Moving to a new country, or even a new city, can require adaptation to the local way of doing things. Here are some things I learned after moving to Cuenca that can make your transition to this historic city a bit easier.
The first few times I used a taxi, the fare was over a $1.50. I just handed the driver the dollar amount displayed on the meter and went on my way. Then, one day, my fare was $0.98 cents.
I began to get a dollar out of my pocket and then watched the driver hit a button and the fare changed to a $1.39 (which, I later found out, is the official minimum daytime fare). I thought that was odd, but let it go and just reached for more change. I handed the driver $1.40 and started to exit the cab… when he said the fare was $1.50. Evidently, this is an unwritten rule.
In Cuenca, you will experience some variations in taxi fares. Here are some things to remember:
- Make your minimum fare $1.50 during the day and $2 at night. This is easy to round to for change and the taxi drivers have never complained to me.
- If you are charged an additional 50-cent service fee for calling a taxi, either by phone or Easy Taxi, pay it. At certain times of the day it can be very difficult to get a taxi and 50 cents is a small price to pay to get where you want to be in a timely manner.
Internet service varies by provider and location within Cuenca.
- There are three different types of internet options available in Cuenca: cable, phone-line, and fiber-optic. Where you live will determine which of these are available from the various internet providers. Do not take any one person’s advice as to which company to use. If you want the fastest possible speed and best service where you live, your own due diligence is required.
If you can ask neighbors which company they use, and what kind of service and speed they are getting, that can be very helpful. If you don’t have neighbors, ask around online.
- The speed you sign up for does not mean it will be the speed you consistently receive. Most providers state their service will be within 80% of what you are paying for, but it can be much lower at times. Asking current users what speed they’re getting can be helpful when selecting.
- Providers have different installation fees. Ask what these charges are and what the modem costs. Also make sure the rep gives you a copy of the contract with all charges and fees filled out before he leaves.
- Installation and hook-up can be a slow, painful process: the first visit from a rep is just for paperwork, and installation is scheduled after the paperwork is turned into the office.
If you have all the cables and lines in place, you may be connected by the end of that week. If, however, cables need to be installed, then you will likely be waiting another week before your internet is up and running.
To help you through this waiting period, have a favorite café where you can get connected online. If you’re changing providers, don’t cancel the old service before the new service is actually up and running. Promised installation dates cannot be depended upon.
- If you do not speak Spanish well, ask a Spanish-speaking friend (or pay a translator) to help you through this process. The internet providers usually do not have English speaking representatives to answer your questions. Clearly understanding what is happening throughout the process will decrease the amount of stress you experience.
Living here requires a lot of patience. Appointment times should be considered approximate meeting times or best guesses. There are exceptions, but from my experience, overall promptness is rare. Admittedly, this can be a difficult concept to embrace, but not doing so will only add a high degree of stress and disappointment to one’s experience in Ecuador.
- Plan ahead. Since service response time is so variable, do not wait until the last minute to get something done. If rent or utilities need to be paid at the bank, go a few days early. If the line at the bank is out the door, you have time to come back when it isn’t so long. If you need propane delivered, call before you’ve run out.
- Decide how long you are willing to wait. You can schedule a service call in the morning, and at 2 pm still be waiting for someone to arrive. If you have things to do, go do them. This helps maintain your sense of control over what you can do.
- Instead of finding fault, embrace this country’s lack of urgency and let it work to your advantage. Enjoy longer lunches with friends, go for leisurely walks along the rivers, and even take a mid-day nap. What really must be done today anyway?
Cuenca has many more products available than other places in Ecuador. Still, there are numerous items that cannot be found here, from spices, to kitchen tools, to electronics, to textiles.
- Be Flexible. Learn to cook differently by finding out what the locals are using for spices and flavorings. Enjoy using the basics here…a knife, a pan, a pot. See what you can make with just a chop or cut or boil— you will be impressed with what you can do.
- Experiment. Don’t be afraid to use the products that are available here. Don’t get stuck in only one way to do something. A glass lid can become a pie dish, just as a wooden stool can become an end table. Go with what you’ve got!
Walking on the sidewalks can be dangerous! There are numerous pieces of cut-metal posts that stick 2 to 4 inches from the sidewalks, holes in the concrete large enough for your foot, and random dips and slopes along otherwise-flat surfaces. I don’t know why this is, but it has been like this in every city I have visited in Ecuador.
- Look down while walking. You have to watch where you step; to not do so is to risk serious injury. Closed-toed shoes are probably advisable as well. Texting is definitely not recommended while walking.
- Take responsibility. Instead of getting angry and complaining, decide you have an opportunity to be responsible for your own well-being. It’s an empowering feeling to be in a foreign country and know you are responsible for yourself.
Cuenca is a wonderful city to live in and get to know. Coming prepared to deal with these issues will help your time and experience in Cuenca to be a fantastic one.