10 Things We Miss About the United States (as Expats in Ecuador)

Several of our most-viewed videos are about things we DON’T miss about living in the United States (and we catch a lot of flack for talking about that). So in this article, I want to share some of the things we DO miss about the U.S.

If you’re planning a move to Ecuador, this article will help you mentally prepare for the differences, and remind you to bring a few things with you.

Here are 10 things we miss about living in the United States, starting with…

#1 Consumerism

The U.S. is optimized for consumerism. You can find almost anything you need in a local store or have it delivered to your home the next day.

Even though we are gentle minimalists and don’t buy a lot of stuff, sometimes we need things that aren’t easy to find in Ecuador, or they cost twice as much. Shoes and electronics fit into that category.

There are major stores like Megamaxi, Coral, Kywi, and Hipermart, but even those big stores often lack the things we need so we have to go on a scavenger hunt to find more obscure items.

My dermatologist prescribed hydrocortisone cream for a skin irritation below my right eye (you may have noticed it in a recent video). We went to two local pharmacies, but neither carried it so we have to take a taxi to a specialty pharmacy on the other side of town to get it.

It can be frustrating, but the silver lining is we do get a lot of exercise walking all over the place!

#2 Fast Shipping

The next point relates to the first one: There is no robust Postal Service in Ecuador, and Amazon Prime doesn’t exist.

Ordering things online from the U.S. is expensive and takes a long time with items often getting stuck in customs for days or weeks. And we aren’t allowed to order some things, like Indian spices 😭

Plus, the address system in Ecuador isn’t very specific, which complicates deliveries.

When we lived in Olón, we had to meet delivery drivers at the park in the center of town. Our street wasn’t marked and our condo building didn’t have a number, but if you live in a large condo building with a name, it’s much easier to get deliveries.

Most people resort to DHL, FedEx, or a mule service for shipments from the U.S., and we’ve had good luck with TiendaMia recently (although it’s expensive and usually takes at least 2 weeks for delivery).

#3 Structure & Efficiency

We miss the well-defined processes and efficiency in the U.S.

In Ecuador, procedures can vary drastically by government office, store, or even by employee, leading to inconsistent information and service.

Moreover, many businesses don’t adhere to structured hours, which can be frustrating.

I estimate that at least 30% of the time when we go to a restaurant for dinner, it’s closed when it’s supposed to be open.

#4 Punctuality

Punctuality is NOT valued in Ecuador and time is a very fluid concept throughout Latin America.

And I’m not just talking about being a few minutes late, but hours or even days late!

Although we try to stay tranquilo and go with the flow, it drives us crazy sometimes!

#5 Having a Car

In Ecuador, we don’t own a car, primarily due to the high cost, lack of mandatory insurance laws, and the affordability and availability of public transportation. We also have a bank of private drivers who are very affordable.

However, there are days when we miss the convenience of hopping into a car and driving to the store instead of catching a cab or bus.

We also miss spontaneous road trips or being able to drive to a trailhead for a hike without scheduling it in advance.

#6 Parks & Hiking

Ecuador has a lot of city and national parks, but they’re often not easily accessible and the trails aren’t clearly marked.

When we lived in Denver, we hopped in the car almost every Saturday (before my spine gave out) and drove up to Tanglewood Canyon or Herman’s Gulch for a long hike. With the nice highways and roads, most of the trailheads were less than an hour away.

Here in Ecuador, we have to arrange for a driver to take us and then wait for us to finish our hike, it can take an hour or more to get there, and it’s easy to get lost on trails that may not have any signs or even clear paths.

The hike we took in Baños up to Mirador Bellavista in the video we shared yesterday was not clearly marked. Neither end of the trailhead had a sign so we weren’t sure we were on the right path.

Plus, the trail had 3 forks, but only one was marked. We went the wrong way at one of the forks and ended up in someone’s backyard!

If you go hiking in Ecuador, you need a good sense of direction plus a phone with offline maps and GPS.

#7 Effective Communication

Communication in Ecuador primarily relies on word-of-mouth and phone calls. We miss the widespread use of emails, which often go unanswered here.

If you have plans to attend an event, you better make sure you know exactly where it is because you probably won’t see any signs pointing you in the right direction.

When we order food from a restaurant for delivery, I send a map marker via WhatsApp so the delivery drivers know where we live.

Almost every single time, they CALL us from their motorcycle and ask us for directions in garbled, heavily accented Spanish.

It is such an inconvenience to order delivery that we often cook even when we don’t feel like it just to avoid the hassle.

Although we’re getting better at Spanish, our language barrier makes complicated topics difficult to navigate, especially things related to healthcare or the government.

Sometimes we really miss how easy it is to communicate and find things in the U.S.

#8 Drinkable Tap Water

We could drink the tap water in Cuenca and in our last two condos, but we couldn’t in Olón or other places we visit in Ecuador.

On our recent trip to Baños, we had to buy big plastic bottles of water, which really bothers us. We hate single-use plastic and we don’t like drinking the water that comes out of them, but it’s better than getting a gut bug.

#9 Flushing Toilet Paper

In most parts of Ecuador, the sewage systems aren’t built to handle a large volume of toilet paper, meaning you have to discard used toilet paper in a little bin next to the toilet.

It’s something we got used to quickly, but it’s still something we miss about the U.S.

#10 Family and Friends

Of course, we miss our family and friends back in the U.S.

We already lived a long way from our family before we moved to Ecuador so the only difference now is that they’re further away and we see them less often.

As our parents age, that is becoming more difficult to handle and we often wish we were closer so we could see them more frequently.

Will We Ever Move Back to the U.S.?

Despite some inconveniences, we still love living in Ecuador and have no plans to leave or move back to the U.S.

Plus, we don’t have the option of moving back to the U.S. until healthcare is available and affordable for everyone regardless of age or type of employment.

The small things we miss from the U.S. simply remind us of the different lifestyles in both countries and help us appreciate the uniqueness of each.

Watch Our Video About The 10 Things We Miss About The US

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JP Stonestreet

Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

8 replies
  1. Todd
    Todd says:

    I feel your struggle. My wife lives in Dominican Republic and I have been spending more and more time each trip. I’m returning to Denver from a 6 week trip to DR as I write this.

    I too miss the convenience of having a car. While UBER is very reasonably priced in the DR I still miss being able to just hop in my truck and go somewhere on a whim.

    I can agree with all your points, especially not being able to find certain products easily. I need to fix one of our toilets in our apartment, I sure wish DR had Home Depots.

    I’ll be going back in early October and hope to stay till the end of the year. I’ll say one thing for sure, I dont miss Denver when I’m there.

    Reply
  2. Judith French
    Judith French says:

    Hola, I first found your website when we first came to Ecuador in October 2018. We started in the North and stayed in various cities/towns for a week or less to see if it was a fit for us. We decided on Loja and have been here a little over 3 years and are very happy with our choice. We are an older couple and retired and were not interested in living in a large city. We appreciated that Loja is known as the Culture Capital of Ecuador. We have enjoyed many types of entertainment, including dances from the many different indigenous groups of Ecuador. I recently found our site again and enjoy reading your updates.
    One I just read spoke of the challenges of shipping to Ecuador. A few years ago we were introduced to a family-owned business called TMA Logistics. The US location is in Medley, Fl, near Miami and they ship to Guayaquil. There are categories for shipping, A through F. Category B is the 4 x 4 and that is the category the majority of our packages go into. Around July or August of last year, Customs no longer charge custom/tariff fees for 4 x 4 and TMA reduced the cost from $12/lb to $6/lb! This has allowed us to continue to get our vitamins and minerals. My husband is a certified Nutritionist and in his search here he has found some of the same type of products, but the lower quality and higher price of a product does not make it worthwhile. I have typed up some information for TMA Logistics that I have shared with other people interested in shipping from the US. I would be glad to share it with you, but I do not see a way to attach a document. I am sure if you go to their website you will be able to figure it all out: TMALogistics.com. The manager of the Medley warehouse is Jose Llerena and I have spoken to him many times and he has also been helpful. If you create a mailing box for yourself, you will get a customer service person in Guayaquil and the emails are in English. They have always resolved any concerns I had on a particular package.
    I look forward to your continued information and updates about Ecuador.

    Reply
  3. Sammy Germany PhD/MBA
    Sammy Germany PhD/MBA says:

    I have been living my crazy USA. I am looking to live any where but USA.. I respect both of you so much and just wanted to say thank you for your adventures…. One day soon I will retire and move to enjoy the history and culture…. Thank you again

    Reply

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