One of the wonderful things about Cuenca is the size and vibrancy of the expat community. Four years ago, two of our most prominent expats thought it would be a good idea to have a weekly gathering of expats who live in or who are visiting Cuenca. The concept was to share experiences and create a network of friends. They spread the word around and a few expats started meeting at a local restaurant on Friday evenings for a glass of wine and conversation.
Over the years, the venues changed frequently from the Eucalyptus Café, to La Parola, to the Eucalyptus again and currently, to Zoe’s Restaurant as different people came up with new places to meet. During the last year, some 30 to 40 people have gathered on Fridays at Zoe’s. Some are just visiting and have heard through the grapevine that it is a fun and informative evening. Some are renting here for a month or so and are trying to decide whether to move to Cuenca or not. These people are usually thirsty for information. Others are expats who are long time residents who have put down roots and expect to stay for years to come and who attend to meet old and new friends. But almost all find it an interesting evening with many people willing to share information and friendship. If you are presently living in the US, Canada, or Europe and thinking of an international move, one of the things you are probably looking for is information, current information that is valid and has no hidden commercial theme. From our experience, there is no better place than the expat community in the city or region you are investigating. We looked at Quito where there are many expats in the Tumbaco and Cumbaya areas but, from what we saw, there is no organized expat community. There may be but we could not find one. We looked at southern Spain, which still interests us and where there are many expats from the UK who have summer homes along the coast. But there seems to be no functioning group of expats in the areas we researched. Everywhere you look, there are good blogs, good sources of information, but a real expat community is often lacking. There is an argument against belonging to a vibrant expat community. It is that shopworn argument that “The last thing we want is to export the same life style we are leaving.” We have not found that to be the case in Cuenca. Our group of friends are from all over the world and have brought their interesting lives with them. This is not an enclave of Americans huddled behind closed gates who seldom go into the Spanish world around them. Our friends are scattered all over the city. They are involved in cultural and charitable events. They lead exciting lives. Just read some of the blogs about Cuenca to see how “out and about” they are. What the expat gatherings have done is provide a venue where we have gotten to know each other and sorted out friendships which have become one of the strongest parts of our Cuenca experience.