2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Italy or Ecuador?

Where people choose to move and how long they choose to reside in a given locale will obviously vary from person to person.  A number of expats here in Cuenca, for example, have recently been exploring Italy for consideration as a possible place to resettle.  I am quite contented with my life in Cuenca.  My recent travel to Italy was the fulfillment of a life-long dream, and I never seriously considered it as a place for me to live.  However, for those who may wish to give countries like Italy a serious consideration for migration, let me present you with my perspective of the pros and cons of such a move:

Cuisine, Food, and Wine

1. Italy has some great advantages, such as some of the finest cuisine in the world that is exceptional at every level from gourmet to humble family-owned ristorantes.  It’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in Italy.  Italia is also wine country, and alcohol there is not as expensive as in Ecuador, which holds true even with the difference in value between the dollar and the Euro. I was in supermarkets where two to three dollar bottles of wine in Italy cost six to nine dollars in Ecuador. 

Travel to Nearby Countries

2. Just as Ecuador serves for me not only as my home, but also as a way-station to visit other parts of South America; Italy serves with the advantage of its great Euro-express trains to move travelers quickly to other cities in Europe without the hassle of visas, and without the inconvenience of converting currencies, since most countries in Europe use the Euro.  Both issues are a problem when traveling from Ecuador to some of the other South American countries.  For example, visiting countries like Brazil and Argentina will cost hundreds of extra dollars to secure the visas with a U.S. passport. Not to mention the time spent in processing a visa to Brazil.  Unlike Ecuador, other countries in South America are not on the dollar. Therefore,  currency conversion is required,  which includes the hassle of familiarizing oneself with the foreign currency, and then translating the cost of everything from a given country’s currency back into dollar value to understand what one is spending.

One can also travel from Italy to many countries in Europe in less time and with less expense than one can travel from Ecuador to most other South American countries, due to closer geographic proximity between Italy and their European counterparts. 

Cultural Capitals of Their Respective Countries

3. No doubt, Italy is a cultural center of the world, with which Ecuador cannot compete.  Cuenca may be the vibrant cultural capital of Ecuador, but it is not in the same cultural league as Roma or even Florencia.  Of course, to enjoy the cultural activities of Rome and Florence will be very expensive for most retired people, who no longer enjoy the incomes they did while they worked.  Cultural activities in Cuenca in comparison are reasonably priced and often free, and much is offered for retirees to explore and dabble in the arts at prices they can afford. 

Bio-Diversity and Natural Beauty
4. Both countries have remarkably beautiful scenery, with Ecuador possessing greater natural diversity, but Italy does not do that badly in that category as well.  Much of coastal Italy is breath-taking along the Adriatic and the Mediterranean seas, the mountains and lakes to the north, and the beauty of the Tuscan country-side, and Italy too has it islands.  Ecuador’s northwestern coast in the province of Esmeraldas is said to be quite attractive, but I have yet to visit it.  As one travels down the Ecuadorian coast south of Manta, the coast is nice but from what I have been told, it is not as attractive as north of Manta, and it is not comparable to the Italian coasts in beauty.  Both Ecuador and Italy have a great deal to offer dependent upon what appeals in topography and climate to various expats.

Cost-of Living Factors

5. The best bet for a somewhat comparable cost-of-living in Italy with Ecuadorian cities would be to settle in a small town in Italy, if you are amenable to small town living.  Generally, the small towns will often have more amenities to offer than one would find in many small towns in Ecuador. 

When compared to Cuenca, Quito, or Guayaquil; numerous small towns in Italy will provide less dependable electrical and internet services.  Even in Rome, we often had to step on a pump to generate tap water in public restroom sinks.  Small towns in Italy as compared to Cuenca will also have fewer people who speak English, which can be quite a problem for new expats who do not know Italian.  Nor will Italian small towns offer the cultural amenities and social activities that Cuenca or other large cities in Ecuador do. As for me, I am big-city oriented; the thought of living anywhere much smaller than Cuenca has no appeal for me.

Overall, the cost-of-living factor is definitely in Cuenca’s favor.  Unless people are quite affluent they can expect to forget about living in the nice neighborhoods of the central cities like Rome and Florence, as is the case in most of the big cities of the world.  Every day I spoke with well-educated, two-income couples in Rome, Florence, and Venice who daily took trains into work, because they could not afford the housing costs in the central areas.  Of course, the last leg of the trip into the historic districts of Venice requires boat rides to work as well.  

I also can’t imagine being an Italian and living in these particular cities and dealing with such massive waves of tourists who are there all the time, although I suppose to some degree that depends upon in what part of these cities one resides.   No doubt, some relief is experienced in the winter months, but there are still so many tourists even then.  Cuenca is growing as a tourist magnate.  However, unless the Chinese inundate Cuenca with throngs of tourists as they are encouraged by the Ecuadorian government to do, I don’t see Cuenca attracting the numbers of tourists that even Florence which is more comparable in size to Cuenca currently attracts.

Climate and Weather

6. I absolutely loved my month in Italy.  Nonetheless, at the end of my month-long stay, I looked forward to returning to my home in Cuenca.  Rome was just beginning to get very hot when I left, and I was just beginning to notice mosquitoes.   Avoiding the hot summers and the cold winters in Italy was also one of the major reasons why I left Chicago for Cuenca, and I don't miss mosquitoes.  No doubt, upon my return to Cuenca, I do miss some of the totally sunny days from mid-April through mid-May that I enjoyed in Rome, when I could bask in the warm temperatures that were in the 70’s and low 80’s.  I wish we had more sunshine in Cuenca than we normally get, especially in the afternoon.  However, nothing is perfect, and it’s difficult to beat Cuenca’s over-all moderate temperature patterns of general consistency throughout the year.  On the other hand, other parts of Ecuador do have some of the same extremes in temperatures as found in various times of the year in Italy, and Guayaquil is always hot and humid.

Italianos and Equatorianos

7. The Italians are an interesting, fascinating, and a generally helpful people.  They know that their contributions to Western Civilization from ancient Rome, through the unity provided to Europe during the Middle Ages by the Roman Church, through the Renaissance of the Italian city-states have far exceeded their numbers and the size of what constitutes modern day Italy.  Yet, they are not an arrogant people, and very much like being appreciated for their love of life, and their passion and zest for living.  Italian contributions include some of the most fabulous art and architecture ever created, world-leading fashion designers, creation of music and opera of a high order, development of sports-car designs second to none, and extraordinary cuisine and wines that all bespeaks of the Italian love for the sensual and the aesthetic; and Italians take the time to enjoy all that they have created.  What is there not to like about a culture and a people who have contributed so much to factors that make life worth living, and why an immersion by living in such a culture would not be appealing?

Generally, Italians can be helpful to tourists, but some can also become quickly short-tempered or impatient when faced, for example, with giving instructions in Italian which are not quickly understood by English-speaking tourists; or having difficulty communicating with a tourist over something being ordered. Cuencanos, on the other hand, are among the most patient and friendly people in the world, and very slow to anger.  Maybe it is part of the indigenous cultural background as well, but Equatorianos generally appear to be even more laid-back than the Italians.  Both groups have roots in a Mediterranean culture, and similar to Ecuador, Italians also take their respite at similar times from 1:30 to 3:30 every afternoon to close down their commerce to relax.  Even where I stayed in the Trastevere area of Rome, the department store and the supermarket closed as well, which doesn’t happen in Cuenca.

Parli Italiano a Habla Usted Espanol?

8.  I do miss the sound of Italian.  I believe it truly is the most beautiful language in the world.  No wonder the greatest operas were produced in Italian.  I love the emotive quality of the language, and the synchronization of hand and body movements of the people with the spoken word. In the U.S. if a guy uses his hands to speak, he’s accused of being gay.  In Italy, the hands are as integral to communicating as the spoken word.

I was surprised at how little English is spoken in the places I visited in Italy.  I marvel at the Northern Europeans who travel.  They speak in their native tongue, easily transition into English, and have no problems sounding fluent in Italian when speaking to the wait-staff or retail clerks.  

There definitely is more English spoken in Cuenca than in Italy, which was a surprise to me.  English is the universal language, and Americans and Brits are among the major tourist groups to visit Italy especially during the summer months.  Nevertheless; Italians, maybe out of a cultural chauvinism, generally resist learning English. 

As beautiful as Italian sounds to my ears, I want to continue to learn Spanish. At my age I don't  want to give thought to learning another language.  I also love the sound of Cuencano Spanish.  While it does not have the flourished intonations of the vowel sounds like Italian; it has none of the harsh (sh) sounds of most other Spanish dialects including Castilian.  Cuencano Spanish is also said to have a musical lilt to its sound, which truly makes it an inviting sound to the ears;  and is spoken with a crispness and clarity that is missing in many Spanish dialects.

Currency Convenience for Expats Living in Ecuador
9. At least for the foreseeable future, Ecuador and the United States will continue to share a common currency.  Italy also shares a common currency with most European countries.  However, for expats living in Italy, there is the inconvenience of exchanging dollars for Euros based upon their income sources from the United States.


10. From what I read and experience, both Ecuador and Italy are balls of monstrous confusion when dealing with their government bureaucracies; with their ever-changing laws, their ever-changing daily bureaucratic interpretations of laws, and their very bureaucratic enforcement of rules.  Make a move to Italy from Ecuador or as an alternative to Ecuador, and there will be no change for the better in dealing with bureaucracy, not to mention starting the entire documentation process of getting settled in a new country all over again. 

Medical Services

11. Both Ecuador and Italy have good to excellent medical services in the big city areas, and both countries offer socialized medical coverage as well.  Between the two countries, the cost of medical coverage to the individual and the quality of medical services appears to be a draw.

Political and Economic Factors

12.  Political and economic factors are also making both Italy and Ecuador very shaky at this time.  However, this is a world-wide phenomenon; so I cannot say in this respect that one country has an advantage over the other as far as a consideration for expat migration.  Italy, however, is being inundated with large numbers of migrants, legal and illegal.  Not to mention boatloads of refugees, most from Muslim countries; which if it continues unabated will certainly cause major problems in the big-city areas of Italy as is currently happening in much of Europe.
These are my perspectives as to the pros and cons of living in Italy or Ecuador, particularly Cuenca, and they are simply intended to be a starting point of considerations for any expats in Ecuador who may be considering the possibility of a move to Italy, or for others who wish to become expats and are considering what may be the best place for them to relocate.  As for me, while Italy has many favorable advantages, my deal killers are the extreme variations in Italian weather throughout the year, and the higher cost-of-living in Italy.  I will continue to enjoy my wonderful life in Cuenca, dream about where I want to travel next, and continue to drool over the memories and images of the fabulous food I left behind in Italia.

Click on the link below, if you wish to see the Story Photos of my travel in Italy: