1. Learn a new language – some folks might call learning a new language a choice but for us learning the language was something we felt we needed to do for optimal survival if we were going to be living in a foreign land. It might be different for you, especially if you have lots of money to spend on over-priced goods and services provided to you by bi-linguals.
2. Wear a smog mask – in the USA, at least where we’re from, there are no city buses emitting toxic fumes into the air…because there just aren’t any public buses. Not only that, but every single car on the road needs to pass an ‘air quality emissions test’ or that car is not going to get registered.
We come from a small city about the same size of Cuenca Ecuador but never have we experienced the air pollution like we have here; we like to walk so it has been a sore spot for us for some time now. We still walk a lot and sometimes it gives us a headache and burns our eyes. So imagine what it is doing to your lungs. Frank broke down and got an ugly mask that he wears; says it helps but the Ecuadorian children think he is scary looking.
3. Install mucho security around our house – After having things robbed off our back porch and dealing with prowlers every single weekend for two months, yes maybe three months, we finally broke down and added barbed wire fencing around the parameter of the property (landlord will not install electric wire) outside alarms, spot lights, security lights, a German Sheppard, 911 on our cells with the police, and now a security camera. We now suggest to gringos that rent detached homes to have electric fencing around the parameter of the property.
4. Negotiate for everything that doesn’t have a set price – you don’t have to bargain but if you don’t, you will get ripped off because of the color of your skin. If you’re paying US prices down here, then what’s the mumbo jumbo that all these travel abroad hucksters are talking about it being cheap? Living like the locals takes some work on your part.
5. Walk away from buying something that is over-priced – we do a lot of walking away. It’s best to not get emotionally attached to stuff.
6. Be careful about what we’re wearing – Too much expensive jewelry will make us stand out and then we will be a target for theft. Even a cheap watch if it’s too flashy, will stand out on a gringo.
7. Take antibiotics for parasites – this one thing seems like nothing to many people, but when you spend your energy looking for ways to stay physically and naturally healthy and in just 3 short days you ruin years of good intestinal flora from a couple of pills (6 parasite pills in 3-days) it can be a bit daunting.
In our 55 years of living we’ve never had parasites before and if we did we didn’t know we had them and was not serious like (Entamoeba Histolytica) parasites. We don’t take pharmaceutical antibiotics but this parasite can travel outside of the intestines into your organs and is considered the 3rd most dangerous parasite in the world; it also multiplies quickly and is more of a concern in people with unhealthy bowel movements. Click here for more info about this parasite that is very prevalent here and in other developing countries.
8. Check for parasites once a year – when in Rome do as the Romans and when in Ecuador, well, you better do as the Ecuadorians and get checked for parasites. It’s easy. Put a small sample of your feces in a container and go get it checked; takes 10 minutes at a lab in Cuenca. Prevention is a good idea too but unless you lock yourself up in a closet, we doubt anyone will escape parasites if they are living anywhere in Latin America for any length of time.
9. Downplay the hype so newcomers will not come with glorified expectations – just about everything said about any new “best city in the world” is over-hyped, while the negatives of a place are underplayed or not spoke of at all. We have a vlog where we like to show the nice and wonderful things but we feel too that we need to let our readers know the stuff that is candy coated or simply not talked about at all.
10. Add more patience to our patience chest. – I used to tell people that “all I’ve got left is patience” and thought I was rich in patience. But after moving to a developing country, I’ve had to add to my patience wallet. Not just little things, but big things too, like adjusting to not being able to buy anything online. That could be totally particular to our circumstances, since we’re not millionaires, and we do have to watch our pennies. Most, i.e. almost all Ebay China sellers won’t even ship to Ecuador, or South America. It is what it is.
Until we write again you might like to read more about what it's really like to live abroad.
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!