How do the locals feel about the gringos moving to Cuenca?
We have lived here going on seven weeks and everyone that we have met is very kind and helpful in our quest to live here. Ecuadorians are obliging people and will go out of their way to help you, if they can.
Fortunately Frank speaks enough Spanish to get by and also understands it, and we have not had any problems with meshing into the culture. We do not live gringo style, we live Ecuadorian style. We do not live in a gringo gated community we live in a nice and quiet neighborhood where only Ecuadorians live and we feel comfortable living where we do.
Update 2016 - We still live in the same neighborhood, same house, same rent as in 2011.
So how do the locals feel about this? To answer this question you have to put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they feel that the gringos don’t respect them or their country because they simply do not care to learn the language. Perhaps they feel that the gringos think they are too good to live in a house in an Ecuadorian neighborhood? This is all stipulation, mind you.
Update 2016 - We have observed that most gringos socialize only with each other but some gringos, usually the younger ones do make friendships with the Ecuadorian people and are trying to speak the language, and do speak the language. What does this do? Well, it shows respect and gratitude towards the country you moved to.
When more and more foreigners move here and continue to hang out only with each other it can cause feeling of resentment with the locals and makes it more difficult to build local friendships and understanding what this new country is all about, except through what bloggers write about and Ecuador news that is translated in English for the gringo population.
UPDATE: 2014- Gringos now live everywhere in Cuenca and even houses with no problems or fear.
Update 2016 - Although, we do recommended to have electric fencing around the perimeter of your home and a house alarm for when you leave your home, even if you're only going shopping for a few hours.
We have only been treated with kindness from the locals since living here. The only negative thing I have heard from the locals about the gringos moving here is some of them aren’t willing to learn Spanish.
Update 2016 - Sometimes we'll get into a taxi and the driver will ask us, "Why are all the foreigners moving here for?". We always say the same things, "They like the mild weather, healthcare, and it's cheaper than USA". Then they tell us about the higher rents and now since the meters they don't make as much money...we always let them know we rent for $250 a month. Yes, we're proud of that.
We’ve noticed the younger gringo generation is more apt to mesh in with the local culture than the older folks. This is just a perception that anyone will notice if they are aware of their surroundings. And this is probably because the younger generation is on a tighter budget than the ones who receive some kind of monthly pension. The younger people stay in the hostels managed and owned by Ecuadorians or they live in the downtown apartments owned by Ecuadorians, and they eat in the traditional Ecuadorian restaurants because they are much cheaper than the gringo restaurants. What this does is it allows for them to have to hear Spanish from the locals and have to learn Spanish to take care of their daily living needs, which makes them have to learn Spanish.
Update 2016 - The only real way to learn to speak Spanish is by getting out there and doing it...hands on. Taking Spanish lessons should only be a supplement to the hands on experience of day to day living in a Spanish speaking country.
So basically, if you come here and live in the gringo condos, only eat in the gringo restaurants, and have an English speaking gringo or bilingual help you get settled, you won’t have to know or learn Spanish, but this will keep you disconnected from the locals and the culture. So you see, learning the language is a win-win solution for everyone involved. They do have Spanish classes here at a reasonable price.
There is the business owners, real estate agents, tourist service operators, medical tourism doctors and dentists and returning Ecuadorians (gringos too) that love all the gringos moving to Ecuador. In fact, if it were up to them, they'd welcome all of North Americans to move to their city.
Then there is the Ecuadorian worker or small business owner, which is the majority and they are concerned about prices rising so fast that they will not be able to eke out a living in their own city. Gone is the $180 3 bedroom and $250 4 bedroom. Just get on OLX or other online portal to see that they are getting priced out of their own market. How does this happen? Mostly its the Ecuadorian real estate agents and home owners that work together to price their homes to the gringo market! Some call this "demand" however this demand is artificially created by very astute retire abroad marketers, etc.
UPDATE: June 2014 --- almost 3 years later and many, many more gringos moving to Cuenca, there is some local resentment towards the expats about the higher prices on rentals and goods and services going up. Some of them come here with an attitude and don't want to learn the language. We have witnessed this first hand on several occasions and through other expats that have told us about witnessing it themselves.
Update 2016 - almost five years later and resentment and animosity is showing in crimes against expats. Unfortunately for the gringos, the crime is happening mainly where many gringos flock together. We've touched on this just recently; you can read about it here.
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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!