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13 Expats Talk about Living in Ecuador

Joshua Wood

Summary: Expats in Ecuador talk about what its like living in Ecuador. From the lower cost of living to its wonderful climate to the focus on family, Ecuador is a popular destination for retirees and other expats.

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador

Expats enjoy the low cost of living in Ecuador, thriving expat population and friendly Ecuadorians. 13 expats discuss what it's like to live in Ecuador.

Ecuador's Thriving Expat Population

With the large expat population in Ecuador, expats have numerous social groups, expat hangouts and volunteer groups where they can meet one another. Expats living in Ecuador discuss:

"Use your skills to get some form of employment. Consult, teach, help with a multitude of civic type organizations. Immerse yourself into the life," said one expat living in Ibarra, Ecuador.

"We don't seem to have anything like this in Salinas but personally would like to start a sport fishing club as there are so many different types of fishing down here and no one really has tried to make this available to Ex-pats throughout all of Ecuador. So if any one is interested in sport fishing in Ecuador please make contact so as trying to get as many people with a similar interest together and see if we can go out and have some fun and get out. Pus get out and see what this country has to offer for all us outdoor types," mentioned another expat in Ecuador.

"Avoid gringos at all costs - they are old and out of sorts. Half of them go home within a year. Learn Spanish as fast as you can. Immerse. Learn Ecuadorian culture and get with it. Meet Ecuadorians any way you can," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

Expat Life in Ecuador

What is it like living in Ecuador? Here is what people had to say:

"This is a tourist town that only has tourists occasionally. Most people do menial jobs," said one expat living in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.

"For Ecuadorians, life revolves around family. Expats are very social here, though there aren't too many of us. Most expats who are in Cuenca are adventurous, love to explore the country, and are focused pretty much on living life," mentioned another expat in Ecuador.

"The Latino life focuses on family and friends. The Expat community focuses on service projects, mountain sports activities, and traveling around the country," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"People here have one main priority- putting food on the table and caring for their family. They work 7 days a week when they have work. They sell items on the street, bake bread and torts for sale, clean, do general labor or what they can to exist. They are mostly industrious, though there are those few who will loaf, steal, and rob to stay alive. Those with solid jobs then concentrate on their children and homes. The wealthy associate with others like themselves. Most are middle class here- which would be considered dirt poor in the US. I have not met a single discourteous or unkind person toward foreigners. Everyone says Good morning or afternoon as you meet. They are respectful of older persons and help those whom are infirm and need assistence. In many ways it is like the US was back in the 1950's when life was slower, easier going and people had respect for each other," remarked another expat living in Bahia de Caracruz, Ecuador.

What Expats Appreciate about the Ecuadorian Culture

We asked expats in Ecuador what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"The people are really sweet, especially if you try to speak Spanish. The cost of living is low, although not as low as various websites would have you believe. WATCH OUT! The amazingly tiny sums you can spend here require you to live like an Ecuadorian, so ask yourself when was the last time you considered a single chicken drumstick to constitute a dinner portion? And yes, rents are low - $300 or so, but trust me, you want to spend at least $600 per month until you get the lay of the land and maybe after that. What I appreciate the most about Cuenca is that I truly do not need to own a car. You would not believe how cool it is not to have a smoking monster sucking on my wallet. I can walk anywhere, which is a big part of why I have lost weight since arriving," said one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

The Challenges of Living in Ecuador

Then, we asked expats in Ecuador what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"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," said one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"The family orientation means that newcomers are effectively shut out of local society. If you don't become fluent in Spanish and get involved in the local economy somehow, you will forever live in a gringo bubble. Ecuadorians are short people - I would guess the average man is about 5'5", the woman 5'. It's just weird being so much taller than everyone around you - it can be a little creepy. The streets are not safe - I'm not talking about crime here - I'm referring to the state of the sidewalks and curbs. YOU WILL HURT YOUR BACK AT SOME :POINT WHILE YOU ADJUST TO THIS REALITY. Not a day goes by that I do not encounter a situation presenting an unreasonable risk of personal injury that would not be allowed to persist in the US. Ecuadorian businesses overtly discriminate on the basis of age and sex. It is jarring to see an ad for a professional accounting position that specifies the job is offered only to females under the age of 30. Now, I know many of the persons reading this are thinking that they have no intention of seeking a job in Ecuador, but they need to consider the type of mindset that this evidences and decide if they will be amenable to this attitude generally as it pervades all of Ecuadorian culture. You need to set your watch back 50 years to move here," mentioned another expat in Ecuador.

"The language. The ridiculously high cost of items such as autos, household items (i.e. blenders, juicers, gas grills, refrigerators, etc.). The lack of food options compared to the US," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

Deciding Where to Live in Ecuador

If you're not yet settled in Ecuador, you'll want to take some time exploring. Our article, The 10 Best Places to Live in Ecuador, is a great place to start. Once you've narrowed down the options, spend a few months in those cities or towns. Rent before you buy when you think you've found your favorite spot. In terms of choosing the right neighborhood and finding a house, expats advised:

"Because my Spanish was limited when I arrived I found someone who had helped people in her church find an apartment. We looked at many. Some were terrible and some were ok and by the seventh day, I found the perfect place. She was most helpful and she kept telling me to speak Spanish which was not really easy but I did it anyway," said one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Crime in Ecuador

One expat replied to a question about crime in Ecuador on the forum. She said, "Is there crime in Ecuador? Yes. In the big city, urban crime. Small town drunk and disorderly issues. Robberies at resort areas of cameras and cash. And the crimes that exist in any human environment. But we don't have school shootings or major armed robbery, white collar crime, and snipers. Ecuador is not Paradise, but it is a wonderful place to live, I think. And I have been living here on the coast for over 9 years now."

"Not a lot of crime in Cuenca but people need to us common since living here as they would in any city," said one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"We got here just as two young tourists were killed by two local guys. It's the first time in anyone's memory that such a thing happened and it's sent shock waves through the coast. Most of us think that it's an isolated incident with drugs, alcohol and bad decisions. In the last year, the government has put cameras on all the buses which has stopped all the bandits. Now, I'm sure there are still pick pockets and the like but even those incidents are less frequent. The buses are comfortable and by and large very safe," mentioned another expat in Ecuador.

"No, other than taxi's ripping you off, once in a while a store owner will try to squeeze you," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

International Schools in Ecuador

"You must come to the campus to see. It is a nice little campus in the upscale community of Cumbaya. Tuition runs about $6,000 per semester and $1500 for the summer semester. They do offer financing through the University as well as scholarships to top performing students. Class sizes are small and there are a wide variety of programs of study available. It is a nice option to the expensive US colleges," said one expat whose children attend Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Cumbaya.

"If you don't mind total Spanish immersion for your child and appreciate a creative, kinesthetic learning environment, this is a wonderful school," added another expat with kids at Pacha Mama in Tumbaco.

Diversity in Ecuador

We asked expats about diversity in Ecuador and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:

"Most people here are mestizo. They are very accepting of any race but do not inter-marry with blacks," said one expat living in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador.

"It's strange here, in that on the surface, everyone mingles well and it is quite the mixing pot. Cuenca always has lots of tourists due to both its reputation as well as being such a destination for learning Spanish. Beneath the surface, for residents, however, there is not a lot of mingling between classes, as in most Latin American countries. In expat circles, everything is fairly acceptable as we tend to have quite the liberal lot," mentioned another expat in Ecuador.

"Quito is very diverse. We have a growing Asian community as well as a large expat community. The Quitenos are very nice and accepting of other cultures and people. The Latinos in general do not mix classes (the city is separated into neighborhoods of different classes.)," commented one expat who made the move to Ecuador.

"The majority of people here are Catholic. There are a large number of Evangelical Prostestant Churches. Also many Mormons are here helping the poor. They are very tolerant of all religious followers here, as long as you don't tell them their religion is wrong," remarked another expat living in Bahia de Caracruz, Ecuador.

Health Insurance in Ecuador

"Do get IESS insurance. It will cover your coasts in the event of an accident or illness. As of July 2017, IESS will require payment on verified income, closing a loophole that allowed payment on claimed income. The obligated amount is 17.6% of the monthly verified income and 2.4% for each additional dependent. As an example, an expat on a limited pension of $800 a month would pay $140.80 A retired married couple living on their $1200 a month pay. $240. ," commented one expat living in Montanita, Ecuador.

"The cost of medical care if much cheaper than the United States. I had back surgery for $8,000 and I only had to pay $1,000 deductible," mentioned another expat living in Ecuador.

"I would pay out of pocket if it were still available, because doctors are cheap. With my cheap insurance, I will still have to pay out of pocket and maybe get reimbursement if I'm lucky. Insurance here is a government sponsored racket, as whenever government requires something the drops and prices go up, that's why governments do it. If it were a service people actually wanted it wouldn't be required," said an expat in Ecuador.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood joined Expat Exchange in 2000. His areas of responsibility include creative aspects of the community, research, sales and business development. Joshua received his Master's Degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in English Textual Studies.

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First Published: Jan 19, 2018

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