Don’t Take Your First World Problems Abroad

Posted in: Expats Everywhere, Our Perspective

first world problemsSome expats are doomed to failure.

They get off the plane complaining about something. The moment they check-in at their hotel they hit Facebook to complain about the taxi service, small portions, or the unbelievable rainy weather. And they send nasty emails to anyone who sees the glass half-full.

But… This Isn’t Like Home!

A while back, I received a flaming from an traveler who just completed a two week trip to Ecuador. It seems that they had a rather bad experience while here in Ecuador.

He was angry that everyone online lied to him about what to expect. Here’s what he said:

“I spent 8 months researching Ecuador before we made our trip, and I can not remember a single blog site that I can say told me the truth as to what we would find once there, including yours.”

I find it hard to believe that someone could research any topic for eight months and still not understand it. It seems that the rose-colored glasses filtered out what he didn’t want to see. And when he arrived he was shocked.

In his email, he complained about the people (unfriendly), the president (dislikes gringos), dogs (too many), safety (doesn’t exist), and other expats (all liars).

Over the past six years, we have seen the Ecuadorian people to be a most friendly and welcoming culture. I don’t follow politics very much, but the president seems to favor foreigners – encouraging incoming expats with favorable visa requirements. Acceptable levels of dogs and safety are highly subjective – and dependent on what part of each area you are considering and what you are comparing them against.

In my experience, most expats arrive with both reasonable expectations and a willingness to adapt to how things are done in their new country. But some expats seem bent on the negative. And some of them favor lashing out against anyone in their path.

In my opinion, if you’re unhappy at home – you’ll be unhappy abroad regardless of where you move. If you are high maintenance, you just might find life abroad to be challenging. Of course, there is nothing wrong with liking things a certain way. But when you move to another country, you will likely lose that control. We have gotten used to random power and water cuts. Sometimes the carrots are damaged and the apples are soft (or just unavailable). We have low-thread count sheets and no hot water in the kitchen. But life goes on.

When I first saw the following video, I thought about the complaining expats who have trouble with inconvenience. This video is for you.

First World Problems (Weird Al)

Note: While our friend Al makes some good points – his voice can be a little grating in this video. Now you know.

Watch on YouTube

A guest post a few years ago detailed some reasons why some expats decide against living in Ecuador. Of course, all expats experience some bad days.

What Do You Think?

Have you seen this in other expats? Or in yourself? How do you handle adaptation? Please join the conversation below.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

24 comments… add one
  • Miguel ~ Trip Bitten Jun 11, 2015, 11:19 pm

    Great post, I have been living in China for about 5 years now and I run into this all the time. Tourist wanting everything to be like back home. I think it is a cultural problem, I am US American, and I often see other tourist from the US complaining about service and quality. The US culture doesn’t prepare citizens for global travel or global citizenship, which makes it harder to adjust. Thanks for the post. 🙂

  • Natalie Apr 27, 2015, 10:25 pm

    Hola Brian and Dena; I respect your perspective, but I do not agree with everything you have to say , because its a lot more difficult for a single woman…I admire my elderly mother, who moved to Ecuador alone on her 70’s, with no assistance from anyone. It is not easy at all. I’ve seen the machismo bullies that she has to confront, and I honestly believe that she is a saint to be able to endure all of her daily trials and tribulations of every day living here in Quito, Ecuador…and it has nothing to do with bringing any issues into this country. Hope all is well back home, Natalie

  • Mcooks Apr 27, 2015, 7:23 pm

    It couldn’t have been said better: “In my opinion, if you are unhappy at home you will be unhappy abroad regardless of where you move.”

    There ARE a lot of adjustments to be made, when one moves to a new country, and it ISN’T for everyone. That being said, when we find ourselves frustrated about the bureaucracy, and complaining about the way things are done sometimes, we try to remind each other of two things:

    1) The challenges that we had where we come from;
    2) The reasons we moved to our new home in the first place.

    We’re so happy to be here 3 years later, despite the tough days. 🙂

  • Jakob Apr 27, 2015, 12:46 am

    Regarding politics people confuse the dislike of political institutions and the dislike of individual people. The president of Ecuador might go against the system as advocated by the United States, but he is married to a gringa and he got his university degree fro the United States. This is not a contradiction.

  • Lisa Apr 26, 2015, 8:14 pm

    I enjoyed this article. It brought back memories of a couple of my own personal travel experiences, and how tourists can be negative or disrespectful of where they are, as if they expect the same service or quality as home. Why visit new places if you want everything like home?
    I always enjoy your perspective.

  • Natalie Apr 26, 2015, 4:39 pm

    For the most part if you expect that nothing will be what you want it to be, and remember to forget about how things were done in the place you left behind…,you will eventually learn to adjust to your NEW way of life. If you have urgent emergency medical issues…you are ON YOUR OWN, until you learn through trial and error, that local referrals will probably save your life in an emergency situation. I have encountered many “bi-lingual Machismo” doctors, who have actually escalated my heart condition during Emergenry situations. I do not believe that I would have survived my Emergency medical issues without my mothers assistance in this country. Dios te Bendiga, Natalie

  • Dionne Apr 26, 2015, 10:59 am

    We just returned from 5 weeks backpacking thru Ecuador and were so happy with only carrying 15 lb in our backpacks! The first day my only long pants ripped and I found a seamstress down the street to fix them for$6.00… then a week later my only shoes broke and a cobbler across the street fixed them and wouldn’t charge me…but I insisted so he charged me $1.00. The next day my husbands brand new hiking boots were very slippery on the wet cement and tile so we’re back at the cobblers, who recognized me of course and after a good laugh charged $5.00 to file each and every tread point on the soles…needless to say Relax, have fun and go with the flow!

  • Ricardo Schillaci Apr 26, 2015, 6:36 am

    Great post Brian!
    I migrated from a thirld world country to the USA and later to Spain.
    I always got shocked by the differences and, even as the places were each time better. You have to adapt to the place and not expect the place to adapt to you.
    My father (born in Sicily) moved to Argentina when he was 9 and learnt to love his new Country.
    He always said: ” país que vayas, adáptate a sus costumbres”
    I expect you 3 to be doing fine.
    Best regards

  • Carol Boe Apr 26, 2015, 1:33 am

    Hi Bryan, I agree with everything you said. However, I find it interesting because I will begin a teaching job in Cuenca in September. (I currently live and teach in Turkey and in South Korea before.) I was so excited about going to Cuenca until I read YOUR “realistic” post about what you don’t like about living in Cuenca–the petty crime and the lackadaisical attitude of the police toward solving crimes, (only 2% solved you wrote), and most of all you said you hated the noise. You shared that you a light sleeper –as I am I– and you have to sleep with a humidifier to block out the loud music, dogs barking and car horns going off all night . Bryan I would dearly love to believe what you wrote in this post more than what I read in your previous post. I hope you will respond. Thank you.

    • Bryan Haines Apr 27, 2015, 7:25 am

      Hi Carol – I don’t recall the post you are referring to. Do you have a link?

      Dena did write about our humidifier – because of the dry air in Cuenca. But it made almost no noise – it would have been useless to block outside noise. I think you might have confused another blog with ours.

  • jim huntley Apr 26, 2015, 1:23 am

    Hi there Bryan & Dena,

    Watched the video…makes me wonder if I’m a good candidate for
    S. America because I’m sure not content with N. America, especially
    the political and economic situation here.
    How do you think a U.S.dollar collapse will affect Ecuador when it happens?
    When I first looked at Cuenca a couple of years ago prices were quite reasonable
    but I have heard rental prices have doubled. Is that true?
    How has the sky-high import tax affected expats there?
    Hope you both have the opportunity to return to the land of you dreams!
    Regards,
    Jim

  • Jim Rideout Apr 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

    Do you plan on returning to Equador to live in the future?

  • Stanley Neil Apr 25, 2015, 8:23 pm

    We arrived in Quito on the 15th of January , we went up to Otavala and on to Cotacachi, then back to Quito , then West where we follow the Ocean all the way down to Mania, then cutting a little South East to Guayaquil, then Cuenca and on to Loja, and Zamora. We started heading North, travelling Central Mountains East (back and forth) through the State of Morona Santiago.
    We very much enjoyed the Landscapes, the people and even the busses . We were lways able to find reasonably priced nice clean hostels.. Most of the people were very helphul and often went out of their way just to make sure we were OK, We used the busses which were usually very clean, the only concern there, was that I found most of the bus drivers , drove recklessly. All in All we enjoyed the Country, we saw snow , beaches, jungles (I was a disappointed to have not seen much in the way of wild life.
    It is our intention to return to Ecuador for three months in 2016, of course that is dependant on what they do by way of changes to the taxation rules and on how far they go with the rules and requirement of the need to be fluent with the Spanish Language, my wifwe and I are taking Spanish , however, I would doubt that it will be perfected by January 2016.
    I did notice that in some instances, especially when came to the cost of bus rides, there is an additional charge being put on GRINGOS. I would hope that the rules in that area especially as to what does and does not applu to gringo senoirs.

  • Terry Doyle Apr 25, 2015, 8:09 pm

    I watched this Youtube video of a family of 5 (3 teenage or so sons), mom and dad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrmcb8qNt4o

    Public urination and no thrift store were among their complaints. They have published a 4 years later video, so maybe they have been more successful in the intervening 3 yrs 10 months? You watch it and let me know, please?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Ed0XuAJyE

    Actually for being honest and open about their feelings I compliment these people. I found the 1st video to be …. well, I watched the 1st 10 minutes of the 4 year update and a lot of the petty annoyances have been taken into account. The weather’s still not perfect, the net is slower but improving, men still pee in the street, etc. Worth a watch b/c these people are at least honest.

  • Bill Riordan Apr 25, 2015, 1:57 pm

    What a perfect article! I have now been in Cuenca for 2 1/2 years and can honestly say that they have been the best of my life. There are a few things that I occasionally think “It would be nice to have that”, but it is a passing thought. I agree with the other comment about Gringos who refuse to learn Spanish. I have been so lucky to make a lot of friends here, most of whom are Cuencanos. Will there be some problems anywhere we live? Of course. Will there be some crime? Out of a population of over 300,000 there is bound to be….but I feel 100% safer here than I did in Hartford, CT.
    The “complainers” should realize that no place, including Cuenca, is perfect…but for me it comes pretty close.

  • Jen Apr 25, 2015, 1:36 pm

    So true! So many times we have gone to a country only to listen to other gringos bitch because something is not the same as home.
    Please…if you are not open to change and the experience of a new country and it’s culture…just stay home!

  • Lily Ann Fouts Apr 25, 2015, 12:27 pm

    Amen! Very well said. Not to mention the expats who refuse to learn Spanish and complain that the locals won’t learn English. Really?! I could hardly believe it, but I have seen it personally. Part of adopting a new country as your home is to learn the language and customs of that country, respect its people, and expect that things will not be the same as they were back home. Someone who shows up with a complaining and disrespectful attitude and an expectation that everyone around them conform to their whims will probably not be welcomed with open arms by the locals, and for good reason. On the other hand, those who adapt and learn the language and are open and friendly will be very well-received by the locals. You get out of your experience what you put into it. This was certainly our experience! Love your blog, by the way–I’ve been following you for awhile now!

  • Stewart Apr 25, 2015, 11:45 am

    Hey Bryan and Dena,

    I think Wierd Alway has always been and still is funny. Per the video title, “First World Problems”
    none of the problems in the video are 3rd world problems. There are people that fly off the handle
    and loose control over trivial problems like these and they definitely would get totally bent in a
    3rd world country.

    Upon arrival in Ecuador (as my profile shows) we brought my dog, Lucky. I had problems first with LAN
    misplacing him. One person even suggested take this other dog. Noone has come for it yet. Second, after
    someone did remember the large crate and we got to the right customs hanger, they would not let us get
    him out or even see him. Not authorized! Pleading with the people that he has medicine to take now and
    giving them something for their trouble we were able to see him. He wasn´t happy to be there but yes
    happy to see us. What else? Oh yeah, I had to go next day to a police agency, show all my dog´s and mine
    paperwork and guess what? Another problem. Turns out I renewed my USA passport (because I had to)
    and was issued a different passport number and it did not match my previous history of entries. Obviously.

    Would your friend have turned back and left Ecuador at this point? These are different than first world problems
    and people here take it in stride to solve the problem. It does not help at all to get mad and just give up. I was
    not going to give up on my best friend, Lucky. So he ended up 3 days in a customs hanger. He survived, we survived
    and I think he lived 3 years more in Ecuador because of the better climate than Florida, so many happy kids (ours
    and neighbors) playing with him daily, him enjoying our usual walks through the neighborhood (yes I had to pick
    certain areas that did not have stray dogs and where dog owners were responsible enough to have theirs on the
    leash) and our vet was the best!

    In USA every visit to the vet was a car payment ($200 to $400) just about. In Ecuador it is a lot cheaper, well unless
    you go to one that only wants your money, but mine was great and it is not hard to find a good one. What vet in USA
    would answer a phone call to their cell (first of all what vet would Give Out their cell number to a client) in the middle of the night on a saturday and then drive out to the house for an emergency? Well maybe there are some,
    but it is not the norm. I´ve had very good experiences with veterinarians here.

    That´s about it Bryan and Dena. If I go on I´ll have to start a blog 🙂

    Best to you and yours,

    Stewart

  • Bruce Apr 25, 2015, 11:11 am

    Well said, Bryan. Part of the pleasure, adventure, satisfaction (and maybe even a conscious goal) is the rediscovery of what really represents sufficiency in a person’s life. The more I adjust to Cuenca, the more I value the way I eat (fresher, simpler, with much-reduced guilt and expense) the way I exercise (no gym required; walking, carrying, climbing hills and stairs, doing actual work with my muscles has done me good that the gym never could) and the way I relate to simple things like ubiquitous music, children’s laughter and a grandmother, mother and daughter walking hand-in-hand and sharing some apparently very funny and slightly conspiratorial story.

    As for the two-week guy: well, it is a self-regulating problem, isn’t it? He’s gone. My guess is he doesn’t find anyone that’s friendly in the next place, either. I hope you and family are doing well and equally enjoying and adjusting to benefits and wonders of your lovely native land.

  • David Short Apr 25, 2015, 11:04 am

    Thank you Bryan& Dena for all you have done for us and all the beautiful messages you have brought to us these
    past years. To those who complain about every little thing about their visit to Ecuador I would say to them,
    “Why did you decide to leave your country to come to Ecuador in the first place?”They left their country and chose Ecuador for a reason or reasons. I would focus on the reasons and I believe they would make the necessary
    adjustments and discover a beautiful people in a beautiful country and be able to realize their dream of a better life
    in Ecuador. Nothing is perfect nor will it ever be no matter where you are.Focus on the reason you went to Ecuador and readjust you”re thinking.

    David

  • john foote Apr 25, 2015, 10:43 am

    I thought you are now living in Canada. All the bio info on your site claims you are in Ec.
    Que pasa?

  • Bill Fox Apr 25, 2015, 10:38 am

    that video is too funny. problems like the ones in the video could be anywhere, and its just life. but I agree, how could you not have some sense about Ecuador and 8 months research. I think too many people base their opinions on Facebook groups and the like, rather that just keep and open mind and put boots on the ground for a couple weeks. Their loss really, coming down in June will be our ninth visit 🙂 to Cuenca, My only complaint is Pilsiner beer, but you know what, I deal with it, its still beer LOL

  • Gary Jones Apr 25, 2015, 10:17 am

    Might be time to update your site to reflect the fact you are back in Canada?

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