This is part of our Ecuador Expats Series.
Ecuador Expat Profile: Christina Ring, San Pablo del Lago, Otavalo Ecuador
The Expats: Christina Ring & Family
What is your blog url?
Where are you currently living?
We live in San Pablo del Lago, 15 minutes outside Otavalo. We have always lived around the Imbabura mountain, starting in Otavalo, then moved to Hacienda Zuleta, now warmer San Pablo.
We moved in one year ago to start our own lodging business.
Read more about visiting the Otavalo Market
What's Your Story?
We are a family of 5, our sons are 1, 4 and 6 years old. Two of the kids are born in Ecuador, one in Argentina, my husband and me are both German. We have met in Hamburg and lived in the north of Germany.
Originally we are both from Bavaria. Yes, lots of places and countries represented in our family. You should see us when we travel, we need an extra bag just for passports.
In Germany, we were self-employed and working as consultants. Right now we are managing our own Lodge, but we started our adventure in the Ecuadorian tourism industry as employees, first at Las Palmeras, then we managed Hacienda Zuleta for 4 years.
When and where did you get the idea of living in Ecuador?
Thomas and I met and married in Germany, and came to Ecuador on our honeymoon trip. We liked the country so much, that two years later we packed up and came to live here permanently!
The idea was to find a life closer to nature, to have horses, to spend a lot of quality time with the family. I am not a stay-at-home Mum, and he didn't want to be away on his seminars all the time.
So we started in the tourism sector where we could life in great places and work there as hotel managers.
We are here for almost 10 years now, interrupted just by a short, 6 months adventure in Argentina. We plan to stay, given that the political situation stays as quiet as it is. I have no intention of living guerrilla nightmares or anything similar. If that would be the case, we might go back to Argentina as we have a residency there too.
After a couple of semi-illegal years, we got Ecuadorian residency because our children were born here. To get it was pretty easy.
How's your Spanish?
I grew up with German, learned Latin (no, not much benefit here), French and English at school.
My Spanish was limited to a couple of phrases, but I studied some on our journey here, I was afraid to be totally lost without the language. My husband was almost fluent due to several trips to Ecuador as a student.
But as it turned out, I had a Spanish-speaking nanny when I was around 2 years old, so I learned the language in the blink of an eye. I can read and spell and use the grammar correctly and I even got rid of my accent.
On the phone people are often mistaken – they think I am an Otavaleña! Our kids are bilingual and we love it. Now the challenge is to teach them to read and write in both languages!
If one wants to work here, speaking Spanish is a MUST. I also think that everybody who wants to live here should at least work on the basics, it seems fairer and less ignorant.
What do you do?
The standard salaries in Ecuadorian companies are just ridiculous. While we were managing that first-class hotel and built its award-winning reputation, our wage (for two full-time management jobs) was below 20k, per year. Yes.
So we decided that working 60hour/week for others was not the reason that brought us here. We quit the job, took 6 months off in Argentina, had the third baby, and came back to start our own business.
It is still in its early steps, we opened in December 2010, but growing. And fun! We work at home most of the time and also home-school the kids.
I make some extra money by managing other vacation rentals and Suites. I also give horseback riding lessons and my husband taught a semester at the university, but those are more hobbies than serious income jobs.
How do you find the cost of living in Ecuador?
Prices are increasing. You can still live with little money I think, but not as cheap as it used to be. One reason might be, that 10 years ago, the food offer was very limited, so you couldn't spend more money in the Supermaxi.
Now you get German sausage, American maple syrup, french cheese, but it is darn expensive. And so hard to resist….
We are no big shoppers, but we have left a lot more money in the Supermaxi as we intended to.
What has also cost a fortune is high-quality stuff for the house that wouldn´t break after the first use! Little things like curtain rods. Bathroom amenities. Thanks to Kywi you now get those things, but for a lot of money.
Good schools are ridiculously expensive (and hard to find!), that´s why we chose to home-school. Now that we are trying to get a little extra loan we had find out that the bank charges an outrageous 18-25% for a mortgage.
So overall, life here is cheaper for us than in Germany, but there are some gaps opening up. Anyone who wants to give us a private $ loan?
What do you love about living in Ecuador?
What I like most about living here and actually missed even in Argentina are all those preposterous, absurd, grotesque, outrageously funny little things that happen all the time.
Could be a sighting, a story, an incident. Sometimes these things really bother us, but once we tell them to our friends they seem so slapstick, we can't help laughing to tears. That makes life so interesting!
We don't like that people have not much respect for the property of others, or let's put it that way, they are in need of everything. A post that is not well put will disappear overnight. Horse's water bins out in the pasture – gone.
In Germany people leave their shoes and toys in the yard (fenced by a decorative 20cm joke) or in the common hall, they park strollers unlocked in front of the supermarket! Big difference.
We understand where this comes from, but it would be nice to be able to leave home without the need of a 24h caretaker. We still read about scary stuff on the embassy sites. There it sounds as if this country was a war zone!
Could someone please update the info there and be more precise? It says we have Malaria risk in Imbabura province. yes, but only in that tiny little stretch by the coast that no tourist ever visits!
I am scared about traffic accidents mostly. People drive like lunatics, it's insane. The kids can't go to the village plaza by bike because they run the risk to get hit by the buses that are racing through the narrow streets.
What we sometimes miss are long summer evenings, colored leaves, and the romantic idea of glittering snow. But altogether the weather is great.
My favorite place to hang out is our Lodge! The dinner parties we organize for our guests are fabulous. Since I am in the hospitality business I have met the most amazing people.