Expat Life

The howl of the expat cheapskates in the Kingdom of Cheap

One of the more curious subspecies of Ecuador expat is the small but noisy contingent that is utterly obsessed with the price of things; more specifically, they are obsessed with the notion that they are being ripped off, not only by Ecuadorians, but by other expats who are complicit in the rip-off.

chl-davidm-logoIt almost doesn’t matter what the commodity or service is, these folks work themselves into a lather. It can be the price of dinner, an ice cream cone, a manicure, a haircut, a restaurant tip, maid service, legal services, or an apartment rental.

In calculating the value of things, many of them presume to have inside knowledge of the finer points of the Ecuadorian economy and culture, claiming to know what’s best for Ecuadorians and how things ought to work if only those other expats weren’t upsetting the status quo.

Figuring out a fair price is never easy.
Does it take a genius to figure out a fair price?

Mostly, they rant on social media, where they are easily ignored, but all too frequently they hold forth in public at social gatherings, and in restaurants and bars, where they are impossible to avoid.

Strong opinions are fine, of course, and real rip-offs and gringo-gouging should be confronted and rejected wherever they raise their ugly head. There are plenty of helpful expats to advise newcomers about fair prices. On the other hand, it is the obsessive “people-like-you-are-to-blame” outrage, directed at fellow expats, that crosses the line of common sense and ultimately begs the question: where does the anger come from?

Back in the home country, which is almost always the United States, most of these angry folk kept their feelings contained, understanding that they would be seen as ignorant bores and bigmouths had they voiced their complaints. If the object of their consternation was, say, a high-priced meal, they would, like anyone else, simply go to a cheaper restaurant. Or, if they couldn’t afford one apartment, they would look for another.

It is hard to imagine a customer in a Manhattan restaurant being told, after leaving a generous tip, “Big tippers like you are ruining things for the rest of us New Yorkers.” Or, a new tenant in San Francisco, after signing an apartment lease, being advised, “You know, you could have gotten the same place in Petaluma for a fraction the price.”

But in Expatlandia, where personal histories are sketchy or entirely unknown, all restraints are off, and the price-obsessed anoint themselves experts. They are free to advise fellow expats that so-and-so restaurant is run by thieves and you could have gotten the same fetuccini alfredo down the street for half the price or, that the driver taking you to Guayaquil triples the price for gringos.

They position themselves as protectors of the innocent, sometimes assuming the role of facilitators to incoming expats. Their pitch: it’s a dangerous world out there, filled with shysters, snake oil merchants and mountebanks, and we’re here to help you navigate the treacherous rapids and shoals of living in a strange land; and don’t, by the way, listen to the other expats who tell you to relax and enjoy yourself.

So, what’s the source of the cheapskate sound and fury?

It starts, obviously, with Cuenca’s reputation for being one of the least expensive overseas destinations, which, naturally enough, draws a crowd focused on cheapness. Needless-to-say, many of them are sorely disappointed when things are not as cheap as advertised.

And there’s the undeniable element of class warfare: anger at those who can afford something better and are willing and able to pay for it.

Most of all, however, the rip-off obsession is a product of the U.S. culture of entitlement and its component part, the culture of victimization. They come to Ecuador filled with the anger of being denied what they feel was rightfully theirs back home, ready to make a new start in what they perceive as the land of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. When their expectations are dashed, the anger reasserts itself with a vengeance and they look for scapegoats.

Fortunately, most of the malcontents don’t last long here and will return to the U.S., still nourishing their anger and unhappiness. Unfortunately, more of them seem to be on the way.

Reposted from June, 2015.

  • Joe Tana

    Great Article what is sad it is so very true. It’s the 5% rule 95% of us are happy. There is always that 5% who want to make thing difficult for those of us who Love it here.

  • Bobby Phillips

    I couldn’t have said it better!! Finally, someone has spotlighted the inherent cheapskateitis so often read about on forum posts

  • Bruce W

    Well said, David.

    I’m tired of hearing that the dollar tip I gave to the really charming waitperson, or the price I negotiated for my third rented apartment have contributed to the ruin of Cuenca’s, and maybe all of Ecuador’s (!) delicately balanced economy, not so much to the detriment of our host Cuencanos, mind you, but I’m wreaking it for for my own paisanos. I can hardly live with the shame. Where most of us came from, it was not considered polite conversation to talk incessantly about what one spent on things. Maybe we, the pasty people, need to consider moving to even less expensive destinations, where we can bitch about living conditions instead.

  • Really David, I wished you would put your talents elsewhere. I am tired of hearing about the horrible expats you seem to encounter everywhere. I have met lots of wonderful, interesting expats and occasionaly someone is obnoxious, but that goes for every culture, American or not. Why are you perpetuating the “Us and Them” syndrome between expats? What is the point?

  • Why travel to another hemisphere and try to assert your customs on someone else’s culture. Leave the apple cart alone. When in Rome………do as the Romans do. Don’t feed the bears…they get used to it.

  • Barbara Hood

    Very good article. I don’t understand the anger and fear that consumes so many expats as well as many of those who remain in the US. My husband and I have found Ecuadorians helpful, kind, honest and friendly.
    We try to return their generosity.

    • Bruce W

      Gently and nicely said, Barbara. And I agree. Those who are honest find honesty wherever they go. Those who are friendly and kind find kindness and ready friendships. Those who are content raise the ire of the discontented, but don’t much care, because they’re…well…content.

  • Cuenca obviously has far too many ex-pats. That is why I would not consider living there. If your social life depends on ex-pats you should stay in your home country.

  • S

    5% ???You must not meet to many expats. I have been here 6 years.I don’t even hang out with this expat community my friends are locals and a few nice expats that have a positive attitude. I know they are coming over to seek a better life but bring that negative attitude with them. I have a business and I run across them 80% of the time. Then I have guests that are the nicest people and have made friends with. I have short term rentals for 35.00 a night in a great location that are two bedrooms one bath fully furnished. When they arrive they are so nice and especially when they need your help because they don’t speak one word of Spanish then they get around these other expats and hell breaks loose. They come home one day telling me I am overcharging them they can find a rental for 300.00 a month and they are going to leave early and want a refund and blah blah blah. I tell them to go ahead and find that furnished rental for 300.00 that includes all utilities and wifi and is fully stocked. Guess what they can’t. I try to explain a long term is different than short term rental. They still don’t get it. They think they are at a hotel where they just check out and they get a refund. Well…hotels here are $100.00 a night not 35.00. They book a unit for a month they have it for a month. Then they go on with threats about how they will do a bad review to hurt our business. I now know just by the tone of the emails the type of person I am getting and refuse to rent to them now. This was a great article and long overdue.

  • Robin Freeman

    Perfectly said, David!

  • Roz

    With Ecuador’s increased economic level, which we all enjoy, comes the benefit of an increased standard of living for all it’s people – happily.

  • Carlos

    I am a local from Cuenca, but lived in New York for 15 years. I returned 6 years ago. I assist people here that need help. I have good reviews on the gringo sites. I get some people that have asked me to help them sign up for the IESS insurance. After i explain to them how the system works and even take them a few times to the doctors they email me telling me they want to cancel that it is false advertising. I have to laugh…You who have not paid a dime into this country come her and get our health care for 70.00-80.00 a month with great doctors free meds COMPLAIN. Then you take up a local persons day driving you around and ask how much do I owe you when you know hoe much is owed. You don’t speak spanish and call when you need help and out of generosity we locals give it to you. I think there are way to many of the expats coming and the government should put higher restrictions now on process to get a residency. Other countries you have to show more income and more investment then we would have a higher class. Cuencano people have high class. Even if we do not make as much as Americans we don’t walk around looking like hobos and throwing fits in a store because the cashier does not speak English. I have many American people I have met who are kind and I will go out of my way for then the other ones I don’t want to ever see again.

  • Dan

    Magdalene, I have met many wonderful expats too and wish we could all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. But I am glad he told the truth about a very irritating minority that DOES try to set up a “us vs. them” scenario. Right on, David!

  • Peri

    Second day here at Mercado 9 de Octubre. Miel? Cuanto?
    Paid with a $10 and got back $7.50 in change. Turned back around and the vendor ARGUED! Had to raise my voice to get my .50 back. Sorry, but that tells me locals think gringos are stupid and can legitimately be ripped off.

  • JG

    If you don`t like listening to the conversation you`re hearing, then don`t listen to it. If you are invited to dinner with people who complain, yak-yak-yak all night, or do things you don`t like or are uncomfortable with, then just stay home. Simple.

  • 😉 David was apparently having a very bad day.

    It is never one extreme or t’other. Aristotle defined a “virtue” as the mid-point between extremes.

    We live in volatile times and Ecuador is using the USD. Some price increases ARE nonsense and many are not. For example, the rhetoric used by the GringoTree and CuencaHighLife about the Ecuador’s tariff increases encourage complaint and protest. But anyone should have seen that Ecuador’s oil revenues were decimated by Saudi and US decisions. So thank the lucky stars that Correa acted so quickly to slow the drain. The consequences of dawdling would have been dire in a world where most politicians scratch their heads for a year of two before doing anything (aside from sending troops.)

    So most big price increases in the last year in Ecuador have sound logic and a deep need behind them. However, others, which involve only Ecuadorian supply sources and labor, are not. We should all make sure we can distinguish which is which and complain accordingly.

    For those who bought imported tile three years ago, be happy.

  • Bill Roberts

    As P.T. Barnum said “There’s a sucker born every minute!”

    Being careful with the money you’ve worked so hard to earn and save seems to be a lost art among many Americans.

    For my part, I try to conform to local custom, trying to find out the appropriate price and tip (or lack thereof).

    I resent the application of the term “cheapskate” to people like myself.

    David, I think you need to find a new line of work.

  • Eric S.

    Thank you for this article. I agree wholeheartedly. I was beginning to think maybe I was just crazy. It seems that almost 80% of the gringos that I meet or overhear are the ones that are complaining about some kind of price. The other thing that I find quite annoying is that when I am looking for a place to eat by checking the reviews is that there are a lot of unjust reviews about all the restaurants!!! Mainly the reviews deal with price. It just annoys me to see a one star review because of price. I see so many gringos that think that because they travel outside of the US they have a special “arrogance” about them. Please just take the time to get to know the area and prices. When I first moved down here I paid almost double what I should have for an apartment. I could have paid less but it made the transition a lot easier to have an all inclusive apartment. There are things that I can’t stand about being here(I. e. Paperwork, not getting asked for a refill or offered the check, having to do the sidewalk shuffle because nobody budges) but guess what? Welcome to a brand new culture!! Instead of complaining just roll with the punches!! I guarantee you will start having a better time. Last piece of advice…..Distance yourself from the complaining gringos, I find it to be like a disease. A few times I’ve found myself getting pulled into the complaining parties and chiming in. Now I carry numchucks and when I hear complaining I just whip the numchucks out and KAPLOW!! haha not really but sometimes I think it might feel good!

  • Well, there are publications like International Lying that tell north americans that they can live the life of luxury in Cuenca for $600 a month. So down come the cheapskates. Their anger is based upon the fear that maybe they have been had. That they believed what they read. The joke is on them. Once they realise it, they leave. I run into these people now and then, and just ignore them because there is no convincing them otherwise. I do not see them often because I live outside of Gringolandia – out in the real economy. My tipping at restaurants falls roughly halfway between what I used to tip in the USA and what I see cuencanos tipping. But never less than 10%. Sorry, cheapskates!

  • I don’t disagree with you that this minority exists. But you argue against yourself because the person who didn’t complain in New York might be wishing he had right about now. Rather than demonize this minority you might consider them canaries in the gold mine.
    I enjoy talking with the “angry folk” as I call them because I learn from them.. Some just can’t find the ability to organize what they mean and blast one with emotion. You know that split second after you ask the price from a local vendor and there is a slight hesitancy, enough time for you to realize they are saying to themselves, “Gringo, I can charge more.” Well the discussed minority is often complaining, rightly, that they are not treated as equals, it just comes out angry. Funny but they are right.
    Read the words of Carlos and see that he feels a certain way but he does not see that Americans automatically give undocumented people access to health care.
    This is a great topic that is but the top of deeper issues that fester at our core. I love the comments and enjoy any writer who sticks his neck out..
    The comment section prevents us older people from doing grafitti. I get tired of explaining to the police that I was erasing the words.

  • Nice article. I think the best approach in Cuenca is to avoid engaging in conversation with other expats because chances are, they are going to annoy the hell out of you. And if that doesn´t work, there is always the “please STFU” approach.

  • Every viewpoint has some measure of truth in it. I don’t put too much stock in views which are not balanced or that name call or attempt to psychoanalyze those with views differing from the writer’s view.
    I get it that the writer is annoyed. His message suggests that he is privileged enough to afford what he desires and he feels the less well off or those who disagree with him are simply whining and should shut up. The fact is that expat habits do change the society as well as the expectations of native born people toward expats. I’m not saying that is good or bad, it just is. I’m sure some people do whine, but I am also sure that not all of them are the idiot malcontents the writer suggests they are.

  • Judy

    It is true that the more U.S. expats there are in an area, the faster the prices in general will go up. It is not necessarily because of what individual expats do, it is just that the more of them there are, the higher the prices will go. It’s just because of the attitude around the world that if you are from the U.S., you have money.

  • I seem to be the only nay sayer here about this article. Let me be clear I am not a new ager who wants to see nothing but the best in people or sing Kumbaya But the responses here clearly show me that who ever this group of “bad expats” you expound on are judged immediately by the responders here. Guilty, guilty! Get rid of them! Go back where you came from! Not long ago there was an article in one of the expats newsletters discussing disabled people coming here and I saw comments like “what are they doing here? They are going to ruin it for us, because they are going to tax the health care here.” How intolerant can you get? to I am sure we all have had a bad experience with another gringo or gringos, but surely you do not want me to expound on some Ecuadorians who behaved unacceptably. Sorry I find this article offensive.

  • Ray Carlson

    Very interesting article. I am from the San Francisco Bay Area and have been considering Ecuador, specificaly Cuenca as a second home. Sound like you have your share of Berkely freeloaders there already, always complaining that everyone else is a 1%er.
    Hey, I get “while in Rome…..” but even Romans were for the most part nice to the help and tiped for outstanding service. Sounds to me that Ecuador needs to reexamine its imagration policy and adopt something akin to US ploicy prior to 1960. The only way one got into the country was 1. have a sponser that was responsible or 2, have fist full of dollars.

  • Bob

    Carlos – I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences with rude ex-pats. I’d like to address your idea that raising the income level for incoming ex-pats would improve the ‘class’ of the individuals. Many wealthy people are extremely cheap. Studies have shown that people with lower incomes are actually more inclined to donate to others than people who have higher incomes. Wealth shows a person’s economic status, not their manners, kindness or generosity.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • jjjhein

    MI suspect that the “ugly american” type you (and I) find obnoxious come from the less civilized hinterlands of the great old USA and are simply reflecting the lack of a proper education and good manners that they were never exposed to. Many of these jerks think that by moving to Ecuador where their expat income provides for a standard of living they did not have back “home”, they should be treated as aristocrats (which they will never even be able to imitate, given their underclass background). To them I say, stop complaining or go back to Oklahoma or bumfux alabama, and allow the rest of us to enjoy our lives in Ecuador. (And, if I may suggest, learn spanish, adapt, try NOT to remain a 100% gringo, you’ll be much happier….and its what you rightwingers demand from the Latino “illegals” in the US, your favorite scape goats before relocating to Latin America. Thanks for a very well written article.

  • Bruce Stewart

    David….Always said you have courage…and you speak the truth…After 8 years, we still see some Ex-Pats who have lost their way on how well off they are and how an extra dollar or two can really help a local. Interesting that a few of them have responded. Also interesting how intellectual they get when not agreeing…Bruce Stewart

  • Kevin Demers

    As always in any situation, it is never black and white in nature. I for one, am not from the USA, but I am sure that there are some of my compatriots that act like ignorant boors as well. But I relate this whole issue to the “Ugly American” syndrome that plagues a good portion of the travellers from the USA. The folks from the USA that are here and bellyaching, are from the same class that wear Canadian flags on their backpacks and whatever, when they travel abroad so people will not know they are from the USA, because their behaviour precedes them. But sooner or later, their mouth and overall “stand aside, we’re from the USA” attitude betrays them. But they will go home to their Walmarts and Targets eventually and will tell everyone back in the hills what a complete s***h*** Cuenca is. Good I say! Stay home! I even had a woman from the USA tell me that most of the people from the States that are here, are mentally ill or running from the law. She claimed to be a healthcare professional. How crazy is that??

  • Stephen

    I agree to a certain degree, however, I don’t think its cool to charge someone extra based on the color of their skin or their nationality either. I love Cuenca, but I didn’t appreciate the gringo markup at times.

  • Sueetta

    Have not met any “angry”, “furious”, etc ones as mentioned; however, I ask local friends how much is “appropriate” to tip, etc. I have been overcharged for services being a Gringa in stores for services that have charged me three times as much and yes, I resent that as does my landlord as an Ecuadorian.

    Now, I came here to appreciate and enjoy the culture, NOT to change it and I believe if we overpay it changes things drastically and I don’t personally believe that is right.

    As with rentals and all the “gringo” condos and apartments built around the city that charge Expats much higher amounts than can be afforded by local people and in areas most convenient to locals who need to work downtown and such. I have heard from local people it IS their one issue with Expats moving here in large numbers as it is causing housing hardships for them and I do not think that is right just because we have more money and can pay more.

    It is only good and fine for the owners of these condos and high rise apartments but that does not make it right. And why should I also pay $100 and much more for a place just because I come from another country? I don’t see anything correct about that.

    But am not angry or hateful in any respect or outspoken disrespectfully about these issues. Am glad to see that the City is considering some regulations for rental prices for the benefit of all concerned.

    I had a good friend visiting here from the US and we lunched in a small town on local fare and when we went to leave he told the owner he should charge a lot more for such a lovely lunch. I chastised him for doing this just because we can afford it but the place is in a small town and most of their business is from locals who cannot afford to pay “much more” for their lunches. This is wrong on a number of levels and I consider this being an “ugly American”. Just compliment the owner(s) and move on.

  • DJ

    A man walking from one town to another comes upon an old timer. “Hey old timer”, the man says. “I am thinking about moving to this town. Tell me, are the folks here kind, generous, good-natured and fun to be around?” The old man replied with a question. “Are you kind, generous, good-natured and fun to be around?” “Yes, sir I am”, answered the man. “Then, that is how you will find everyone in town”. About a week later another man stumbled upon the old timer”. “Hey, old timer”, the man said with obvious disdain in his voice. “I am thinking about moving to this town and I just want to know, are the people here mean-spirited, hateful, distrustful and no fun to be around?” The old timer replied, again with a question. “Are you mean-spirited, hateful, distrustful and no fun to be around?” The man replied, “hell, I hate people and I just want to be left alone”. “Then, that is how you will find everyone in town”. Let the negative comments commence!

  • Ron Wingfield

    I’ve been here for a little over 2 years and while there haven’t been many I’ve certainly encountered a few North American expats who seem compelled to render negativity on all things not American or Canadian. I feel in love with Cuenca almost immediately upon my arrival and some of my first contacts with the “nay-sayers” ended with an expression of my disgust in no uncertain terms. Now, however, I merely respond with sarcastic agreement and advise them to return to their point of origin where everything is certainly more reasonably priced and under no circumstances would anyone there ever try to cheat or swindle them. Of course I have to advise them to remove their heads from between their legs lest their vision be impaired and they get lost along the way.

  • Henry Sheldon

    My wife and I are seriously thinking of moving to Cuenca, and we made a fact finding three week visit last year. I’m sure that there are plenty of US expats who act as you mention in the article, but the ones who we observed complaining about expats overpaying while we were there were Canadians.

  • Edna

    Great article, David! I suggest to underline “…the small but noisy contingent…” as some have not noticed that in your article.

  • Mary T.

    Gosh David, you appear to have a lot of energy on this. 🙂

    I am surprised at the number of respondents who echo your sentiment, only because the majority of folks I know and love here are generous beings who enjoy their lives in Ecuador (regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, age or hometown). I guess those folks aren’t interested or agitated enough to add their voices to this conversation, hence the skewed response.

    What I experience in this thread is a lot of emotion….. and a lot of judgment (which somehow always seem to go together). That usually signals to me a wound of same sort, or a cry for healing or acknowledgment, or even being “heard”.

    I guess I what I want to ask is what does adding more judgment to the population you feel are already “judging” (complaining, whining) solve, or how does it open the conversation, or the potential for any kind of healing to take place……read, positive CHANGE to the very thing that you are saying is an annoyance to you?

    I want to bow to you in that there is a kind of honor in being the guy who says “HEY, this feels really off to me!”, and if it does, then maybe you are the one who is passionate enough to actually SHIFT it in a more positive direction. I’ve heard eh definition of a “Leader” is someone who speaks the thing that everyone else is thinking and not saying. If all of that “negativity” bugs the heck out of you, maybe you carry a body of distinctions about how to speak into negativity and shift it.

    In my humble experience, judgment just serves to create more separation and pain. It disappears people and THEIR pain, and it shuts down the conversation or sparks more judgment. And since we are not separate, your pain is our pain. We all feel it, whether consciously or not. I mean, did more war ever end war, or just make it bigger, longer and more expensive, with more loss of “life”? Would you kick a guy in a wheelchair?

    So I would ask you David, what is motivating you in your point of view? What is behind all that emotion? (not making it right or wrong) just curious. It’s a rhetorical question unless you really want to respond.

    I really resonated with DJ’s response here. His fable put the responsibility right back on the perceiver, which is where all stories belong, including this one. Our words do create.

    Maybe what we need in Cuenca is not a higher economic quotient for immigrating ex-pats, but richer stories.

    And more forgiveness, beginning with ourselves.

    Thank you all for your listening.

  • N.Ros

    My husband and I with two young children lived in Ecuador ( Ambato & then Paute) from 1985 – 1990. We are now retired and have been considering moving back to the Cuenca area. I was stunned to discover that there are more than 12,000 expats in the Cuenca area alone. More than that though, I have been saddened to read of so many nasty Americans down there. The Ecuadorians are a deeply religious and humble people. Yes, they are different. Learn the culture AND the language and practice those Christian qualities that America was founded on.

  • Ken Merena

    N.Ros, 12,000 expats in the Cuenca area? Your figures are way off. Responsible estimates range from 1,500-4,000, but nobody really has an accurate count.

  • You focus on the negative when you could share how Americans fix up the downtown houses, teach English, create projects to help poor families, donate so much of their time and money to make things better here.

  • It really is the same in the USA, there are the latinos that say they do not want anymore latinos in their cities because they change things. We give free medical service in USA as well because it is prohibited to deny medical treatment to anyone in USA. There are many customs that foreigners have that offend our culture as well. The same thing is happening here, but I have to say that Americans are much more tolerant in my opinion, we have accepted more than 1 million Ecuadorians in The United States. There are very few Americans left here, truthfully, there are more leaving Cuenca than coming.

  • Fingers

    Repeat after me: I have all that I need, I have all that I need . . .

  • Fred C

    I reside in Mexico. But before we retired it was a very close race between Cuenca and San Miguel MX where we reside.
    We have the same issue here, to a smaller extent. I over pay my maid who cares for her elderly mother (whom I have met). I generally tip 15-20% just like I did in the states. So every now and then some expat will comment and I just reply that I do it on purpose because I want then to go home.
    The ones that really believe you can live on the claims of International Living are a hoot. I can live on $600 USD if I want to live on in a 1 room house with 1 light bulb. But I prefer better.
    Good articular and it applies to all Latin America Expat destinations. You are a guest, you are not forced to stay.

  • Edd Staton

    There’s a lyric in a Simon and Garfunkel song that goes, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” As International Living’s Cuenca correspondent I feel a responsibility to respond to the inaccurate information attributed to the publication by several commenters. The “$600 a month to live in luxury” is a misquote that has grown to urban legend status. This infamous monthly budget in truth comes from an article written years ago by someone describing his extremely frugal rural lifestyle in Vilcabamba.

    International Living constantly monitors changes in locations we report on, particularly regarding budget. My wife and I just returned from an IL conference where we stood on stage and told hundreds of prospective expats that a couple can enjoy a nice life in Ecuador for less than $2000 a month.

  • Keith

    What I find miraculous is that none of the “Gringo Tax” complainers seem to have suffered any form of fiscal twisting when they lived in USA (or wherever).

    How fortunate they are never to have experienced an inflated garage invoice or to have paid for work or services that were not fully or adequately delivered.

    To have come from a country where world renown financial institutions treated you like moronic playthings as they knowingly sold you worthless bonds and traded their toxic “sub-prime” loans with other colluding banks and then to complain that you have been overcharged for two pounds of cherries and a cucumber shows a slight imbalance in your sense of proportion.

    For as long as your preferred method of selecting produce is to point at it then hold up the number of fingers corresponding to your requirement you shouldn’t be too surprised to find that you pay a couple of dollars more than the Gringo who politely orders verbally.

    Think of it as a laziness tax.

    • Bruce W

      Might be the best observation, by my sensibilities, of the many opinions voiced in this thread. Well done.

  • Danny

    I am a cuencano, we own a business in Cuenca, and have several friends and family as well that own or work in businesses with some gringo customers. I know and appreciate a lot of gringos that are respectful of local customs and prices, I am proud to say that I have great gringo friends here. BUT it’s really irritating when a gring@ loc@ comes in to our door and try to treat us like their servants, being very in respectful and threaten us to give bad reviews on the gringo sites for our prices. I would say I am very tired of this cheap attitude, it’s similar to some very vulgar cuencanas that try to negotiate and save every single cent in the local markets when purchasing potatoes or so…. If you like the way it is here, without trying to change it, you are welcome to stay and share this wonderful city together. If you don’t like it, please get back to your country, we don’t like you at all. It’s true the prices are rising because some gringo influence, but this attitude is also provoking xenophoby among cuencanos, a topic very sensitive and dangerous…

  • Francisco Vega

    This is a very good article, and as a Cuencano that has been around this North American influx of expats to our city, I have seen lately that many locals that dont speak very well english had previously an “ideal” image of North Americans as rich, generous and very polite. When they encounter this 5% or 20% of people of lower income and “different” manners that think is being overcharged and probably reacted badly, and also is constantly complaining, get shocked, and the previous mental image of Americans dissapears and is replaced by a “I am becoming to hate these gringos!” (ya me estan cayendo mal estos gringos!) or “what do they think they are?” (que se creen?) or if they dont like it here why dont they just leave? (si no les gusta porque no se largan?) attitude. We all have to be aware that Cuencanos are different than the rest of ecuatorians and latinos, we have our special culture and different accent as well because of our long isolation for the rest of the world for most of the XX century and long before. One of the special characteristic of our Cuencano culture is that two things are very bad to us: 1) rude manners (antipatico) and 2) being perceived as “cheap” (coño). We are very good hosts and polite but we are very very “sensitive” about bad manners of others. So it is very easy that a Cuencano goes from love to hate sentiments very fast. These situations would not happen in the Caribbean or Spain or even Guayaquil, for example, but here in Cuenca we are definitely “touchy”. The final point is that we would get along very well with the very educated, polite, well traveled, open minded, spanish fluent, higher class North Americans not so with the other type, that is more concerned about their personal economy, may complain a lot, haven´t got out of USA before, dont speak a word in spanish, and may have rude manners because of their continuous stress, but luckly are a minority and probably come here just because it is supposed to be cheaper.
    Another issue that I see a lot in North Americans is the perception that they are being charged more than locals because they are rich gringos. This is definitely true! but also happens with white locals too. The whiter skin a person is, and if also is dressed in better clothes, he or she is inmediately perceived as richer, (pelucones) and the more colored skin is perceived as poorer or “del pueblo”. Probably it is because of a very long history of racism and oppresion from the whiter spaniard descendants to the local indigenous people.
    I hope this personal view clarifies some situations.

  • Loren Lowe

    I am sorry to say… I laughed through most of this article! Very true. We are called the ugly Americans around the world for a reason. We are the best there is, the free-est, smartest and deserve the gratitude of the world for winning wars in another generation. I’ve lived in various other worldly places and traveled a good portion of it, and see them everywhere. There was a time I was embarrassed about it. But eventually I figured there were jerks like that all over and I simply wouldn’t take the blame for it. I just avoid them, and if they still intrude on me, I am quite blunt about not associating with “A-***:

  • Pixelvt

    Good article David. My take is this, I know or meet plenty of expats in person and do not usually see this behavior. But on the FB forums, it can be rampant, probably because you are more isolated using that platform.

    A recent article on Gringo Tree raised my hackles, in Part 1 he basically ripped apart the US and justified coming to Cuenca for cost of living, saying he never saved enough and could not afford to live in the US anymore. Now who’s fault is that ? Naturally I got ripped a new a$$hole for a couple posts I made LOL.

    I have no problem treating people fairly, being nice and tipping as I feel like. An example of what not to do, expat goes to a bar and has 2 $5 cocktails, the cab ride was a $1.50 and the cheapat does not tip the driver. WTF ?

  • Patrick Trussell

    David , sounds as though you have it figured out. I have lived here 7 years and one learns to read the lay of the land and avoid , when necessary . Mostly , I have no problems – – – except with the Clinatistas and Obama know-it -alls . Those can be so obnoxious that I have stopped going to ” Gringo-Restaurants” . .

  • KenpoJoe

    Nice article. I do see myself just a little bit in the gringo that you describe. However my major complaints are with the Northamericans that allow themselves to be cheated and cheerfully overpay because they may feel guilty that we have so much and the Ecuadoreans have so little. I’ll bet anything that if you have Ecuadorean friends it is because THEY are reaping the benefits of your friendship. Either they are practicing their English or you are paying for their lunch or their beer. There is always something in it for THEM. Please understand that l know what I’m talking about having lived in Ecuador for 5 years in the late 70’sand early 80’s and was married to an Ecuadorean for many years and speak the language.

  • Joe Tana

    It’s one year later and I must agree still with you Dave. I know people who love it here and always do the right thing and like I said before there is still that 5% who will complain about almost everything. All I can say is that me and most of my friends love it here and think the world of the people of Ecuador. When it comes to tipping and prices in the restaurants. Remember it’s about the service and quality of the food. In America it is the same you can eat at the local diner or go to the Capital Grill. It’s your choice and the tip you leave is increased by the service you get. I still use the 20% rule if the service here is outstanding and most of the time it is.

  • Don C.

    Let them eat cake.

  • Lars

    If the service is good, I tip between 15-20%. Anything less is “cheap”, notwithstanding cultural norms.

    • StillWatching

      I’m sure Warren is moved by your post. Except for the fact that he’ll never read it. Died last Spring.

  • Lars

    Pretty shallow, Nards

    • StillWatching


  • Lars

    How dare you diss Oklahoma and bumfux Alabama. Ain’t you got no class?

    • StillWatching

      IBID 3

  • Lars

    Walmart and Target are great! One stop shopping, dude, how wonderful.

    • StillWatching

      IBID 4

  • Lars

    Right on, Fred!
    I overpay our maid AND I give her a 20% tip on top of that. I also buy her kid’s school uniforms. I also hand out money to beggars. I am so blessed – I’m going to do whatever I can to hand out as much money as possible and I couldn’t care less if some gringo idiot takes exception to it.

    • StillWatching

      IBID 5

    • Edward A. Konderla

      I love it Lars! It has been at least 6 years ago when the “destroying the Ecuadorian culture by tipping” craze was going on. My response was that it is my money and I if I want I can stack it up and burn it. I chose to tip heavily instead.

  • Lars

    Great response, Edd. Frankly, I’ve been reading IL for many years. I think it is wonderful. I bought a house in Cuenca 5 years ago, based upon much of what I learned from IL. I could not be happier.

    • StillWatching

      Well, Edd is still alive, but he isn’t reading your stuff.

  • Lars

    Good one, hahahaha!

  • Cuenca Jackie

    True…all true. I don’t know if I would call them “malcontents”, or “know-it-alls”, but they love to monopolize social media here with their, ‘I have been here 4 years and I know everything’ attitude. Or, better yet, “You are an idiot if you don’t share my opinion.” They are obnoxious. Whether it is about real estate, restaurants, politics, or life in general, they spend their days offering their “opinion as fact”, and that is exactly what it is,THEIR OPINION, on Facebook all day long. Unfortunately, we all use Facebook to stay on top of what is going on here, and communicate, so it is hard to ignore it all. Telling others what to do with their money, or commenting about it is “tacky” in any culture, but we seem to have an overabundance of that in the gringo community here. It also sends a “false perception” to those who are considering a move to Cuenca. And, shame on all of us, who fail to call out “rude behavior” for what it is. It is rude, in any language, but especially in this culture.

    • StillWatching

      What is Facebook?

  • marie

    Well said. Thank you from one who is often embarrassed by the very people mentioned in your article. They are unhappy and will probably be where ever they are.

  • nards barley

    After having lived here myself almost 5 years, I never presume that someone who has lived here a long time knows what they are talking about.

    • StillWatching

      Nards, you know I love your stuff, but this one has to be the best ever.

  • Carl Compton

    Excellent analysis, Francisco. It also seems to me that so called “gringo” pricing is a common business practice across the world. As a business person you are going to try to get the best price you can for your goods. As a consumer, she you’re also going to try to get the best price you can. As long as both parties are reasonable in their expectations, a successful negotiation ensues. We just call it gringo pricing because we’ve chosen to think of ourselves as victims. If you think the price is inflated, don’t get offended – smile and suggest a lower price. If you still don’t like the price, try somewhere else but don’t be rude about it.

    • StillWatching

      Francisco’s widow asked me to thank you for your post.

  • Carl Compton

    I think some of the people who have complained about the article in the comments section should re-read the article. David is describing a small group of people who are quite vocal to the point of arrogance about gringos who tip or who overpay. Some of them go so far as to suggest that our habit of rounding up the fare or paying that 25 cent tip to the cabbie is ruining it for other gringos or worse, for the economy. I think that if you don’t want to tip or can’t afford to tip, don’t. Period. But don’t try to turn it into a socio-economic issue.

    • nards barley

      True story: an expat who gave a ride to Supermaxi to a neighbor in her car became indignant when she saw her give a tip to the employee who carried her groceries out to her car.

  • BDev


    • StillWatching

      BDev, not you, too. You’re responding to a post that is a year old.

  • BDev

    Cheapskates of any country/culture are all insecure inside, and the only way they know to bolster their own perceived ‘status’ is to run the cheapskate program at every opportunity. When you are on the receiving end, immediately you get the facepalm feeling – http://www.noliesplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/facepalm-stupidity-500×358.jpg

    • StillWatching


  • Doug Morgan

    Good and accurate article.You will be happy to know that 100% of the malcontents that came to Cuenca at the same time that we did in Dec 2013 have gone back to the US.

  • John Cain

    Thank you !

  • J koenig

    Glad this article was reposted for those having a problem. Your articles etc have always been appreciated by me. My wife and I have been here 3 years and are happy and planning to stay. No problems here – it is what it is- asi es.

  • LadyMoon

    I posted an ad in several places looking for an apartment earlier this year. One guy jumped! online to chastise me for having such a high rental range. He, I was assured, knew a lovely place for $250. Do I look like a $250 apartment person to you? LOL Thanks for this article, David. I have no patience for this stuff…getting old and cranky.

    • StillWatching

      Moonie, stop. You are not getting old nor cranky. You are the biggest Pollyanna I know. I like you that way. Stop trying to fake being a curmudgeon like me.

  • Jose Heinert

    I guess these folks are the beach-head of the “undesirables” from redneck country who, disappointed by the Demagogue’s election loss (“rigged”, of course), may decide to expat themselves. God help us if these people refuse to crawl back under their rock and head for Cuenca. These would indeed be the “ugly American” type, of legend. By all means, do NOT welcome them! They are “bad hombres”!

  • Jose Heinert

    That fifty cents must have put a big dent in your budget. Don’t worry, we are getting a S.S. raise next year. Live it up!

    • StillWatching

      Like the one we got last year, Jose? Please stop writing to dead guys that won’t ever read your posts. Look at the date of Peri’s post.

  • Jose Heinert

    I think that part of the problem is that many “working class” gringos who are in the lower socieconomic level of U.S. society (poor education, lack of manners etc) upon relocating to Ecuador and other countries, adopt an obnoxious “superior” attitude towards the local population. Because they now have a higher income than most of the locals they meet (they are unlikely to run in the upper middle class and monied class Ecuadoreans), they think they are the “lord of the manor” and ENTITLED to better treatment than they were offered back home in Podunk, Texas, whey they were just a “nobody”. Perhaps more of these folks will be coming south of the border in an attempt to escape the perceived loss of their “white entitlement” in U.S. society.

    • StillWatching

      Sorry, Jose. A friend of mine that knows you says you can talk to dead people. Write to anybody you want.

      • Jose Heinert

        I am aware that the post is dated. However, that fact hardly matters if I choose to make a comment, as it is obvious from your post that despite writing to a “dead guy” you are reading it and commenting on it. And I doubt you have a friend who knows me, as I do not associate with gringos and prefer the company of cultured Ecuatorianos.

  • Jose Heinert

    And after November 8 I believe that more of these people will be coming down with lots and lots of their frustration, anger and hostility to Cuenca. (Fortunately they will have to leave their 2nd Amendment rights behind.)

    • StillWatching

      IBID. You know what that means, right?

      • Jose Heinert

        I took four years of Latin in High School and Greek in college.

  • StillWatching

    This is almost funny to me. In reading these forums for a long time, I have always found Joe Tana to be among the biggest complainers.

  • StillWatching

    I don’t know which is funnier. Morrill recycling these articles or the commenters responding to year old comments from people that died long ago.

    Carry on. It’s cheap entertainment which I don’t have to tip for.

  • lorenzo

    Wow, who has time to read 81 comments? I could care less if gringos tip or don’t. But here’s my question. How many of you know at least one Ecuadorian who tips taxi drivers or restaurant servers for just doing the work that they are paid to do?

    • StillWatching

      Bravo, Lorenzo. The more I read your stuff, the more I like you.

  • Sueetta Joyce

    Not nice to refer to anybody as a “subspecies”. That said, as in most places people here are honorable I find but there truly IS a portion of the local community who tend to think ALL Gringos are wealthy and have it from local friends about charging higher rent to Expats than to local people frequently and have personally was charge 3x the price for a copy in a shop that my landlord returned to for a copy. He told me of the price difference and said “We won’t shop there again!” And have had taxi drivers refuse to turn on their meters then asking for an extra 50cents upon arrival at my home from what metered rides have cost. So like everywhere there are dishonest folks here. But I don’t for a minute think that relates to the majority of people and have no fault with prices in any way. People complaining are ones who bitch and complain in life about all sorts of things anyway and are simply folks I don’t care to befriend or keep company with, as am sure most don’t. And public rudeness is not agreeable or acceptable from anybody, anywhere as far as my beliefs go. Good article otherwise.

    • StillWatching

      Suetta Joyce! You used the word “bitch” twice in your post. When did you come over to the dark side and abandon political correctness? Whatever it is that caused this, I like it. Thumbs up.

  • Sueetta Joyce

    I only disagree with ones who tip taxi drivers who have not assisted with bags or luggage or ones who overtip or suggest to owners, because the food is SO good, that prices should be increased as they do no service to the local people in creating expectations they cannot afford. I did not come here to change the culture but to appreciate and enjoy it in every way. I will tip extra, as I did in the US, for extra service only.

    • StillWatching

      Agree, Suetta Joyce, but you’re writing to a guy that has been gone for a year.

  • Paul S.

    Since we have a different lifestyle and spend money differently than most expats (we don’t even think of ourselves as such), we can’t speak to all this.
    But any day we can read this periodical without someone criticizing gringos in general, is a good day, whether gringos criticizing each other or Ecuadorians critical of them!

  • StillWatching

    Suetta, another guy that has been gone for a year.

  • StillWatching

    Bill! At least you’re writing to a person that is still alive and who will read your post. However, you just admitted to reading Gringo Tree. Pooof! There goes your credibility. Are they really still in business?

  • Ricki

    Never met a cheap expat, rude yes, overly opinionated yes. We tend to repeat our same spending trends, since it seems less expensive here, except for clothes, cars and alcohol, cost more .. off the top of my head. However, after four years here, i just want to add that newcomers make a commitment to a rental they should know all their options, before they have a shipping container on the front lawn. Rentals here are all over the board, depending on who is renting! We should look out for each other not paint expat folks into a certain category.

  • Ransom Nichols

    When we moved here with our 6 suitcases, our choice was based on simply 2 1/2 years of internet research and talking with internet expats (not only on FB). It has been interesting to listen to North Americans talk about a wide variety of what is right and wrong about this country (!). I’m quite happy that I’ve found a wonderful restaurant that serves superb $1.75 almuerzos (Miguelitos in Loja city), but I sure won’t add that to the conversation. Just this week I bought 4 dining room chairs, was standing on the corner trying to get a couple of cabs, and up comes a green stripe taxista from Vilcabamba. We accept and off we go to our home. Upon arrival I ask how much – he shrugs – I say $2.00, all is good, in Spanish. I suspect that those who think they are getting ripped off don’t have a clue of the culture and have very minor language skills beyond the taxi. Ama La Vida.

  • Delana

    Well said, Magdalena!

  • Gary Huddleston

    S.. you problably have a very nice location and roooms for $35 and when you get it, more power to you. If an expat is willing to settle for a bit less in upscale accomodations and get a bit more earthy, like sharing a bathroom facility with other guests, there are a few very nice and clean hostels for that $300 a month rate (furnished with wifi, TV etc.) on Calle Larga near Todos Santos. The owners are nice and the cleaning staff are efficient and kind.

  • sacrificial lamb

    gotta be careful what i say on this site- Morrill will delete anything that he does not like- Truth does not matter!!!!! guess you’ll delete this post also wont you

  • MermaidGirl

    Thank you! Ha ha… you do sound angry yourself… but I get it. Ecuadorians that I met during my 2 weeks in Cuenca were so lovely that my teens and I are coming to live there for one year to see if it will suit us as a forever home. We have spent 4 years in 6 different countries learning Spanish. Cuenca is an amazing place and we cannot wait to be there. i don’t mind paying slightly more for a house there that is fully furnished instead of an apartment unfurnished here in Lima in an unsafe neighborhood..