10 Years of Blog Archive

Saturday, March 05, 2016

How Do the Locals Feel about Gringos Moving to Cuenca Ecuador? UPDATE 2016

Four plus years ago and after only seven weeks of living in Cuenca we wrote this article about how Ecuadorians feel about having all of the gringos in their city. And we think it is time to dissect this subject a little bit. All new updates are in red text.

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.

What we’ve noticed since being here is that most gringos keep to their local hangouts while enjoying much more for the dollar (Ecuador uses the dollar here). But we are told that many of the gringos don’t speak Spanish and don’t care to learn it. This is one reason why gringos get an English speaking real estate agency to help them find a rental or condo to buy and they pay other gringos to help them go grocery shopping, open a mailing box, get their internet connected, and to open a bank account, and so on and so forth. And because they live in condos with other English speaking people, it makes it much more difficult to learn the local language.

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.

Update 2016 - And it's not just about not learning the language either; there are different economic types of Ecuadorians that have something to say about the foreigners moving to their city. In a nutshell, here's what's happening.

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.

Until we write again, you might like these articles 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. My husband and I are currently living ( 3 years ) in Costa Rica and have a business here . We do our business in Spanish and our employees are mostly Spanish speaking only. We are not fluent but get by quite well. We don't have any expat friends here only locals and younger. We aren't the Americans that drop 30 lbs as we don't have that to lose. We drink coconut out of cocunuts and love all the year round fresh produce. Our problem will be figuring out what business to have as unfortunately Ecuador seems to be a bit daunting in that respect from the info I have gathered. Enjoy your blog and appreciate all the info. Thanks.

  2. Great update and it's sad to hear that certain expats are not interested at all in learning the lanquage. To me it's an insult to the locals and creates a huge barrier between the locals in a negative sense.

  3. "The ugly American" is alive and well. Why, I don't know, but that reluctance to learn the language has been around for a very long time.
    I've experienced that in Italy, Switzerland, and Spain, countries where I have lived for several years. It used to be only the British who refused to integrate, now the Americans are in the lead, from the top down. Too bad.


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