Living abroad is an experience of a lifetime for many, but only if you leave home with the right mindset and realistic expectations. Some expats are simply unable to adapt for one or more of these reasons NOT to live abroad in Ecuador (or anyplace else).
This is Part 2 in our series about living abroad in Ecuador. If you missed the other articles, you might want to Start Here…
Common Reasons Expats Wish They Had Stayed Home
If you’re seriously thinking about moving to another country, here are some reasons NOT to live abroad in Ecuador or any other expat destination.
Reason #1: You Don’t Qualify for a Resident Visa
The first thing you need to do is make sure you qualify for a resident visa in Ecuador or your chosen expat destination. Ecuador has several different visa types and one is sure to fit your situation, but it’s better to make sure before you leave home. Plus, it’s easier to get all the necessary paperwork while you’re still driving distance to government and university offices. Without a visa, you won’t be living abroad very long!
Reason #2: You Can’t Afford the Initial Costs
Living abroad may be a lot less expensive, but moving abroad isn’t cheap. When you add up the cost of visa agents, visa application fees, moving expenses, plane tickets, private drivers, first and last month’s rent, health insurance, etc., it can easily cost $10,000 USD or more to move to a foreign country. If the investment visa is the only type of visa you’re qualified to get, you’ll need $40,000 USD to invest in a CD (certificate of deposit) or real estate. If you don’t have sufficient cash on hand or access to other sources of funds, you may need to spend some time saving money before you move abroad.
Reason #3: You Don’t Want to Start Your Life Over
If you have an active social and family life back home, you may find it difficult to start over in a new country. You won’t know very many people (or anyone) before you arrive so you won’t have the same social support network you had in your home country. You’ll also need to find new doctors, massage therapists, transportation, banks, gyms, restaurants, social activities, etc. Starting over was exciting for us, but a lot of people don’t enjoy the process making this a common reason not to live abroad.
Reason #4: You’re Afraid of the Unknown
Change is scary. For some expats, it’s terrifying. The laws are different when you live abroad, and some are confusing (and even ridiculous). The culture and customs are different. You’ll be exposed to strange new food. You’ll need to make new friends. Find new restaurants. Moving abroad is one of the biggest life changes you can make and reason enough to stay home for many would-be expats.
Reason #5: You Expect It to Be Just Like Home
Some people are so afraid of the unknown that they expect living abroad in Ecuador to be just like home. Let me assure you, it’s not. The culture is a lot different, especially when it comes to service delivery. Mañana literally translates to “tomorrow,” but it’s also a term used to mean sometime in the future, or maybe never. Medical facilities may not be what you’re used to. Not all doctors speak English. Administrative and bureaucratic processes are confusing, tedious and cumbersome. We love our expat life in Ecuador, but the culture shock even gets to us sometimes, making it a good reason for Americans, Canadians and Europeans NOT to live abroad in Ecuador or most other Latin American countries.
Reason #6: You Expect Everyone to Speak English
We think it’s strange that many Americans expect everyone in the United States to speak English, but then move abroad to another country and still expect everyone to speak English. While Ecuador, and especially Cuenca, has a large population of bilingual Spanish and English speakers, the vast majority of people in Latin America do not speak English. This makes it very difficult to communicate effectively and necessitates a certain level of mastery in charades.
Reason #7: You Don’t Want to Learn the Local Language
Learning a foreign language is hard. Learning one later in life is downright painful! It’s easy to understand why so many expats don’t want to learn the local language when they move abroad, and many don’t. We know several expats who have lived in Ecuador for years and speak virtually no Spanish. They rely on charades, Google translate or someone else to translate for them. Not being able to communicate effectively is just too uncomfortable for some people, making this a good reason not to live abroad.
Reason #8: You’ll Always Be a Foreigner
If you look different than everyone else, and you don’t speak the local language natively, you will always be considered a foreigner. While we haven’t experienced discrimination here in Ecuador, we know people who have. And we occasionally get comments on our YouTube channel along the lines of “go home we don’t want you here.” Most people are very friendly and welcoming to expats in Ecuador, but even if you become fluent in Spanish, you’ll always be a foreigner.
Reason #9: You Get Homesick Easily
If you got homesick on your weeklong vacation to the Grand Canyon, moving thousands of miles away from your friends, family and comfortable routines back home might be overwhelming. When you move abroad, it takes time to adjust and make new friends. Some expats feel very homesick at first, but it eventually gets better. For others, it’s a big enough reason not to live abroad so they move back home.
Reason #10: You’ll Miss Your Friends & Family Too Much
If you’re very close to your friends and/or family, moving to another country will be extra challenging for you. Most of our friends back in Denver were work-related, and our family was geographically dispersed in several different states so we were already used to only seeing them once or twice a year. But if you have a tight group of friends or live near your family and enjoy spending lots of time with them, your relationships with them will change. You might lose some friends. Your family may get angry with you. You will miss some birthdays, weddings and funerals. If you have children, they may be angry with you for tearing them away from their friends. If you have grandchildren, it may simply be too difficult to live so far away from them. This is one of the most common reasons expats move back home.
Reason #11: You Can’t Live Without the Conveniences
Let’s admit it. Americans, Canadians and Europeans are pretty spoiled when it comes to modern conveniences like Amazon next-day delivery, one-stop-shops and drive-thru everything. Most Latin American countries like Ecuador are seriously lagging behind with these types of conveniences. Some expats enjoy the “Easter Egg Hunt” (as we call it) when we’re looking for something special. Others get very frustrated with the ongoing challenge of finding basic things and some simply can’t handle going cold turkey from Amazon shopping. If you’re addicted to all the conveniences of the western lifestyle, this may be your reason not to live abroad in Ecuador.
Reason #12: Your Partner Isn’t as Adventurous as You
Amelia was skeptical when I broached the subject of living abroad. She wasn’t sure about selling everything and leaving the life we knew. It took several months of discussions and information sharing for me to convince her it was the right decision for us. She’s very thankful I talked her into it now, but a lot of cautious spouses/significant others never adjust to living abroad. They don’t appreciate the adventure and miss their life back home too much. In fact, several of our married friends have moved back to the United States because one of the spouses couldn’t handle Ecuador anymore. Even if you do convince your spouse to live abroad, they may eventually want to move back for one of the reasons on this list.
Reason #13: You Need a High Paying Job & You Don’t Like Working Remotely
If your plan to live abroad hinges on your ability to get a high paying local job, you need a new plan. The low cost of living in Ecuador, as well as other low cost countries, means the local wages are equally low or everyone would be rich. Unskilled jobs like restaurant servers and store clerks get paid between $5 and $10 per hour. Most English teaching jobs pay around $10/hour and most are part-time so you won’t earn a 40 hour/week wage. You’ll need to be fluent in Spanish for most jobs, especially skilled work like software development and IT. The best way to earn income abroad in a low cost country is to work online for your old company back home or as a consultant in your field of expertise so you continue earning wages from your high cost/high wage home country.
Reason #14: You Don’t Like the Local Weather
The weather in Ecuador takes a little getting used to. Cuenca ended up being too cold, cloudy and rainy for us so we moved to Olón, a small beach town on the coast of Ecuador. For some expats, beach life is too hot, humid and sandy. Most of the Latin American countries in Central and northern South America don’t have seasons, either. Most popular expat destinations in this region have rainy and dry seasons, or hot and cool seasons, but no snow or autumn leaves or spring thaw. The weather is the same most of the year, which is a big adjustment if you enjoy the changing of the 4 seasons.
Reason #15: You’re Running Away From Something
To quote Confucius, “Wherever you go, there you are.” If you’re unhappy with your life back home, living abroad won’t magically cure all your woes. In fact, it may bring on a whole lot more of them for the reasons listed above. We didn’t move abroad in an effort to fix a failing marriage or to finally be happy. We were happy in our marriage and happy with our life back in Denver. The main reason we moved was because we couldn’t afford our life back in Denver. If our income had kept pace with our expenses, we may have never left home or moved abroad. If you don’t first address your underlying reasons for being unhappy in life, that’s a great reason NOT to live abroad in Ecuador, or anywhere else.
We aren’t sharing these reasons NOT to live abroad in Ecuador to scare you away. Rather, we want you to be prepared for your radically different life abroad. If you move abroad with realistic expectations and a positive mindset, you’re much more likely to embrace the change and much less likely to move back home.
In our next post, we’re going to answer the question, “Should you retire in Ecuador?”
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