanting to learn the language (doesn’t necessarily mean they will) in the new country you are living in.
 

2.  It means living in local neighborhoods, not just gringo enclaves.
 

3.  It means blending in rather than standing out in a flashy way into the community (don’t act rich).
 

4.  Respect actually means negotiating and bargaining in Latin American countries.
 

5.  Polite expats do not behave as if they are better (snobbish and rude, etc) than the local people.
 

6. Respect means to eat in the local establishments, not just the gringo managed ones.
 

7. Courteous expats will be tolerant of differences. (It doesn’t mean acceptance)
 

8.  Polite gringos would never TRY and change the culture because of something they don’t like.

IN the four-plus years we’ve lived in Ecuador, here is what we have noticed.

  • Overall, most expats to Ecuador attempt to blend in economically – this is a good thing.  Prices quickly jump to u.s. levels when people aren’t paying attention.  That would be fine in the u.s. but you’re not in the u.s. anymore.
  • Some expats don’t/won't negotiate because they can’t speak the language and so it’s easier to shop in the grocery stores.
  • Almost all expats want to learn the language. Most do not learn the language very well because it’s not as easy as they thought it would be.

Most of the Residents We Know Blend In. 

You can usually tell the difference between a resident of Cuenca Ecuador and a visitor. The visitor seems to be looking all over up and down and around, like they are lost; they are still wearing flashy jewelry and some of them wearing clothing that does not blend in, like shorts.
  • Most expats will patronize both the gringo restaurants and the local eateries.  Sometimes we need to get our American fix, like pizza, steak or a burger, and even vegetables! lol.
  • Some of the Gringos Complain a lot about the Culture.  I’ve learned that the best way to live is to live and let live. Complaining about things we do not like and have no power to change is detrimental to our emotional well being. Tolerance goes a long way when you move abroad.
If you do the research (we already did some of that), many expats in other desirable retirement locations are complaining about the high cost of rents and real estate prices being higher than in Florida and Nevada.  A lot more is going on than meets the eye in some of Mexico’s gringo enclaves as well.  There are expats complaining about being ripped off by everyone, including government.
Source: International Retirement 


Is that surprising?  Not when most expats allow the majority to walk all over them by over-paying for everything, after awhile, if they allow it, most of the gringos are going to be taken advantage of.  Something we have observed first hand here in Ecuador is expats are simply too trusting; that is surprising to us since in the u.s no one trusts anyone.

 What Does Getting Gringoed Mean?

 Let's talk about something else that isn't talked about. There are more ways that gringo's get gringoed in Latin America than just monetarily--it's not just about price gouging. Getting gringoed can happen in many different ways. It can happen through our business relationships with the locals and it can happen by something happening to our home or personal safety when living in a foreign land. 

So the point we're trying to make here is, sure we have to be respectful and even tolerant but not too nice that we get walked on in the different ways described above.  We know that any acts of kindness mixed with trust can be turned against you if you involve yourself with the wrong group of people or individuals...and that goes with anywhere in the world. 

Most Gringo's Don't Want to Live in Gringo Land

In general, expats to Ecuador do NOT want to live in what is known as gringolandia.  – Four out of five expats to Cuenca, that we talk with personally, want to live in an Ecuadorian neighborhood. They say, “No gringoland”.  Today in Cuenca there’s gringos living in all four corners. Gringos prefer apartment living rather than a house. For obvious reasons, it’s safer, less home invasions in apartment buildings.

Expats to Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama absolutely want to live in gringo enclaves and they do. That’s what makes Cuenca different, in a good way. Talk about segregation? It’s in your face in many retirement cities abroad. This is a hot-button issue for the local people because it purports “in your face” disrespect and the feeling of thinking you’re too good to live in their neighborhoods.  Oddly enough, then expats wonder why there is resentment/racism/hostility/thievery and sometimes violent behavior from the local people.  There are a lot of home invasions going on in gringo-lands across Mexico and Costa Rica and Ecuador, for that matter. Check this out on Google. We can’t do all the work for you. (wink-smile)

Cuenca, Ecuador - Turi View
In Cuenca there is an area of high rise apartment buildings rightly coined “gringolandia” by the locals because starting as far back as 2009 all the gringos wanted to live there; they were afraid to live anywhere else.  We hate to tip our hat but ever since we moved into an Ecuadorian neighborhood about 15 minutes from the center of town, and wrote about it, and explained that it can be safe, more and more expats are getting the idea and now all of Cuenca is pretty much gringoized; and that’s a good thing, it’s respectful. It shows we believe ourselves to be their comrade rather than their superior.

So from the looks of it, from what all that we have read online, it seems that the Cuenca expats are just a bit more respectful of this new land called “Ecuador” than those expats that have moved to Mexico, Costa Rica, or Panama. 


Until we write again…

If you liked this article, we know you’ll love these too! 

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 comment:

  1. I hope I don't offend anyone but I have to say it. What most offends me from people moving to my country is trying to change our peoples religion which is a very strong part of our culture and has separated some families I know. Thank God not many we are predominantly Catholic but it really bothers me to no end. These people need to go to non Christian countries. Just my cent and a half. :D

    Remember a saying commonly used in the USA, Like it or leave it? Seems to only count in the USA it seems huh. :)

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