Some travelers to Ecuador have serious issues with living here and many of them remain in shock with some of the customs of Ecuador. It has become more and more apparent that the folks that leave this – what some call -- earthly paradise are the ones who had towering expectations of what and how Cuenca was going to be for them. For some reason they believed Cuenca to be a certain way, but when they got here they became disappointed.
Could it be the “earthly paradise” label? After all, it’s just another place out of this great big world.
When all is said and done, money is not the thing that keeps people in Ecuador. What keeps expats in Ecuador for the long-term is they like it and feel ok living here, even with some of the third-world customs! They did not come here with blinders over their eyes, and high expectations, but knew before traveling here that they were entering a country VERY different from the US, Canada, or Europe.
Every time we read about another hidden Eden promoted by the retirement press it just makes us shake our heads in disbelief and think of all the gullible gringos that are falling for it. Falling for the paradise propaganda of another unknown / cheap city where there is nothing bad or negative to report about it.
On paper they fall head over heels for this new exotic city where you can rent and live on the cheap, but once they go there and begin to live they see that the reality is everything is not cheap and everything is not how is was packaged up in a magazine article or news headline, and they become disheartened, to say the least.
You’ll Have to Work to Fine the Cheap in Cuenca, Except for Produce
It’s not that what the magazines says is not true, but they don’t write about what is negative and they don’t say how to go about achieving what is true that they are talking about. It may be cheap to live in Ecuador, but what they don’t say is you’ll have to work for finding the cheap, otherwise you’ll end up paying North American prices for rents, groceries, real estate, furniture, stuff!
For two years before moving here we read about the hyped up weather in Cuenca. All the blogs and fancy magazines said the weather was perfect in Cuenca; I actually thought the weather was going to be great when we got here. Unfortunately I saw the weather for what it really is/was and got sorely disappointed.
We don’t like to complain… but how is keeping quiet helping anyone? This was the idea behind the 12 annoyances video about this earthly paradise of Cuenca. We think there are many earthly paradises right in your own back yard in the US! We even wrote about some of them. Here's one article on Hutchinson, Kansas; a great, little city for retirement, we think.
Some Annoyances You Learn to Adjust or Adapt
I admit that my expectations of perfect weather were too high. However, I have adjusted because this is what you do. First, you learn to adapt to that which disappoints you, which can take months, but slowly it becomes a reality and you learn to bear with it rather than complain about it. You can do it with just about any disappointment you may have.
I have said before many times on this blog: Cuenca does not have perfect spring-like weather, unless you’re coming from Alaska, Canada, or the North Pole! And that’s my two cents.
Can You Live on $1,500 a month in Cuenca?
Some new expats expect it to be cheaper living here than what they are spending now. But soon the reality sets in; Cuenca is only cheaper when you don’t bring your habits and North American standards with you. Rents can be as high as in the US depending on where you’re coming from. If you grocery shop at the most expensive grocery store in Cuenca it is not much cheaper than North America, and can be even higher. We know of one couple who are barely scraping by on $1,500 a month!
I think people read that it is possible to rent a fully furnished 2 bed, 2 bath apartment overlooking one of the four rivers for $400 and think they can come here and find these “furnished” rental deals are all over Cuenca! NOT so. It takes effort and knowledge, and that's what we provide our readers, and as our readers tell us, they're happy with the added value of the information.
In one of our videos one of our sons said it so well when I asked him how he liked Cuenca after living here 6-months. He said, “The only thing that is cheap here is food, everything else is more expensive than in the US”. He was disappointed because electronics are three times the price they are in North America. He has adjusted.
Ok. so the food (produce) is cheap, but when all is said and done, furniture, tools, clothes, electronics, appliances, and the food items we so much love, such as Jiff peanut butter, Pringles Potato Chips, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and extra virgin olive oil, ranch dressing, etc, etc, cost twice as much or more than in the US! Who’s kidding who?
Food Culture Shock in Cuenca!
Bottom line: If you continue to want North American brands your grocery bill will be higher in Cuenca than in New York or Texas! Most people coming here do not know this, but it is part of the Cuenca experience: Food culture shock!
At $3.29 a can for Pringles, $4 for a small jar of Jiff PB, and $1.15 for one small Hershey’s or Snickers candy bar you may want to stop eating your favorite snack food items. There are options, you can buy the local peanut butter (it’s different), the local potato chips (but watch out, don’t eat too many, they can make you sick BC they cook them in very rancid oil), and stop using Ranch Dressing on your salads. Yes, there are options and you can adapt if you want.
For some people switching favorite brands of food is a hardship and they will leave Cuenca, seriously. Their expectations were too high! They expected that since everyone keeps hyping up how cheap the food is here that ALL the food would be cheap. Any food item imported from North America add on two to three times to the cost.
There are many more things we could talk about where expats come here with too high of expectations or are not told the negatives about a place and just cannot take living in a different / strange country.
This is what happens when you're not told about the other side of the advertisement
Take the manana attitude for instance; they are told that everything takes more time here and they will have to wait to get business transactions done, and they are ok with that, but what they aren’t told is something will not get done the way they are used to doing it, or maybe not at all. There is a lot of bureaucracy here and it is absolutely not what you are used to as far as timeliness and efficiency.
Here is some of what you may endure if your expectations are too high, or you were not told about the other side of the advertisement about Cuenca. There is always another side and this is the side that is usually white washed by travel magazines and news articles. Just a friendly reminder.
Some new expats are scammed when they buy property because they do not take the time to do more research; some gringos are robbed because they are told it is safe to walk alone at night; some gringos still have their stuff stuck in customs because they numbered a few items in their container incorrectly; some expats had their pets detained in Miami for months because of the red-tape; some expats spend just as much on rent here and are barely eking out a living because they want and need to be in a security building; We could go on here, but you get the idea.
Ecuador May Not Make Your Life Better
If you expect that Cuenca Ecuador is going to somehow make your life better than what you have now then your expectations are too high. Cuenca Ecuador is not better than most cities of the same size in the US; Cuenca is different, not better.
Anyone can retire in the US by being more self sufficient in health, diet, and housing. Our point is if the reason you are moving to Cuenca Ecuador is because it is cheap than you will not like it here.
Do not misunderstand the purpose of this article: We’re not telling you NOT to come to Cuenca we’re just telling you what to expect! Be prepared in your heart and mind, and you’ll do fine and love it here. But if you expect too much from Cuenca or if you can’t see through the whitewash, you will be disappointed. That’s who leaves Ecuador!
As one of our readers told us she was happy to know about the “real” Cuenca from reading the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide and this blog before moving here. People do not want to be surprised...when expectations are too high, surprises will be right around the corner.
“Both your blog and DIY guide give a good picture of what life is like in Cuenca without all the hype and Gringo gouging. Thanks again for sharing your experiences with your readers so that we may benefit from them and gain knowledge before making the move. Sincerely, Sarah from CA".
To read about the “real” Cuenca with no whitewash, and to find out how to find a bargain on food and rents, and to make your life less stressful and easy when you move to Cuenca, see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.
With this guide book in your hands, you will come to Cuenca already knowing what to expect.