No matter where you decide to move to abroad we think it is best to know the language of the country you move to, even knowing the basics of the language is going to keep you from being taken advantage of in many situations.
1. Setting up house: a lot is involved when it comes to setting up house. You may need to go furniture and appliance shopping; you’ll probably have to hire a moving truck; and you will have to have Internet service installed; we know that you will need to go grocery and household shopping, and these are just some of the main ones. You will be richly benefited and rewarded with better household prices if you speak the language.
Most folks in South and Central America only speak Spanish. Sure, some speak English but it is very few that do. Just the other day we had two Etapa guys out to check our Internet issue and neither one of them spoke a lick of English.
You’re coming to a Spanish speaking country. Expecting that people will just speak English with you, could result in difficulty for you. Just know that you will be blessed when someone speaks some English.
We have found that in Ecuador the ones who speak some English have lived in the U.S or work in the real estate business and tourist services. The ones who do not speak English will be the ones you will need to interact with on an everyday level such as when shopping, when hiring a taxi or moving truck. Sure, you might be blessed and get one that speaks a few words in English, but don’t count on it.
If you do not speak Spanish now, a gadget you will want to bring with you for when you first get here is the English to Spanish electronic pocket translator. We had one and it was very useful and helpful for the first 6 months of living here. See the video below for more helpful ideas on what you might want to bring with you abroad.
2. Interact with your next door neighbors: It is quite common to have landlords and their family living next door. We have learned quite a bit about Ecuador just from our neighbors who have lived here all their life. It’s nice to be able to stop and chit-chat for a few minutes when you see them out and about in the neighborhood. Life is just better in Ecuador when you feel like you are a part of the community of folks that look out for each other’s back in your neighborhood. Did anyone say, ‘peace of mind’?
3. Buying from street vendors: If you already know all the store prices, not just the most expensive one, and understand that local street and Mercado vendor prices should be half of that, then try your Spanish on them. If you don’t speak the language of the country you moved to, we recommend shopping in a variety of grocery stores where prices are already fixed but seasonal.
4. You'll be able to converse with locals: once you live here as a resident you’re going to notice that at some point locals might just mistake you for an Ecuadorian, i.e. asking you for directions while walking down the street, etc. At that point when you can answer in Spanish, it is a satisfying experience.
5. Get the nitty-gritty about an issue: without knowing the language it is really difficult to get the real skinny on a lot of important issues, like crime. Knowing the language has given us some of the best and most useful information because it comes directly from the locals who have lived here all their life.
BTW: it is best to ask three or four different people the same concern or question and then look for consistency in the answers, and you will be fairly certain to get the real skinny. No worries though, if you’re not there yet, we do that for you here... and in our DIY Cuenca Ecuador Landing Guide.
6. You will appear more traveled and aware: here again, when we speak the language we are much less likely to be taken advantage of in all scopes of being a foreigner in a foreign land. When we speak the language, even with a gringo accent, it shows we know more about their culture than the gringo who can’t speak the language, and we are much more apt to be taken seriously when we speak. “Uh oh, this guy speaks Spanish, maybe I better quote him the real price”, is a body language you will run into. And that’s satisfying.
7. Speaking the language shows respect: part of showing respect is learning the language; we should at least try to speak the language. It’s far better to TRY and speak the language than NOT at all. You will find that when the local inhabitants see you trying, they will find it endearing and come to your aid quicker and with a smile than if you simply spoke English to them; and that benefits good relations with the people in the new country you have embarked on to live permanently. Bon Voyage!
Until we write again…
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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!