10 Years of Blog Archive

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why We Should Stop Comparing North America with South America

The biggest mistake foreigners make when moving to a new country is making comparisons.  We should not bring our first world ideals and standards to a third world country. However, many of us do just that by our approach to things and our mannerisms. 

Real life examples in a moment.

We have all said and done things that have made the locals feel a bit resentful. We don’t realize we’re doing it, but when we say how cheap things are, or when we smirk and giggle at some of the prices for things, we are essentially saying, “I can afford this and live better than you (the locals) because my money will go further in your country."

Cheap is Subjective

Why would it spur resentment? Well, for one thing the same things we think are cheap ARE NOT cheap to the locals. We still have to remind ourselves of this. But many tourists and newcomers to Cuenca play the comparison game in front of the locals and it causes offense and the consequences are higher prices to the gringos on every thing!

There are a hundred reasons why we should work at blending in wherever we live and not make the local people envious and jealous of our lifestyle. The minute we decide to make Ecuador our home is the minute we need to begin to accept and or tolerate everything about the city we live in as a part of our new lifestyle. 

Third World vs. First World

I know, I know this can be difficult, especially if you are new here and see things that are offensive, different, or not how you would do them back home. But we have to get over the differences.  I still see local adult men peeing in public, men pooping in the river, electronics are still over-priced, Internet is still not that great, and the weather is still perfectly cold and damp to me, spring-like all year long, but we’ve gotten over all that and have adapted to the differences…and we hope that if you plan on living here full time that you will also adapt.

Be Careful with Your Emotions about Prices

Comparing prices is not all what it’s cracked up to be. When we first moved here one of our sons smirked and gasped at the price of a sweet pastry in one of the bakeries, and for good reason, this homemade pastry was big, it was chocolaty, with something creamy in the middle and it was very eye appealing and when we asked the price she said it was only $0.13 cents!  

Well, wouldn’t you know it, a few days later we went back to that same bakery and they inflated the price to $0.25 cents…all because of a smirk and a giggle amongst ourselves. The girls working behind the counter probably decided at that moment to double the price on the gringos and continue to charge the locals $0.13 cents. 

Now when we are confronted with a price that seems to us outrageously low we just accept it, after all we live here as the locals do and that is when you would hope to see the end to gringo price gouging.  However, everything is going up because of the huge amount of foreigners visiting and moving to Cuenca.

What a Cuenca Rental is REALLY Worth

Now in the above experience we were just talking small change, but it is the same way when people rent the homes that are knocked out of the local ball-park range when they should be rented at the local price range! 

Case in point: we have been working with a local landlord to keep the price of her furnished rental at $400 a month tops as she had been talking about higher and higher rental amounts, and we had initially started out at $350 when we first met her. 

She called me one day and told me she wanted $450 for the rental from then on.  We decided we would no longer call her.  (this is part of the negotiation and keeping rentals priced right) After about six months that she did not hear from us, she called to check in.  I told her I didn’t have anyone interested at $450.  She agreed to lower the rent back to $400, telling me however that one of her tenants was in fact paying the $450.

When I brought her the rent, she made a point of explaining that the Canadian living in her other rental that was paying $450 had gone around to look at other rentals, and had told her that he liked her rental best for appearance and price wise. 

You see, that just reinforced in her mind that she can raise the rent to $450 and by sharing this real life example with me, she was saying that I should put it out at $450.  And this just because one expat decided $450 was ok to him and bragged about it to the landlord.  

This is how we unknowingly cause higher prices by our attitudes.  We are no longer shopping at WalMart or Publix or Albertsons.  We need to remember how our actions come back to us and everyone else for that matter.

Now, we understand that most new-comers to Cuenca don’t know exactly what the price of a rental should be but they shouldn’t rent a place just because it is less than what they were paying for rent in the states. Instead, they should learn to negotiate, and investigate further.  The DIY Cuenca Landing Guide goes into more detail on this.

We’ve been working the local rental markets since we’ve lived here and we know what a house, apartment, or condo should REALLY rent for, and we pass that information onto you so that we can all make an effort to keep prices fair for everyone.  But we can’t do it alone!

Remember, there’s always someone richer than you that will think a rent price much higher than what you’re paying, is ‘cheap’. Bottom line is we should remember to never compare North America with South America in any fashion about any matter because there is NO COMPARISON. In fact we do everyone, including ourselves a BIG disservice when we compare.


  1. Frank and Angie,

    Right on target with this article...
    Why live in a 3rd world country and pay 1st
    world prices?? Makes no sense
    Newbies should take a clue from you on this..hope so....


    1. Exactly! The conflict as we see it is defining "1st world prices" What is a 1st world price:
      $2800 rent in Los Angeles
      $2000 rent in Atlanta
      $800 rent in Tennessee
      or $450 rent in Kansas?

      That is why we need to focus on the "local price".

  2. Very well stated! Thank you, Frank & Angie for reminding all of us to just be where you are! It's really nothing more than kindness to everyone, locals and expats alike. We must remember that every country and every culture is different, every culture has as much value as any other. Let's please just be gracious to one another.

  3. Many people have this little dream where "money is no object." Do you think those people are just coming down there and role-playing it for a while? I can't imagine any of them (unless they truly are super rich) committing to role-play like that indefinitely. At some point, the reality of money worries will set back in as usual, and they will bargain-shop once again.

    An economy cannot build on that without a constant source of new people wanting to play a new "rich kid" game. Maybe Cuenca is heading into a bubble based on this issue, if it is really that prevalent. From what little I saw, it appeared to me that Dubai has/had that same issue. A bubble full of rich people wanting to play like they were kings.


HMFamilyLife and Discover Cuenca Ecuador Comment Policy
We welcome applicable and respectful comments. Off-topic comments may be removed.