10 Years of Blog Archive

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Moving to Cuenca Ecuador? Adjusting to the Culture and Environment (1 of 2)

Are you moving to Cuenca Ecuador? We have read about, and know people personally who for one reason or another had to leave Cuenca, whether it was due to health reasons or an inability to overcome the culture shock of being in a Latin American country, they could not make Cuenca their home. A small percentage of folks leave South America all together while others move to different parts of the continent.

When You First Arrive – Adjusting to the Elevation

The altitude can affect some people a bit more negatively health-wise and especially if they already have health issues such as high blood pressure, and heart or lung conditions that are a preexisting health problem. We know of two people personally, who had strokes after the first week of moving here, one of them smoked.

Living in a high altitude works your body harder, especially the arterial vein system. This is why most folks find themselves short of breath, headachy, and even a bit nauseated for the first few weeks of being here. But for most people the symptoms go away as the body adjusts to the changes in altitude, which most people do just fine.

Frank and I meet new expats to Cuenca all the time and we ask them how they are adjusting to the altitude. The answers are quite consistent. Healthier people tend to have milder symptoms, while those with preexisting health issues experience more severe symptoms that last longer as their body tries to adjust and acclimate to the environment. Most people, even with preexisting health issues adjust fine even though they will experience harsher and perhaps longer symptoms.

We know of one lady personally who had nausea and vomiting for the first three days of being here. She is fine now.  We also know of one couple who had to leave Cuenca, because the wife had preexisting health issues and she was having trouble breathing, even after months of being here.

Cuenca and Quito are both considered high altitudes and certain people, a small percentage, may be taking a health risk to being at 8,200 feet of altitude. If you feel you may be at a risk and if you have any preexisting conditions, it is important to talk with your health care practitioner before visiting a high altitude area.

Here are some ways to stay healthy and curb some of the symptoms if you experience high altitude symptoms.

Making Your Move Less Stressful

We all know that just moving across town can be stressful, so then think about uprooting yourself from everything you have known for years, familiarity, family, and culture that you are so used to and moving to an area that is so drastically different! The reality is you will find some things challenging to say the least.

You will experience some amount of stress looking for a rental, bringing in your container, trying to figure where grocery stores are, furniture stores, etc.  Plus if you do not know the language it makes doing anything here a bit more difficult for anyone.

Many folks write in to tell us how the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide curbed much of the fear and took the edge off of moving to a third world country and they are very glad they have the Cuenca Guide for when they first arrive. This is what we were hoping for when we wrote the Guide and we are pleased to know it is helping so many people make the move less stressful and more enjoyable for them.

Getting Over the Shock of Latin America

Culture shock can be either a negative thing or a positive thing. Very few people experience negative culture shock. Negative culture shock is when you arrive in a totally different environment than you are used to and you view everything around you in a negative light. This causes distress and fear within a person, leading them to want to leave the place they feel fearful about.

We met one guy who felt fearful leaving the hotel because of all the armed guards with sawed-off shotguns and houses with tall gates around them. Most people who come here to live will get used to this, but some people will never get used to it. It’s a fact of reality - no two people are the same. Everyone views things differently.

We also know of one guy who left Ecuador because he couldn’t get his brand of peanut butter that he knew and loved-this is a true! You will find there are many things that you cannot get here, or, at the very least are very difficult to find, and or, are VERY expensive. This is the problem with “retiring abroad” and all the hype that goes with it.

The first few months may seem like you are in a whirlwind trying to get settled into your new life. For many folks the differences are taken with a grain of salt because you’re still on your honeymoon. It is OK that everyone is sort of laid back and your paperwork is taking forever to get organized and processed. It is OK that you can’t find some of your favorite foods you love so much. It is OK, that some areas of the city are a little dirty, smelly, or well, not what you are so used to. Everything is OK.

After about a year, changes begin to take place, culture shock wears off and you realize this is home. Or, some folks realize this is not home. What then? After the honeymoon, some people don’t like it here…No matter how much research one does, and no matter how someone else feels about a city called paradise, it does not mean that everyone is going to adjust to long-term life in Ecuador. And that is just a fact of life.

Some expats, especially the ladies, begin to get homesick and miss their children and especially grandchildren tremendously.  All the euphoria of living in this new paradise begins to ebb and they begin to see things differently and many go back to where they moved from. Missing family is the number one reason expats go back.

Stay tuned for part two of this article where we discuss some of the adjustments we made since living here, and ways to stay happy and healthy AFTER you move to Cuenca Ecuador.


  1. I purchased your Cuenca Landing Guide and have read about 1/2 way through. You have done a wonderful and thorough job of organization and presentation. I find your publication to be an excellent value.

    The same compliments go to your many Videos. They are extremely informative and lend confidence.

  2. This 'the ladies, begin to get homesick and miss their children and especially grandchildren tremendously' is my current hold back factor. I'm talking (selling) it to the wife as a 3 month hiatus (Jan-Feb-Mar) after the holidays and during the winter here in the Midwest. We are currently in a snowy cold blizzard season not experienced since 1983 or so. My other concern is the amount of sunshine and warmth. I've noticed in several of the videos, jackets, stocking caps and the lack of central heat. I do not require constant tropical temps but would hate to relocate to a dreary cold damp climate. Comments?

  3. Did you see the "12 annoying things about Cuenca Ecuador" video? Punch that title in to the youtube.


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