‘I’m a better gringo than you’

Jul 13, 2019 | 60 comments

By Dr. Anna Wilson

Soon after my arrival in Cuenca I noticed a phenomenon. I call it the “I’m-a-better-gringo-than-you” chorus. These are self-appointed expat police or behavior modification doctors.

It starts when someone reports, on social media or at a social gathering, an adverse event they experienced in Ecuador. For example, shoddy workmanship, obtuse government bureaucracies, unfair practices by banks or insurance companies, loud music or firecrackers, and so on.

Even when these reports are informative, in neutral language, and are not insulting, someone will chime in with comments like, “This isn’t North America; stop complaining and adapt.” “You are a guest in a host country; you have no right to criticize anything.” Or the nastiest ones: “If you don’t like it, go back where you came from.” Report a crime and they will inform you that there is more crime in the United States than in Ecuador – a dubious claim unless you are talking about mass shootings.

Some expats feel compelled to tell other expats how they should behave.

Would these same people criticize an Ecuadorian immigrant in the U.S. for complaining about how they were treated by their employer, a rude person at the grocery store, or a leaky roof in their apartment that the landlord neglects to fix? I doubt it.

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This chorus insists that everyone adopt a pollyannaish attitude that everything is wonderful in Ecuador. No one will beat me in an “I love Ecuador” contest. I love living here. I love the vast majority of the people. I never plan to leave. In fact, I’m more critical of the U.S. than any other country (except maybe Venezuela and North Korea). It’s because I care. I’m sickened by what is happening in the U.S. But no place is perfect, not even Ecuador.

I’ll be the first to condemn insulting, prejudicial, arrogant, or condescending statements to or about Ecuador or Ecuadorians. I don’t like hanging around with people who are rude to Ecuadorians – they embarrass me and they reflect badly on all expats. Chronic complainers are buzzkill too. However, people providing warnings of situations to avoid, giving constructive criticism of the status quo, making suggestions for improvements in any the above, is the way societies advance.

If a population feels helpless to change things and is therefore apathetic about their surroundings– an external locus of control – things never change. People with an internal locus of control speak up and act on their environments, and often bring about positive change.
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Dr. Anna Wilson, a native of the U.S., lives in Cuenca.

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