9 Things I am Grateful For As An Expat

9 Things I’m Grateful for as an Expat

Since moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, with my partner over a year ago, I’ve experienced my share of challenges just like anyone new to a foreign country: finding a place to live, figuring out how and where to pay bills, making local friends, and navigating the professional visa process, etc. For the most part, I have to say that adjusting to life in my new home has been pretty good; there are many kind and generous people who are glad to help, if I just let them.

One thing that I have found to be very important in the expat journey is to remain grateful for all of the good things that are happening in my life abroad as they happen.

Sometimes it can be too easy to forget this step when life gets busy. Read on to discover some of the things that have helped me, and can perhaps help you, to illuminate some aspects of your current expat experience to be grateful for.


[color-box color= “green”]1. The Weather Outside isn’t frightful. I have so many friends and family members who live in places that experience truly tough winters. Don’t get me wrong – I love snow, and yet there’s something to be said for the moderate Cuenca weather, where you don’t have to use air conditioning or heat and you aren’t plagued by bugs.[/color-box]


2. All the friends I haven’t met yet. On Thanksgiving we hosted a dinner for about 20 friends, and the two best things about the day were a) people sharing their memories of Thanksgiving and b) making new memories with guests we didn’t know and who had never celebrated Thanksgiving before, including visitors from Chile and Lithuania. At any given moment, new friendships can be forged and connections are created.


[color-box color= “green”]3.  An abundance of difference. There are countless celebrations and festivals in Ecuador – the Pase del Niño parade, Inti-Raymi and Corpus Christi, to name a few. Different cultural influences invite and encourage me to open my mind and heart, regardless of my age or background, and connect with other world traditions and the people who practice them. [/color-box]


4. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to live here.I often wonder how people can afford to live in the United States nowadays. Friends who are realtors have told me that Asheville, North Carolina, is now so popular and expensive that even the basic homes that were built for workers in the early 20thcentury (highly-desired Craftsman-style bungalows) are out of the range of affordability for a young couple with decent-paying jobs. We live here on less than half of what we did in the States.


[color-box color= “green”]5. Membership in the world’s community.I feel heightened sorrow for the people of Paris, the folks in San Bernardino, and the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. You don’t need to go somewhere physically to have your compassion, altruism and empathy kick-started; however, if you’ve travelled to those places and know their exact sounds and scents, it usually makes you more caring about if/when something happens there and definitely cements your status as an engaged world citizen.[/color-box]


6. I’m 7,000 miles away from “Black Friday” or any other major shopping event or season.Discussing with Ecuadorians recently how people get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to wait in line to buy stuff made me realize how much I don’t miss consumerism on a grand scale. Even if I wanted to go on a consumer rampage here, the best I could probably do would be to buy all of the tins of tahini that the grocery store has for my hummus cravings, just in case they don’t stock it for a while.


[color-box color= “green”]7. I get to be the “crazy foreigner.”A friend who has lived in many different countries reminded me recently that, no matter your eccentric tastes or habits, when you live abroad the locals generally indulge your odd ways and chalk it up to your being foreign. This also works in reverse when I travel back to the States and engage in behaviour that might be considered unusual, such as waiting patiently in a line with lots of other people and saying with a smile on my face, “This is how we do it in Ecuador.” [/color-box]


8. Nothing is constant but change. By default, living and working abroad is pretty transitory. Someday we will probably return to the United States to live, which means that every home, every favourite park and restaurant we have until then is temporary. Eventually every aspect of our familiar, cozy life in Cuenca could be thousands of miles away, which makes me sad on one level and yet grateful for the opportunity to be present and appreciate each moment while I am living it.


[color-box color= “green”]9. And last, but not least,if Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, I don’t have to make plans to leave the country. I’m already gone! [/color-box]

So, in short, I’m grateful for getting out of my comfort zone, learning new traditions, and being exposed to fresh perspectives. Living abroad has made me more open and allowed me to participate in some amazing moments with the Ecuadorians and their wonderful country. Wherever you are in the world today, may gratitude find its way to you and the people you love.

Feel free to share your comments below on how you’ve become more grateful while living abroad!

18 Responses

  1. Trump is the best looking horse in the glue factory. But, consider, he along with the communistic jew sanders may possibly be the new
    CEO”s of the “cesspool” Corp. USA

  2. This article was an interesting take on the expat experience. I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts. I will search for more of your articles about expat life. If you don’t mind some feedback, I have both chidren and pets. I love all of them very much. The phrase “fur children” is, however, deeply offensive and insulting to both parents and children. It is a concept that could only make sense to someone who either never had children of his/her own or who did but was a terrible parent. Reading that phrase made me question everything in the article because it just shows really questionable judgment. Pets are wonderful members of our families but actual human children have needs for love and protection. To compare them to dogs or cats is incredibly demeaning. I could understand an emotionally damaged narcicist like Donald Trump being ok with that but not a sane person. Thanks for listening.

  3. Great article until the last point. I don’t understand why people would abandon their country just because an election doesn’t go their way. If you are so fervent in your beliefs shouldn’t you stick around to help effect change?

  4. I am curious why you would assume your bias against Trump should be passed off as if it what you expect all your readers would agree with? I am sure there are many people who feel the current administration in the US is a good reason to leave or not return. It might be better if you kept your personal political bias out of your future articles.

  5. Great article…….even the fur baby comment and political opinion! But……I’m a fellow Asheville person, so that might explain it! 😉

  6. I’m amazed that you had the foresight to do the homework and the tenacity to make the move to Cuenca but are so freely willing to swallow the Main Street media’s propaganda. Not understanding that Trump may possibly be a great president one day may be in part due to the poverty of ones imagination. Enjoy Cuenca, continue to help others with your good advice and observations and kindly keep your political views to yourself.

  7. It’s interesting how the comments to one’s post will sometimes deviate from the author’s main point. It’s also interesting how many people comment by criticizing Ms. Bender for expressing her political opinion, and then feel free to express their own. Interesting, but also great entertainment. So, I’ll jump right in. The world has changed and there’s nothing that us older folk can do to turn back the clock. If you have the illusion that electing an unqualified person like Donald Trump as president will once again make “America” the greatest and mightiest nation on earth with the rest of the world bowing to our might, you are out of touch. I also think that those who feel this way haven’t learned much from living in another country and seeing the world from a different point of view.

  8. Oh you know–the opinions of people are their right. No one can argue with a person’s belief system–but then again–Speaking as a pet parent–they are really my kids—much better for me than the two-legged variety who are selfish self absorbed terrible little products of inadvertent re-population of the mostly despicable human species. Show me a well trained, mannerly little human being –much like my fur kids–and I for one will salute you. That having been said–don’t put people down just because they prefer the four–legged kid to the ‘others’–there is room for us all now–but when people stop overpopulating and try to help other living species–that will be the start of the beginning in healing this overpopulated earth.

  9. Thanks for the article. I am from Asheville and plan on moving to Cuenca. I am wondering how easy it is to have pets there. I have a little shih tzu/maltese mix who doesn’t do well with bigger dogs, and I am concerned for him being around dogs who are not on a leash. Am wondering what the dog walking situation is — can I find safe places where dogs are on a leash when walking?

    Curious why you are not planning on living there permanently.

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