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The 6 Types of Unpleasant Expats You Meet in Cuenca, Ecuador

Updated on August 14, 2012

Cuenca has a reputation as the world's #1 place to retire ... but that reputation has encouraged a number of undesirable types of expats to move here. Now, they linger on in the gringo community, poisoning the environment for everyone. You can survive in Cuenca only if you know how to recognize and avoid these six types of unpleasant expats.


#1 Know-It-Alls

These bossy, opinionated expats are known for their strident voices and insistence that you have to do things in just they way they tell you. Usually, they've been in Cuenca for 6 months or less and they don't speak more than 10 words of Spanish. Unluckily for you, these ambitious strivers haven't let minor details like being a newcomer and not speaking the language stop them from become the local experts on everything.

Aren't you fortunate that they've already been there, done that for all the city has to offer? Just open the door for them to give you "advice" or "insights" and you'll be overwhelmed with data ... if you don't mind information that's purely subjective at best and flat-out wrong in most cases.

#2 Crazed Loons

Loons are relatively rare birds in the United States, but they seem to be a booming breed here in Cuenca. One minute you're having a normal conversation, and the next minute it's clear that someone's taken a turn way out in left field.

In some cases there will be obvious warning signs. A few of our local loons really do have crazy eyes, look like they've been sleeping under bridges, or appear to have been inhaling fumes all day. Others seem normal on the outside, but as soon as their mouths open it's nothing but outlandish conspiracy theories, apocalyptic prognostications, and odd belief systems that make you wonder how they lived to adulthood. Once pegged, remember the face, and avoid like crazy to preserve your own sanity.

#3 Scam Artists & Shysters

Cuenca is home to more than a few hard-core criminals taking advantage of Ecuador's lack of extradition agreement with the United States. We've got known embezzlers, counterfeiters, and shady investment gurus up the wazoo, to say nothing of the healer quacks, fake spiritual guides, and snake oil peddlers roaming among us.

As your mother told you years ago, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." That goes double when you're in a foreign country and can't run basic background checks like you would in the States. Keep your wallet in your pocket until you've had a chance to build a network of local friends to help you do your due diligence on any "amazing products" or "hot deals" you're offered.


#4 Whiners

Whiners in Cuenca can't stand it here ... but they linger for years, moaning and complaining about everything around them. Negativity pours out of them and sours the surrounding atmosphere, ruining your day, too, if you're not careful.

Can you believe these people don't speak English? It's not right that I have to pay my cleaning lady $10 a day. Highway robbery. And did you hear about that new bar? They're charging $3 - three whole dollars - for a beer! What do they think I'm made of, money?

Do not, under any circumstances, ask a whiner about their residency visa process. You don't have that kind of free time. Wherever possible, redirect the conversation or "suddenly" remember you have to be somewhere else.

#5 Drunks & Druggies

There's nothing wrong with a little fun, but these expats have elevated self-medicating to a fine art. Morning, noon, and night, you can count on them to be high as a kite and three sheets to the wind.

Admittedly, in Ecuador minor possession of marijuana is totally legal. There's an indigenous cultural tradition of hallucinogenics in the form of San Pedro cactus and Ayahuasca blends. Mix it all together with a big pitcher of canelazo (raw sugar cane liquor) and you've got loud, obnoxious expats who'll pick a fight with you one minute and make out with a stranger the next. Be safe and avoid them - or at least try and watch the shenanigans from a safe distance!

#6 The Walking Dead

The walking dead are the one people whose souls died long ago - and now they're after yours. An afternoon sitting anywhere near one of these psychic vampires will leave you feeling drained and depressed.

For whatever reason, these people are in Cuenca just waiting for death to put them out of their misery. They're marking time, nothing more. No hobbies, no interests, nothing going on ... they shuffle through the rounds of each expat cafe and gringo night, leaving a trail of drained victims behind them. Your defense? Avoid engaging in conversation with these joy-killers and be happy you have a life!

Which of the unpleasant expat types do you see most often in Cuenca?

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Now, this article is deliberately over-the-top with the pessimism - but there are some grains of truth here, too. If you'd like a lighter view of the expat community in Cuenca, check out my companion piece, The 4 Types of Awesome Expats You'll Meet in Cuenca.


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