A common question many future expats have about a possible living abroad situation is:” What is it like to live there?” Of course this question can be answered in a variety of different ways. You could focus on the cost of living, the quality of life, or perhaps what its like living within a new and different culture. Today’s writer describes Cuenca from the perspective of a time warp. Join Dan Austin as he explains why he feels that living in Cuenca is like living in the 1950’s.
I’ve heard it said many, many times over the 4+ years I’ve lived here that living in Cuenca, Ecuador, is like living in the 1950s.
Those who grew up in or before the very early 60s have actually experienced two VERY different worlds in one lifetime. What used to be the standards of society for many, many decades has been virtually obliterated since then. It’s a shame people born in and after the 70s never got to see the light of what it was like to live “back then”. Their standard, their baseline, is NOW, from which all will be measured in their future. For example, their baseline starts with “never talk to strangers”, whereas that mentality never existed in the baseline of those raised in the 50s.
Okay, before your eyes roll back in your head (too late?), let me share some examples. The following is a list of observations compiled from my own experience as well as countless comments I have heard from fellow expats. In this list about Cuenca are the characteristics that mirror what it was like when we were growing up in the 1950s.
Cuenca: Kids walk home from school alone or with friends
Back home today: No way in hell
Cuenca: You can talk to strangers
Back home today: NEVER talk to strangers
Cuenca: There are zip-lines in public playgrounds for kids and young adults to ride
Back home today: Couldn’t possibly exist
- Ecuador is not at war, nor has been in a long time. Ahem.
- When you see a doctor, there’s no need for an appointment.
- We don’t have terrorists out to get us.
- We have the good ol’ fashioned mom & pop shops.
- At the gas stations, the gas is pumped for you.
- Complete strangers say hello to you on the street.
- There’s no Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, or Healthy Choice type of complete frozen meals to nuke in the microwave.
- Are you sitting down? The family even EATS TOGETHER.
- We’re not a litigious society here.
- People embrace hard work.
- Other than big-box stores, most businesses are closed on Sundays.
- Homes are simple.
- There’s very little drug presence here.
- Seldom seen are drunks, bums, homeless camped out under a bridge or other sheltered area, or panhandlers with outstretched hands.
- Along the same line, you can bet 99.99999% of the time you will not find a person holding a cardboard sign informing you they are a veteran of a particular war and, therefore, you should give them money.
- Being PC (Politically Correct) is not a part of our mindset.
- Want to rent an apartment? The lease is one or two pages.
- Big-box grocery stores have employees bring your groceries to your car (or taxi) and load them up.
- Schools are fun: a place to learn, make friends, go to dances.
- We’re not a gun-toting society.
- The government seems to do things for the people versus corporations and the rich.
- Kids don’t need X-box or other high tech gadgets to be entertained.
- Materialism. It’s not about McMansions.
- Younger people respect, even admire, their elders.
- Along the same line, they LOVE to play with their younger/older brothers, and sisters, and cousins, and neighbors, and aunts, and uncles and their grandparents.
- We make things.
- Love a segue. We also FIX things.
- Most people here are not in a hurry.
- Outsourcing jobs. Oi vey. Need I go there? Jobs are HERE, like they were then, not THERE.
This isn’t about criticizing or saying “we’re better than they are”. It’s just recognizing that Cuenca seems to have those certain aspects of life we used to enjoy when we were (much) younger… and missing many elements of today’s society back home. It’s one of the many reasons so many have been drawn to the lifestyle of Cuenca.