Sunday, August 14, 2016

Don't Let Bad Things Stop You From Coming to Guatemala

I may have caused a bit of disruption with my last blog post about gringo pricing. I want to clarify some things about Guatemala and why you shouldn't let negative stuff stop you from making the leap to be an expat here or in any other country.

If you are coming from a first world country, highly regulated, full of rules and laws and structure, Guatemala may seem chaotic. Not the cities so much, where things are surprisingly modern, but in the smaller towns in the rural areas, like Panajachel.

There are traffic laws, but few people obey them.
There are animal control laws, but no one can enforce them.
There are landlord and tenant regulations, but it costs too much to follow through on them.

Guatemala is kinda like a young country, having come out of a lengthy civil war not too long ago. But it is on an upswing. Things are getting better, and the country is striving to become prosperous and safe. Part of that is establishing laws and regulating things that affect all citizens and visitors.

But change takes time. Smaller towns like those around the Lake are still entrenched in old ways. And that's great! There is freedom in that.

Entire families ride on one motorcycle, with no helmets. (And no sense of the horror that would ensue if they crashed.)
Disputes are negotiated with the elders of the community. (Whose tactics sometimes involve setting criminals on fire.)
All prices are up for negotiation. (It's just that the gringo price starts at twice as much as the local price.)
Dogs run free on the streets. (Causing messes and creating dangerous packs at night.)

Obviously, there is good and bad in all of these things, and you kinda just have to roll with it.

You can become an adept bargainer and talk down the price of an oil painting from $50 to $15.
You can buy a motorcycle, ride it without a licence, feel the wind go through your hair, and then get in an accident with a pickup truck whose bed is packed with 20 locals, and negotiate your way out the repairs by just handing over some quetzales because no one has insurance.
You can adopt a street dog -- and a cat! -- volunteer with an animal charity, and carry bags of dog chow in your purse to feed the chuchos who sleep outside your local tienda. 

It's a good life. There is very little to complain about. I love it here. 
But to be quite clear, I am striving every day to bring the best parts of Canada to Guatemala: politeness, fairness, equality. 

To my expat readers: what traits of your country do you think could improve Guatemala?
To my future expat readers: what worries you the most?
To my armchair readers: what opinions do you have from the outside?

Thanks for reading!
I'm going to go enjoy an amazing coffee on my porch and gaze at the volcanoes while my kitten chases butterflies and my adopted dog naps in the sun. :D

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