10 Years of Blog Archive

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Not All Americans Are Rich, So what’s With the Gringo Inflation and CRIME? UPDATED 2016

It's time for another update. Nothing has changed with the premise of this article, which was first published on November 22, 2011. Everything we said in this article still stands true and is "spot on" as if we just wrote the article yesterday.   

There have been new (negative) events that have transpired in Ecuador according to the premise that we talk about in this article. Please take note, all new updates are in red text.

Not all Americans are rich. In fact this statement should read, “Most Americans are not rich”.  Sure, there are some very wealthy people who live in North America but the wealthy are not generally the ones moving to Ecuador or any Latin American country for that matter, unless they are moving here thinking they can become wealthy by taking advantage of all the media buzz surrounding Ecuador, particularly Cuenca.  

Many of the people wanting to move to Ecuador are folks who have a pension or social security income that they feel won’t give them what they need to live comfortable middle class lives where they are now.  If their money would allow them to retire on the standard of living and expectations of what they are used to, they would just stay in the city or state they were planted in North America. 

Have you ever wondered “why” a middle class North American would move to a country where their dollar is supposed to go further but yet still pay “the” over-inflated prices on rent, buying a home, food, and other purchases? It wouldn’t make much sense, uh? But this is exactly what’s happening when North Americans come here and rent a home, go shopping for food and clothing, and eventually when they buy a home.  Many of them are not wealthy people, some are, but most are not, but to the Ecuadorians they are wealthy.

The buzz around Cuenca is Ecuadorians think ALL Americans are rich that move to their country.  Is there any wonder why? So then when middle class Americans move here and they go about renting a house or condo, or when they want to purchase, say a vehicle, or a souvenir, or 12 bananas they are automatically beleaguered as rich gringo’s, and that’s before they let-on that they cannot speak a lick of Spanish. 

But why all the gringo inflation when not all Americans who come here are rich? It’s because even though they are not rich to North American standards, they are monetarily rich to Ecuadorian standards and if your money buys more, the gringo pays more just because they can. But this is nonsense; even the Ecuadorians think so as you will find out below.

They see the gringo walking towards them from afar and they have already made it up in their mind how much to inflate the price. Why? Because he/she knows you will pay it! It’s called gringo targeting and gouging.. 

The point is, if you think you’re going to come here and make your dollar go further, and then you’d better be prepared to walk away or do some wheeling and dealing.

The truth is about half of all Ecuadorians speak some English, enough to understand basic words and we’re saying this to say “you can bargain with most Ecuadorians by brushing up on your own Spanish before you come here and also knowing basic words, plus sign language works great too. You can bargain with them and let them know you are on a tight budget and tell them how much you are willing to spend. 

We’ve experienced gringo inflation several times ourselves, but we don’t buy into it. When we walk away or bargain, essentially we are telling them we aren’t going to allow you to inflate prices with us just because we look like a gringo. We are not rude, we just don’t buy into the inflated prices like so many of the newcomers have done and are doing and for good reason; it is not in our budget to do so!

If we all gave in to the inflated prices it will be just a matter of time that Cuenca will not be cheap anymore for retirees and those of us who are frugal; then what is International Living going to brag about? 

We just read on another blog that there are about a dozen or so new gringos every month moving to Cuenca and there are some Ecuadorians who are distressed over this rapid influx of gringos inflating real estate prices. 

Dr. Lee Dubs recently wrote an article titled “Cuenca’s Gringo Invasion”, which talks about the  increasing real estate prices being seen all over Ecuador.  What happens is when real estate escalates the Ecuadorians cannot afford to buy real estate in their own country and hostility emerges between the Gringos and the Ecuadorians. Dr. Dubs expressed in his article that these hostilities have been observed already beyond the Azuay province. 

Update 2016 - This sentiment from Lee Dubs is now being seen in certain gringo enclaves with "out of control" crimes against expats in Boquete Panama and now Vilcabamba, Ecuador!  

(Click to enlarge the text image I got off of the Ecuador expat group on Facebook.)

First understand that these gringo communities are not like the gringolandia as we know in Cuenca, where the gringos live in 24 hour, high rise security buildings; NO, these communities are a bunch of gringos living in houses in a subdivision.  

We've read from two different gringos (one from Panama and now another one from Ecuador) how they used all the security, such as dogs, electric fences and alarms and they still got broken into and robbed.  

What is now happening in the expat community in Vilcabamba Ecuador has been happening in Boquete for the past five years and other Panama expat enclaves; many call the crime "out of control" because the police don't really do anything or happen to be part of the crime ring. Residents are panicking and looking for solutions there too.   

We had to do a lot of searching to find out about the crime in Panama because they keep it hush, hush, but you can't stop people from talking about it on personal blogs and forums and more people need to do bring it out in the open, otherwise it keeps people in the dark and everyone deserves to know so they can make a more informed decision when moving abroad!!

It's uncanny how similar the two mountain towns are (Boquete and Vilcabamba), they both have sizable expat enclaves and they are both encountering many home invasions, some with violence.

Four years ago we had an Ecuadorian real estate agent tell us when gringos come in splashing their wealth around and living large under the locals noses, while they are barely scraping by, there's going to be "resentment".  (her words not ours). Then long-time expat in Cuenca Lee Dubs pronounced the same sentiment but called it "hostility".

We've been trying to tell people all along, since the beginning of our blog, live like the locals, blend in, be humble, don't act rich, and you will be LESS OF A TARGET! So you can imagine when a huge group of gringos seclude themselves what's going to happen.

Solution? The solution rests with us and our attitude. We don't see a problem with foreigners moving here if we humble ourselves and not move into gringo enclaves away from the local people....because we've seen it over and over and over again...that's when the real resentment and consistent home invasions begin.

We think the seclusion thing is worse than upping prices because that's about coming to their country, living large and pretending like the locals don't exist.  You may as well put a sign on your back that says, "I'm better than you", "I'm rich", "come rob me". 

We know you are probably just saying, "I want to live better than this", I want to have my middle to upper class standards", and "I hope I don't get robbed".  

But try and tell the punks, who have hostility and resentment within their being that's what you really mean when you move to their country and live in a enclave where they are not allowed into.  

If North Americans move to a country to "live away from the locals" then that country is NOT a good fit for them and maybe they should stay where they are planted, where it is a better fit for them.  

The article then goes on to talk about the gringo do-gooders who come here that overpay, over- tip and over-help, which disrupts the natural economic and cultural flow of Ecuador.  This also leads the Ecuadorians to think all gringos are filthy rich and really naive. This is because when you do these things you are not blending in but rather standing out as, well, a do-gooder” and a big gringo target for thieves. Remember what we say: when in Rome do as the Romans, well, when in Ecuador do/live as the Ecuadorians. We do!

The truth is Ecuadorians are (mostly) friendly people who really don’t mind that North Americans and Europeans move to their country and do their best at living like them and want to call Cuenca home. That means living in a house like their house or in a subdivision with EcuadoriansBut what they do mind is how gringos come here and isolate themselves in their own gringo hangouts and communities and up the real estate prices. 

Update 2016 - We don't think the resentment is just about upping the real estate prices either. It's the gringo isolation which says, "I'm better than you".   We hate to say it, but that is the reality of it. The crimes happen in gringo gulches all over in Latin American countries where large numbers of expats live and seclude themselves off from the locals.

Did you know that Vilcabamba, Ecuador is about 75% gringo now? My son spent the weekend there and he said the whole town square was full of mostly gringos and some Ecuadorians. 

A quote from Dr. Lee Dub’s article says, “If the example of gringo colonies in Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica are followed in Ecuador, there is trouble brewing. In fact, conflicts between gringos and locals already are occurring in some regions of this country.”

We don’t want this to happen to beautiful Cuenca and we don’t think you do either. The question that many Cuencanos may want to know is “why” are so many North Americans coming to Cuenca for? Is it to be a part of Cuenca and call Cuenca home and to integrate into the Cuenca community? Or will they come here and isolate themselves in their own little gringo communities like in Costa Rica and Panama? We already see this happening in Cuenca.  

Oh, and, let’s not forget all those gringos who have already moved here and have grabbed themselves a place in the real estate and tourist biz for their own financial gain. Believe me, they are here! 

Update 2016: the solution is to come here and live like them and do not seclude yourself from the local people. Your chances of NOT being robbed are higher when you live in an Ecuadorian neighborhood and you are friends with your neighbors and everyone watches out for each other. 

I know that high up on our priority list as expats abroad is to have peace of mind when we go to bed at night, without that our retirement is pretty much shot. 

Go local comfortably. No one says you have to live in squalor for goodness sakes. There are middle class Ecuadorians. You want to move to Ecuador than move to Ecuador, not little North America.

Until we write again. You might like these articles about how to stay personally safe when living abroad.

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. One of the best articles I have read about Gringo-gouging. Thank you for posting.

  2. ...yes thank you...I have been watching the same thing happening in Nicaragua...made me rethink committing permanently and planning a tour for the winter down your way..exploring other avenues

  3. There's no such thing as a low cost of living abroad if/when foreigners are arriving in the same place on a regular basis. You have to MAKE your costs low by integrating and living like a local.

  4. I try to avoid Gringo, Asian, and German like the plague. Any suggestiions on countries in S.America, where I can be relatively free of them?

  5. Well they wouldn't be very happy with me then. I'm an an introvert by nature therefore shut myself away from everybody. That includes other gringos. I'd have no problem living among the locals, but don't expect me to put on a smiley face and be Ms Social butterfly.


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