10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How Safe is Your (Ecuador) Expat Retirement from Gringo Gouging and Inflation?

It doesn’t matter where you decide to live in South or Central America; prices will increase; they always do; gringos will be targeted and gouged.  Your retirement check will only go so far until (perhaps) you can’t make ends meet anymore, even in South America. You've heard of the expat's that had to leave Panama because it got too expensive for them, right?

So what can you do about gringo gouging and inflation? You can integrate and blend in. 

We knew the minute we landed in Cuenca Ecuador that we were getting gringoed; we made some mistakes but quickly learned from them. It is through our own experiences we are able to write this post to help newcomers to Cuenca and Quito not to be gringo gouged. 
Most people do not realize that just by certain actions we make, even if they are small gestures will make us a target of gringo gouging.
NOTE: There are many more ways we can keep ourselves from being a target of gringism but these are ones that any newcomer can do no matter how much Spanish they have under their belt.

1. Introduce Yourself (right off the bat) as NOT a Tourist 

If you are here to “live” then you are not a tourist anymore and that means a total different set of rules.  Why would anyone, seriously, pay more for rent if they don’t have to? The first thing you want to let any Ecuadorian know who has something to sell you is, "I'm not a tourist", and do not want "the tourist price"!

Ecuadorians LOVE to ask Americans what they did for a living back in the states. Why? Because they can size you up to see if you are rich and then price their assets and commodities accordingly. Or, some actually have long term agendas and will badly want to be your friend if they think you are loaded. Be careful; that’s all we’re saying.

When a landlord shows us a rental we let them know right off the bat, “We’re not tourists, we live here, and we are not rich”. The first time Frank told a landlord we were not tourists and we’re not rich Americanos, I laughed out loud because I felt uncomfortable that he is telling a total stranger our personal business, however, the landlord smiled and totally agreed, with respect at what we were saying.

And when he told us the price of his 3 bed, 2 bath small, brand new apartment by Coral Centro for $180 and views (this was 3 years ago) we sighed in relief because we had a single expat lady we were helping who happened to be on a very limited Social Security budget. This apartment was perfect for her. 

2. Do Not Speak English 

It does not matter if you are tall and blonde; the point is if you go around speaking loudly in English it makes the locals want to charge you more for everything.  Of course they already know you are not a local, but just the fact that you may be energetically displaying English speak in their country makes it seem like you do not care about their language.

They do not know how long you have been here. And if you’re speaking loud English, it is assumed you must have just landed and so you’re a (loaded) unbeknownst tourist.

One couple we were with on a Cuenca city bus kept speaking loud English even after our gentle suggestion not to, and he promptly got pick pocketed! No kidding!

They will respect you more if you at least try and speak their language. Do sign language if you have to, just don’t speak English, seriously! 

3. Write Down Spanish Phrases on Index Cards and Use Them!! 

Whatever the occasion, whether you are going out to lunch, going to the dentist, having a document translated, or shopping in the Mercado, have short Spanish phrases ready that you will need for the occasion and use them. This is also the best way to learn Spanish. You just have to get out there and apply the language to your daily life. Use sign language with the phrases to get your point across. The more phrases you apply into your daily life the faster you will learn Spanish!! 

4. Negotiate for EVERYTHING 

Don’t be apprehensive about negotiating. Ecuadorians love to haggle and they will respect you for doing it. Did you know you can negotiate with the manager at grocery and department stores too? Well, it’s true, you can! 

This is why learning your numbers is the most important part of learning the Spanish language, because once you know your numbers you can get out there and negotiate and save lots of money while living in Ecuador. 

5. Be Willing to Walk Away 

I don’t know how many times we have “smiled”, turned around and walked away from a vendor, or a mom and pop shop because we were getting gringoed. Some of the time they yell back for us and sell it to us for the price it should be. Sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t matter.
The neat thing about Cuenca is there are many different vendors selling the same stuff! We just go to a different store or vendor.

You can do this with anything from real estate to buying produce. And the more gringos that actually walk away when they know the price is inflated the more we all will be helping the whole expat community in Cuenca and Quito.

If you care about what the Ecuadorians may think about you and you want to be a part of the community then do these five simple methods of expat integration; you’ll be glad you did!

We have a lot more great expat integration information and money saving tips in the Cuenca and Quito Landing Guides.

We’re curious to know the ways you have not given into gringo gouging and inflation. Let us know your experience with this in the comments below.

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