We just read recently on two different forums how 85% of expats that move to either Costa Rica or Ecuador end up leaving and moving back to where they came from. We knew there was some of this going on but did not think it to be quite that many people that actually move back home. Not sure where they got their statistics either; someone replied to the post asking if the statistics were verifiable and they did not respond.
Update 2016 - At first glance it doesn't appear that many leave and go back home. Some estimates put it closer to 50%. And well, isn't that to be expected when there is so much hype about some of these "best retirement" places from the travel abroad hucksters?
Lately, two of the most popular travel abroad pioneers have started downplaying their sales spiel now with "you can retire on "so and so budget, if you go local" and "It's not all rosy and moving abroad is not for everyone". So funny...
Anyway, we do not take things being said off the cuff as very reliable so we’re not endorsing the 85% that end up moving back to where they came from. We do know that people, when they don't do their research and just come here, those are the ones who end up leaving.
Reasons Why People Move Back Home
The poster went on to explain that the novelty of a new place wears off thereby making you feel stuck in a third world country. The reasons given were having unreliable electricity, internet, water supply and the problem of being seen as an ATM machine (rich gringo), learning a new language and coping with corruption, and in that order.
Update 2016 - Stuck? That's bit harsh. How about "bewildered" that you fell for all the paradise stuff? Seriously, its not like it can't be paradise but it's really not up to someone else to decide that for you, is it? This fits in line with the belated culture shock article we wrote a few months back.
How Do the Reasons For Leaving Fit into Cuenca?
While all of these concerns may be something one must put up with when living in a third world country, unfortunately for those that buy into the hype, most of these concerns are well founded. Cuenca is a little bit more developed than some parts of Costa Rica and Coastal Ecuador, so it scores a little bit better, but still has some issues.
Let's touch down again on these issues four years later.
The electricity in Cuenca in the 11 months we have lived here, has only gone out one time that was noticeable, and it was only for a few hours! In Cuenca the showers, stoves and even refrigerators run on propane, so, where's the problem?
Update 2016 - It's odd because we're updating this article about the reliability of the electricity and it went out this morning; we decided to take a walk and by the time we got back 1.5 hours later, the electricity was back on. No big deal...it really is not a problem.
The water supply in Cuenca is excellent; we have been drinking the tap water for 11 months and feel great. Cuenca’s water system has been named the cleanest in South America for three consecutive years in a row. So to sum up electricity and water, both are good to excellent in Cuenca.
Update 2016 - In 2014 we started using the Berkey filter system to filter out chlorine, heavy metals and we thought at the time, fluoride in the water. We since have learned that Cuenca does NOT add artificial fluoride to the water system because they put it in the salt instead.
The water does get cut off on an average of a few hours every two to three months, however, that’s an average. On one of those occasions, the water was cut off from morning until the next morning! Apparently, this was not to the entire city however, because of some construction going on in a particular neighborhood.
Update 2016: The water goes out often on the west side lately because of the light rail work but this will no longer apply once it gets finished.
Hey, there's a Rich Gringo!
It’s true, a lot of Ecuadorians think that North Americans are rich and this has led the bad apples to target ALL the supposedly rich gringos.
Our long-time readers know that we do not live any different than the Ecuadorians! If someone is monetarily well off or if someone feels a need to flaunt what they have, why come to a developing country? Is it wise to play rich man in the middle of those at a lower monetary level? You will be targeted and you will get robbed.
Update 2016 - Foreigners themselves contribute to the "rich gringo labels".
The bottom line is we wouldn’t leave Ecuador because of this, we’re just going to live our lives and let them see through how we live that we are not targetable as being rich. It’s not a reason to leave the country; it’s a reason to teach/show them that they are in error in their assumption.
Yes, you do need to learn basics of the language if you want to be able to live here without being always a target or a tourist. Lots of times we’ll walk into a place and we start speaking Spanish and it surprises them; it’s like, “Oh, ok they live here, or they respect this country enough to learn the language”. The locals will respect you more if you show them that at least you are trying to learn Spanish; and you will get a better deal on everything!
Amazingly, there are North Americans here that think the Ecuadorians need to learn English for them! Uh!! This is a bit backwards, don’t ya think?
Internet: Out of all the reasons listed above of why expats leave Costa Rica and or Ecuador unreliable Internet is the only real concern for us, and we’re sure it is too for those people who depend on the Internet.
We’ve gotten used to the slower and unreliable Internet service and it really is not as much of a frustration anymore. When we first moved here after having excellent, fast, connection in North America it was a shock to have slow Internet that cut out three or four times during the day, but we have learned to adjust to this aspect of life in Cuenca Ecuador...and it is getting better, especially the customer service aspect of it.
Update 2016 - Both Etapa and Punto Net have Fiber-optics residential now in some neighborhoods so anyone can have fast Internet. See below for the prices from Punto Net leaflet.
Has the Novelty of Cuenca Worn Off?
Any where you go that is new to you will be exciting and fun at first, and if you move to a new land expecting North America but cheaper, without really doing any research, you will end up feeling ….adjusted…hehe…some people make the transition while others do not, and that's ok. No one is saying anything about those people that end up leaving because you know what, it really doesn't matter. Everyone's life is different and at least you got to experience the experience!
Update 2016 - Sure, the newness is not new anymore and we're used to how things are done here and so in that respect the novelty has worn off for us but we make our own novelty in our lives by how we live each day...we're in control of that. Cuenca is actually better now than when we first moved here because it feels like home and it is our home rather than a vacation.
Until we write again, you might like these related articles about Living in Cuenca Ecuador.
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!