10 Years of Blog Archive

Monday, January 04, 2016

Moving Abroad (Ecuador) ONLY Because It’s Cheap? UPDATED

This is part 1.

Update: 2016: When we first wrote this article we'd only been living in Ecuador for 5 months...wow that's almost just a long vacation. Read on to find out any changes and updates in Cuenca in the last 4.5 years.  

We’ve written on this subject before, but we have to say it again because we think it is important. Are you prepared for a move to South America? 

This blog post is not going to be talking just about moving to Cuenca but South America  and Latin America in general.  Why? Because all Latin America culture is going to be pretty much the same way of life, such as how they do things, how they live, how they prevent crime and how they will behave toward the foreigner. 

Manana Land is Latin America 

Any Latin American culture is going to be manana land.  Being here for five months now, we’re getting used to this “way of life” and really try and go with the flow of things—we put it behind us rather than complain about it. It can be a little frustrating when you’re waiting for paper work to get processed but it’s not about your paperwork but about when they get around to processing it.

You can’t get angry about it because it’s not in your control to control—you’re in their country now and that means getting used to the way they do things. If this kind of laid back lifestyle annoys you then no Latin America country is going to be compatible with your personality. If you don’t want to put up with manana land, probably the best countries to live are North America or Europe but there goes your great cost of living. 

UPDATE 2016 - We've lived in Cuenca going on five years and have actually adapted to life here. We've written our fair share about, processing paperwork, getting a document notarized and trying to find certain items for a project because at the time it was worth writing about so we could let folks know how things are done here...but it's starting to just seem normal now...and that is because we now know what to expect. And that is the key to adapting; do not expect anything and then you won't be disappointed. 

Motto: Do not expect things to be a certain way and accept things the way they are.


When waiting to get your Internet connected, you may wait up to two to four weeks. They may say that they’ll be out on a certain day, but never show up, or never call to say they can’t make it. HINT: Although if you know someone here who can go down to the Internet Company with you it may get them to get on the ball and connect your Internet sooner.

UPDATE 2016 - about Internet Service: the service is much, much better now; they even come out within a few days vs. sometimes not at all. 


If you’re waiting to have anything delivered like furniture or appliances, you may not get it delivered on your time schedule. If you’re having furniture custom built, here again, you may wait for weeks or months for them to finish your furniture. These things are all just a part of the Latin American way of life. No worries though, manana does come, even if it’s later than sooner. 

Update 2016 - we have found that if we call them and keep reminding them about it they will respond quicker. 

Wild Goose Chase

This has happened to us on several occasions. When we have asked for directions to something we are looking for, even if they don’t know where it is, they will act like they know where it is and give you directions somewhere, but not to where you are going. This can be exhausting if you’re walking on foot, which both times we were walking downtown and led to not the place we were actually looking for. But at least it is good for your health. Be prepared to be taken on a wild goose chase at least once while living here.

Update 2016 - this has not changed 2016 (LOL)

Taxi cab drivers usually know where most hotels, hostels, major stores restaurants, and government offices are, but some don’t. Just the other day an expat friend of ours told us that  when she was taking a taxi, the driver all of a sudden stopped the cab and told her to get out of the cab. She thought it was really strange and later she was told that when the taxi driver does not know where a certain place or address is, he’ll just tell you to get out of the cab, rather than admit he doesn’t know where the address is. 

Crime Prevention in Latin America

The other day while we were out shopping, we briefly met up with some retired gringos visiting Cuenca. We talked with him and his wife for a brief period of time and they seemed like nice people, until we asked him how they liked Cuenca. He adamantly shot back with “I hate it!”

We were mildly shocked at such a response. Usually when you ask someone how they like it here they might have a few complaints or they absolutely love it here. But in this case it was an adamant, “I hate it”!

We asked him why he hates it here and he said “the security”. At first we all just looked at him with blank stares, not really understanding what he meant. And then he blurted it all out. He said he hated the tall walls around the homes and the tall locked gates, and the security guards all over town with sawed off machine guns, and broken glass for some of the roofs, and always having to be on guard to protect your things, and lada, lada, lada. At the end of his rant about how he hates the feeling of having to always be fearful living here, we noticed he was pretty agitated.

We cordially said our goodbye’s and went back to our shopping. After listening to this man’s frustrations we realized that he and his wife did NOT do their homework. It was a good thing they were just here on a 3-month visit (typical tourist visa) because he clearly was not a happy camper. 

This type of visitor or mover to Ecuador, who does not do their homework is probably quite typical. What the problem is they simply read a few articles from a popular travel magazine about how “wonderful” moving to a certain hyped up city abroad is and they jump on the band wagon and come here with blinders on. Basically this retired couple was going through the process of culture shock because they didn’t know what to expect when coming here—they weren’t prepared!

Anyone who does their due diligent research will know that any Latin American culture is going to be like this as far as crime prevention goes, whether it's Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, or Costa Rica. They all have bars, gates, tall walls surrounding your home, broken glass roofs, and security guards with scary looking loaded weapons, at least in certain neighborhoods. 

Update 2016 - we hardly ever see the sawed off shot guns anymore; it's now regular rifles and pistol.  I think they were just too intimidating for some tourists and they are doing away with them. And most of the tourist police only carry batons and maybe tasers.

Funny thing is there is more violent crime in many smaller cities in the states than there is violent crime in Cuenca! You have to be aware and security conscious anywhere you live, just about. Here you do have to worry about petty theft; there you have to worry about petty theft and violent crime. Not to say that violent crime does not happen here, because it does, it just means there is less of it.

Crime prevention techniques seem and look dramatic here because it is dramatic, but it is what works for Latin America. For an example, the house on the street that does not have a tall gate, tall walls, and a whole house alarm system will get broken into while you are away and your valuables will get taken. This is because that house is a target—it’s the most vulnerable house on the block!

Update 2016 - this still holds true today. Cuenca will never do away with tall cement walls and gated bars around the homes, at least not in this generation. It's just the way it is and we must accept it for what it is.

No, you won’t see guards with sawed off shotguns in North America, and no, there are no bars on the windows or tall walls surrounding homes, or cut-glassed roofs in North America but this does not mean that an armed robber will not break into your home while you are sleeping and rob you blind, or if you’re a woman alone, rape and beat you. This kind of violent crime happens in the states everywhere. Both rape and armed robbery is almost nonexistent in Cuenca.

The point is, if you don’t like dramatic security prevention, or if it makes you “feel” more fearful, then perhaps Latin America is not for you.  You may be better off finding a nice small secluded town in Kansas somewhere where you won’t have to worry about personal security, maybe a sleepy little town like Hutchinson, Kansas.

Do Your Research

It’s funny how people watch a few retire abroad videos and read a few articles from the retirement press that hype up Ecuador and then think that Cuenca or some other city in Ecuador is “thee place” to live. It may very well be “thee place” to live for certain types of people, but are you that type of people? Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t.

Only you can figure out if you and your family are that type of people, and you do that by being diligent in how you decide on the best place to live is.  

The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out the best place to live is: understand that the best place to live will never be the best place to live if you are not a happy and content person to begin with.  

On the opposite end of that spectrum: if you are content person within yourself then you can pretty much bet that you’ll be happy living just about anywhere.

Update 2016 - when you first get here there will be mild shockers, whether you adapt or not remains to be seen but we think it starts with moving abroad for the right reasons and not for the wrong reasons. Wrong reasons for m0ving abroad might be because the new place you are moving to is cheap and you think you'll have a better life...maybe you will and maybe you won't.  But moving abroad because you heard it is cheap might not be a reason to keep you here. 

If you liked this article, you might like to read 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. I think you may mean sawed off shotgun instead of shot of shotgun. I really am enjoying your articles and videos, keep 'em coming.

  2. Thanks anonymous. It is "sawed off" shot gun. At the time of the writing I couldn't think of the word for those. LOL... but since then in other articles Frank has corrected me on that one.


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