I know, I know. I can hear it now, from our editorial team to many readers like yourself. Keep it light, keep it fluffy…keep it cheerful. We are supposed to be “happy, shiny” people. I will leave that to the “other guys”. There are plenty who believe that operating a website that promotes a particular global region means you can only highlight the good, while plying smoke and mirrors to hide both the bad…and the ugly. Well, that’s just not me. Truth is for many, Ecuador is a wonderful, life-inspiring and quite enjoyable place. They come…they see…and they certainly don’t want to leave…ever! However, Ecuador is not for everyone. No place is. Here are some of the major reasons why some folks come, stay and, quite candidly, eventually leave – Ecuador Exit Stage Left !
The language barrier: Why can’t they learn to speak…Spanish! Ok, truth is, you don’t generally ever hear an Ecuadorian say that. However, you have many expats who think that, mostly about themselves. To some, the omnipresent thought becomes too much, over time. The effort (or lack thereof, for some) to learn the language and the occasional diminished returns, can become too much, for many. They find it easier to return to a place where not only does everyone know their name, but can properly pronounce it.
The best solution, to avoid this fate? Start your Spanish lessons before you even arrive. Are you even starting to think about Ecuador? Then now is the time to enroll in an introductory Spanish course, or buy one of the many computer-based, home-study programs. Don’t waste a second of time. You won’t regret it, or, if you do, the regret might set in prior to making a long haul move here…and back.
Culture shock: Come on, we have all seen them. Those cute, fuzzy, cuddly little creatures known as “guinea pigs”. Perhaps you had one as a pet when a child. Perhaps one of your children currently has one as a pet, right now. Yeah…well….here in Ecuador, they eat them. No, seriously, on a skewer! I am not making this up. It is called “Cuy” and is a Sierra region delicacy, much savored and sought after. So, if you suddenly got an urge to run to the medicine cabinet for some mouthwash, perhaps you are not quite ready for Ecuador, just yet.
Now, it does not have to be anything as “extreme” or, to some, “distasteful” as guinea pig eating. There are plenty of other culture shock factors that require some getting used to. For example, when you first discover that while standing in a long line at a service counter may be perceived as a “great inconvenience” in your country of origin, here it is merely an accepted badge of honor and right of passage. Or when you discover that when you ask for a factual opinion, such as directions from point A to point B, you will generally get six different answers, from four people. Perhaps the realization that while you may have an urgent customer service matter at hand, it is not going to keep that employee from going home and having lunch with his family for an hour, which generally means two hours, here, in “real time”. The customer may always be “right”, but they aren’t always necessarily “right now”.
The list goes on and the irksome annoyances to some, just keep piling up to the point of no return. The cultural differences become too great and the shock effect impacts them head on. A few weeks later, there is a garage sale and two less folks running for the mouthwash, whenever they hear mention of “Cuy”. My “sage” words of advice, think about it. If you want the place you are moving to, to be just like the place you are leaving from, then why are you leaving in the first place? A new place should be full of “culture shock”. It should be new, exciting, invigorating…challenging to the senses. If not, much of the joy and excitement of exploring a new land and making it your new home, just seems to fade away onto a blank canvass of blandness. LIve life to the fullest and embrace that culture shock!
Cost of living: What, you say? Cost of living? Have I lost my senses? Why everywhere you turn, one can hear Ecuador described as “cheap”, “great value” and “a bargain hunter’s paradise”. Well, Ecuador is all those things, within reason. You are not going to come to Ecuador and “live like a King” (or “Queen”, either) for $900 per month. Not if you want to see the light of day, enjoy the occasional meal out, have a Margarita or two, and actually, well…live a little. If you want to hole up in a cave, read by candlelight and socialize with no one except shadow puppets dancing across the walls of your “cave home”, well, $900/month will suit you just fine.
Sadly, the needless overselling and hype associated with the great values that can truly be found in Ecuador, leads to a reality disorientation amongst some new expats. They are simply not satisfied with the good prices and great values. They were expecting more…promised more. No gold paved streets and ready servants at their command for every whim. Well, some just can’t tolerate the dashed hopes and broken dreams, returning home to a life filled with even less value…but, alas, also less hype and promise. Unmet expectations can often trump harsher realities.
Pollution (yes, “pollution”) and other health factors: How can there possibly be “pollution” in this pristine, ecologically abundant and tourism friendly country? Well, there isn’t…not everywhere. However, certain major cities like Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil not only have pollution, but you’d swear the fragrance “Ode d’ Diesel” was the most popular perfume of the land, wafting through the breeze, just about everywhere. No different than the USA of the 1970s, Ecuador is quickly coming to terms with the need to control matters of litter and pollution. I have no doubt that success is imminent. However, such future resolve is of little value to someone with current respiratory problems, looking to move to the more densely populated sectors, of the major Ecuadorian cities. These facts, especially referencing the oft promoted Cuenca region, are usually left out of tourism guide books and colorful regional newsletters.
Additionally, those suffering from certain heart and respiratory ailments should think twice before relocating to the Sierra region. The high altitudes can wreak havoc with certain physical conditions, such as COPD or CHF. One should always consult a trusted medical professional for advice. However, since such topics are seldom ever discussed, some expats move here and discover that the relocation has been great for their wallet, but poor for their health. Some relocate within Ecuador, but others choose to lock and leave, permanently.
The weather: No, seriously…the weather. Allow me to explain. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard certain parts of Ecuador, mostly in the sierra region, defined as a region of “eternal spring”. More like “eternal optimism”, unless your definition of “Spring” comes complete with never-ending rainfall and nighttime lows in the 30s (fahrenheit). Remember, there is no central heat in apartments or hotels here, so…a low in the 30s will be felt to the bone.
Now, I don’t want to seem like I am picking on the Sierra region. So, let us discuss my beloved coast. Fun, surf and sunshine. Sure…except some regions have surf waters so rough that only the genuine “Hang Ten” crowd need apply. There is a region not far from where I live, where, sadly, one person is lost almost every month to the heavy undertow. Likewise, certain coastal areas, especially in the rain band, can experience a great deal of sunshine…for 8 months per year. The other four months are cloudy with the occasional chance of never ending rain.
Then there is my personal favorite, “Ecuador is tropical”. Yes…in the Amazon. Some parts of Ecuador cannot be further removed from the expectations of you “tropic loving” denizens. Where I reside, the Salinas area, our weather is literally desert dry. Like taking Las Vegas, minus the extremes in heat, and placing it smack dab next to the Pacific Ocean. So, other than the occasional palm tree, not much in the way of tropical green to gaze at across the landscape. Caveat emptor. Do your homework, when choosing a region, if you want your preferred weather pattern to hold. Otherwise, you might find yourself on an outbound plane to “St. Somewhere”, disappointed with your Ecuadorian experience.
This is a fabulous country, with a wealth of inspired natural beauty and immense capitalist opportunity. However, it is not for everyone. Rather than become another jaded round-tripper, come down and visit…stay for a while…make sure the land of mañana is right for you.