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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Cuenca, Ecuador


Flower Sellers in Cuenca, Ecuador

A semi-retired woman who relocated to Cuenca, Ecuador once her children were grown is enjoying life there with her husband. He has longed to return to Central America, since living there as a child.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Cuenca

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No

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Expats in Ecuador may get a free expat health insurance quote from our partner Allianz Care, a leader in international insurance for expatriates. Allianz's plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Their flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget..

If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Yes, Spanish. Yes, technically fluent (via testing) but needed improvement. Worked on it for a year prior to arrival, and am continuing to work on improving depth.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

no

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Not at all. We have traveled in Central and South America often, and visited Ecuador for extended periods in advance of the move.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

No. More that there are individual incidents, or days, when I either appreciate my adopted country more, or miss certain elements of the US - usually a certain food item :-)

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Nothing concrete

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The weather.. and my spouse's contentment. I am still working remotely from Ecuador, but not being in an office is wonderful. I could work and be happy most anywhere if I have moderate temperature and solitude to read. My husband, however, although a U.S. citizen, was born in Spain to diplomatic parents. He spent his childhood in mostly central American countries, and has been feeling trapped in the US for the past 30 years, while we raised our children. I am thrilled for him and with him that we are able to once again live in a Spanish speaking country. He states that Cuenca today is much like San Jose, Costa Rica was 35 years ago - and that is very special.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

My Spanish - when caught off-guard, or in the early morning, my language ability (Spanish, but to a degree, English as well :-) fails and I am floundering. By afternoon, all is well.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Excellent question. Actually, in Brazil, where I thought my Spanish would be good enough for the 'Portunol' we were speaking to the cab driver. When he asked if he could pick us up to take us to the airport the next day, where, as we had explained to him, we had rented a small private plane to fly to the Pantenal, we said sure. While walking into the hotel, my husband and I both had a feeling that we had missed something in his request. The following morning, he showed up to drive us to the airport - with his own suitcase packed. We had apparently agreed to take him with us on the plane to the Pantenal. Actually, there was no extra charge him on the plane, and he paid to stay in smaller quarters in the Pantenal himself - so it all worked out :-) That flexibility, enjoyment of your mistakes and desire to help others, are important parts of travel and expat life.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

If you don't speak the language and don't or can't learn (it is MUCH harder as an older adult!) adjustment will be so much more difficult. You will find yourself by default associating only with other expats. This is not a judgement, it is just a fact.

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Comments about this Report

EcuadorDean
Jun 8, 2015 11:01

I agree completely with your comment about knowledge of Spanish, this is the essential element of success in a Latin country!

nanakapp
Jun 10, 2015 23:54

Thanks so much! Glad to see you adjusted so well, but learning Spanish truly helped, I am sure!

redcoat
Apr 6, 2016 09:41

Portuguese is the language of Brazil

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An American woman talks about the ups and downs of moving to Cuenca. She had limited Spanish when she arrived, but a local woman helped her in the apartment search and she found the perfect place in a lovely Spanish-speaking neighborhood. Her apartment is 3-4 times less expensive than in the US.

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An expat in Cuenca, Ecuador appreciates the beautiful environment and people. He advises newcomers to get learn Spanish and meet locals instead of socializing with other expats.

Retirement in Cuenca

A retired couple who landed in Cuenca, Ecuador with plans to rent a while and move from place to place is very happy with the decision to move to Ecuador. They appreciate the low cost of living in Cuenca, access to quality healthcare, clubs and activities. The one challenge has been the ever changing residency rules.

Culture Shock in Cuenca

An American expat and his Ecuadorian wife, who initially lived with family in Quito, moved to Cuenca and enjoy life there. The expat husband advises anyone considering a move to Ecuador to learn Spanish, realize that you'll have to travel home see your family (most won't visit you) and know that homesickness happens in random moments that sneak up on you.

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