A New Kind of Blog

There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trivia and more trivia

When looking into the possibility of moving to Ecuador, there are the usual big things to think about like cost of living, Language, owning a car, etc. etc. etc. But, there are lots of little things, even some not so little, depending on your particular interests and needs. Here is a partial list of basic facts. Some are permanent. Some change with the wind and politics. Some we have mentioned before but it can never be too many times.
The Ecuadorian economy uses the US dollar and all of the US currency. But, due to much counterfeiting, most merchants will not accept more than a $20 bill and will scrutinize the watermarks carefully before taking it.

Electricity is the same 110 volt as the US therefore all American appliances will work in Ecuador using the same two or three prong outlet plug. No converter is required as is needed in Europe.

However, that said, DVD players bought in the US will not play DVD’s purchased in Ecuador. DVD players all over the world have a disgraceful block built in that allows them to only be used in the region where they are purchased. But, if you bring a US DVD player it will play US DVD’s in Ecuador. You just can’t use DVD’s purchased here on a US DVD player.  If you buy a DVD player here you can purchase pirated DVD music or movies for $1.50 each.

Cable and Direct TV are available and widely subscribed to.  TV movies are in English with Spanish subtitles (good way to learn Spanish). CNN, Fox news and Bloomberg news are broadcast in English along with many Spanish news programs. Sports are endemic and, if you like futbol, it is on TV almost constantly.

You will find many familiar brands of food, electronics, appliances, even some clothing but choice is quite limited regarding size and products.  Imported brands have a high protective tariff which makes them more expensive than locally produced products which are, fortunately, often just as good.

Computer stores are common but the choice of laptops and desktops is very limited. A store will normally have three or four Toshiba laptops and a few generic desk tops to offer. The old computer company, Compaq, sells computers here in limited quantities.  It is a good idea to bring whatever computer hardware and software you require. All software is available in Ecuador but it is in Spanish.  Bring Windows or Mac OS with you. It will work on any computer. Pirated operating systems like Windows will get blocked by Microsoft or Apple in about a month if you try to use them so a licensed US or Spanish version is necessary.
Keyboards bought in Ecuador will be somewhat different from those you are used to so it makes sense to bring your US keyboard when you come.  You can get used to it but your fingers seem to have a mind of their own and go to the wrong place too often.

There is no 8 ½ by 11 copy paper sold in the stores only the larger A4 paper but both can be used in the inexpensive Canon, Epson, or Lexmark printers available here.

Almost everyone has a cell phone. If you bring a US cell phone it will have to be “unlocked.”  A few local electronic stores will unlock your phone for about $10. Most familiar brands of cell phones are available for purchase at Movistar or Porta, the two largest cell phone providers.

Skype or Vonage work well here when the connection is strong and give an affordable way to talk to friends around the world.  Both drop calls when traffic is heavy.

The time zone is the same as East Coast US standard time. However, we do not use Daylight Savings Time in Ecuador.

The weather is always a topic of discussion everywhere. Here in Cuenca, we are fortunate not to have any severe weather only an occasional heavy thunder storm and our recent and well publicized earthquake of a 7.2 magnitude that thankfully caused no damage. It was the most severe ever felt here yet was a rarity. The apartment buildings are supposedly built to seismological standards. No snow or icy streets. No hurricanes. No tornados.

Driving while crazy, is thankfully on the right side of the road (usually).

We use the metric system so you will have to get used to Kilometers, grams, liters, and centigrade.  This usually causes no problem as most US people are already used to metrics but, the one place it takes some adjustment is with the stove. Download a Fahrenheit to centigrade chart from the internet so you will have a ready reference to set your stove oven correctly. Also, the high altitude of Cuenca makes baking a crapshoot, and is probably a trial and error project at best. The locals know how as the excellent breads will testify.

The language is of course Spanish and Ecuadorian Spanish is spoken quite clearly and slowly compared to other Spanish speaking countries.  As English is taught in the schools and education is compulsory, almost all Ecuadorians have a smattering of English yet usually look at you with a blank stare.  Don’t count on always being understood even using the Spanish you learned in school as the pronunciation is quite different from American school Spanish. 

The Ecuadorian legal system is also quite different from what you are used to and is too complex to deal with here. Using a lawyer for any transaction is good advice.  Buying or renting property requires some local knowledge and a lawyer is essential. There is no MLS system and offerings are found out by the expat grapevine, the newspaper, or one of the “realtors” who hang out a shingle. A realtor shows you the property he knows about and sends you to a lawyer for the paperwork. Comically, it is almost always a cousin or uncle they refer you to.

There are no English newspapers but the local Spanish papers, El Mercurio and El Tiempo, can be translated into English using Google translate or a similar internet translator.  There are no English bookstores only the Carolina Bookstore which sells used books. It is shocking to find that Ecuadorians just don’t read like American’s do.  

Clothes don’t use American sizing numbers. As an example, a women’s size 7 shoe in the US is a size 36 in Ecuador.

Furniture made in Ecuador will be lower in height than in the US to satisfy the requirements of the smaller stature of the Ecuadorian people. If you have furniture made, they will ask you to sit and will measure the height of your knees and where your arms rest on a table or desk.

So, here is a lot of trivia that we hope will answer some of those nagging questions that are hard to find answers to.

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