One of the wonderful things about Cuenca is the size and vibrancy of the expat community. Approximatly 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. There are even some efforts to broaden the gatherings further. Some people 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 while 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 where everyone is welcome and where many people are 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 specific 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 attaching yourself to a vibrant expat community. It is that shopworn argument that “The last thing we want is to join a group with the same life style we are leaving.” We have not found that to be the case in Cuenca. Our 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.
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.