Wednesday, September 30, 2015

10 Real Reasons to NOT Move to Guatemala

First, I must say that these opinions are based on my experience living on Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, Guatemala. There are radically different experiences to be had in the larger cities of Guatemala, including Guatemala City, Antigua, and Xela (Quetzaltenango). But seeing as how the Lake is a very popular destination for expats and pensionados, I wanted to give my honest opinion on things that may dissuade you from a making a decision to live here. (Be sure to read to the end to see how bad can be turned into good!)

1. Bathroom issues. Gosh, my number one most irritating thing about Guatemala: you can't flush the toilet paper. Gross gross gross. Hate it! Also, seeing as how you'll be eating all new foods and lots of fruits and drinking sometimes not so great water, you're gonna get sick and you're going to be in that bathroom more than usual and you're not going to be happy. If you are a germaphobe who can't handle these kinds of sanitary issues, stay away.

2. Poverty, both people and animals. Soft-hearted people will get their hearts broken here daily, or will empty their wallets trying to help everyone. If you're a hard-hearted person who is disgusted by the poor, the downtrodden, the disfigured, or the needy, don't come here. This is a third world country, after all.

A baby tarantula that was in our house.
3. Mold. If you have an allergy, this is not a good place. Everything is damp. Everything grows mold. Bert's cloth BELT grew mold! During the rainy season, it's a constant battle to keep your home from smelling like a fish tank.

4. Bugs, bugs, bugs. Not only small biting bugs, but wasps and houseflies and scorpions and spiders and various other buggy-boos that have no respect for your personal space. I'm going to do a whole post about all the creepy-crawlies I've seen here.

5. Power outages and Internet outages. Happens all the time. It's tolerable but not for the kind of person who throws their computer monitor out the window when they get disconnected.

6. Transportation issues. Rough roads, military checkpoints, roads blocked by protestors, no sidewalks in the smaller towns, uneven cobblestones that can cause a bad fall, plus traveling between town to town can be dangerous and/or expensive.

7. Spanish. You gotta learn it.

8. No Miracle Whip. Crappy hotdogs. Weird ketchup. Bad candy. :(

9. Diseases. Not good for immune-compromised people or those crackpots who think vaccines are for losers. Herbal tea will not cure dengue fever, although it will hydrate you nicely for your frequent trips to the bathroom.

10. Everything is on "Guatemalan Time". I'm not talking the time zone. Type As would not appreciate the casual lateness that seems to permeate this culture. Even Bert's dentist didn't show up on time for his appointment. It's not that they're being rude; they just don't run on a tight schedule like those in the punch-the-clock world.

Some of these things may seem trivial or may not be important to you, but they may be a deal-breaker for others. And truly, all of these things can be overcome, and can even be seen as opportunities. Check out the matching optimistic solutions below.

1. Bathroom issues. If you consider 24 hours in a day, a very small proportion of it is spent in the bathroom.
2. Poverty. There are numerous charities in Guatemala that you can join to help improve the lives of the local people and animals.
3. Mold. A dehumidifier works wonders, airing out the house when it's sunny, having a clothes line to dry damp items, and just keeping on top of removing mold with bleach when you see it starting.
Chuchitos -- small corn dough-based tamales stuffed with sauce
and meat and wrapped in a corn husk
Photo courtesy of  the Antigua Culinary Arts Institute
4. Bugs. DEET, Raid, and a child-like curiosity about nature will help.
5. Outages. Generators, backup batteries, and redundant Internet connections can get you through. Or... just go outside. :D
6. Transportation. When you live in paradise, there is no need to go anywhere. (Oh, except for visa runs.)
7. Spanish. Learning another language is fun and is good for your brain.
8. Can't find the foods you love? Import stores can get you almost anything -- for a price. Plus you'll find new favorite foods in Guatemala. (Bert's fave are chuchitos.)
9. Diseases. Vaccinations, people! Practice good hygiene, wash your food, and rest assured there are medical facilities here that can take care of you.
10. Guatemalan time. Go with it. Relax. No hay prisa. (There's no rush.)

For me, Guatemala, and the Lake area specifically, is an almost-perfect match!


  1. Perfect! Half of these "inconveniences" I actually find refreshing! Now I wish I'd had a chuchito... where can we get those in Pana for next time Cris? ~ Suz

  2. I'm so glad I finally checked out your blog! Your writing is so clean, concise, and honest, and your sparkly personality shines right through. I'll keep checking your blog to appreciate both my time spent in Guatemala and my being back in the states. Besos.

  3. When we moved to Antigua a year ago, I flat out refused to rent a home that didn't have modern plumbing so I could flush toilet paper like "normal". Now we are preparing to move to our second rental and it has the more common pipes and plumbing, so we'll have to use the little bins with lids for toilet paper. After being here a year I've realized it's not that big an inconvenience. I've relaxed about a lot of things. :)