July 07, 2017

7 Things You Can Count On When Visiting or Moving to Cuenca Ecuador

Whether you are vacationing or moving to Cuenca Ecuador permanently, you can always count on certain things to come about during your time here. This is the stuff not usually addressed but things you really would want to know for a safer more comfortable stay.

1.     You can count on something in your newfound adventure in Ecuador to not go the way someone said it would.

This will happen again and again.  Why?  Well it happened to us too like this.  Before moving to Cuenca Ecuador we asked a couple of resident expats some questions.  The answers we received seemed satisfactory at that time, until we actually moved here and saw with our own understanding that we did not get complete information. It was someone else’s experience.  


2.     Surprised about how different everything is.

We can read about all of the cultural difference of a country until we’re blue in the face but it does not become a reality for us until we experience it firsthand. Culture shock does not have to be bad thing when we think about why things are done differently.

Example: At first glance when we see the tall walls with spikes or glass shards and electrical wire around the homes, we think there must be “a lot of crime” but in reality that is not the case at all. Without the protection of a tall wall and electric wire, that home would be the one invaded first, while the ones with the protection have virtually no crime.  It’s sort of an oxymoron but it is just how it is. 

3.     Gringo gouging and targeting

No gringo will be singled out from being told a higher price; it’s just part of the game. Newcomers may not even know they’re being asked a higher price and they just pay. This is exactly how a small persentage of a population can raise prices; that small percentage of gringos stand out like a sore thumb.

It’s amusing when a vendor tries to gouge us and we quote a lower price; for example, a vendor isn’t expecting to be haggled with and they shrink back with slight hesitation and then smile and start playing the negotiation game. But inside their head their thinking, “oh someone whose lived here a while and knows the prices”.

It has become increasingly apparent to us that more and more local sellers of goods, services and rentals do not like to negotiate prices with gringos, especially in the touristy areas. This is a phenomenon that happens because only a small portion of gringos are willing to haggle for the REAL price, everyone else pays right up.  We walk away until we find one that will work with us.

4.     Dashing rather than walking

One of the potentially perilous challenges of foreign living in most places is that pedestrians need to be careful walking across streets. We’ve never read the drivers manual for Ecuador but we’re thinking that it should say that pedestrians have right of way at crosswalks. Not so however,  be prepared to dash for the other side and especially if there is a lot of traffic, even at crosswalks.  Most drivers do not stop at stop signs either, so before you start walking across that street make sure no car is barreling around the corner first.

5.     Altitude breathlessness

For most people breathlessness and maybe a headache can be expected for the short term until you get used to the thinner air.  You might initially think you will not feel as thirsty in Cuenca’s mild weather but due to the altitude you will need more water, so drink plenty of water so you don’t dehydrate which can make headaches worse.  Longer term effects of living at high altitude can be found in this study.

6.     Barking dogs, crowing roosters, mooing cows

Most neighborhoods in Ecuador have dogs that bark throughout the night. This can be a good thing if the dogs are protecting the neighborhood but a bad thing if they’re just stray dogs barking at each other. In Cuenca we had both barking dogs and mooing cows in the morning. The mooing didn’t bother us too much and we eventually got used to the dogs barking. Some expats have reported crowing roosters in the wee hours of the morning.  Btw, there is no Cuenca neighborhood that is immune to barking dogs.in most cases.

The real issue on this is that most of Ecuador’s towns are designed as you would see a high density area, with real estate crammed together into small spaces.  Some neighborhoods in Cuenca have passed laws that require neighbors to report each other for noise violations.  However when it comes to dogs, many people actually need them for security.  We did.  Therefore, these laws do not appear to be the panacea that they might have originally seemed.

On the contrary, it is turning Cuenca Ecuador into a mini u.s.a. with its myriad of laws and over regulation of people.  Not exactly the lazzesfaire paradise you were led to believe.

7.     Expectations not materializing

This is a biggy because of our dear Retire Abroad Magazine writers (RAM) that love to raise people’s expectations and a recent phenomena, the pumping bloggers do it too.

The more we expect something to be a certain way, the more we become disappointed when it doesn’t pan out. We believe that this is one of the main reasons, people come here and then leave a year or two later. We could say they never should have bothered coming however, we believe that if they left with good-will then it's good they tested the waters and had the experience and perhaps just because of that it's quite okay they came and lived for awhile in Cuenca Ecuador.

These are just some of the things you can count on when you get here. There’s more but we’re not counting. All we're doing is balancing out all the glowing reports that omit the things that people ought to know before they come here. Like saying Cuenca Ecuador is a "magical" place. Its fine to ‘be positive’ and see the glass ‘half full’ and all that, but there is a point where, well, you’re hyping it.

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