The Struggles of an Expat in a Third World Country

What they don’t tell you before you move

I gotta admit. When I decided to leave Canada for Central America I had no clue what I was doing or what I was getting myself into. Not.a.fucking.clue. All that mattered to me was that I was finally leaving the great white north and heading into a warmer zone.

That’s all I cared about.

Winters of -25 to -40 C take their toll. Trust me on that one. My last winter in Northern Ontario we hit 3 days of -50. I was so done.

That winter I worked my ass off to become a full time freelancer so I could give up my job at the salon as a hairstylist and dive into tropical climates. And it worked. The summer of 2015 I handed in my resignation at the salon and starting thinking about Central America.

No clue where I was headed. It didn’t even matter at that point. I just knew I was well on my way to making my dreams come true. To be a Canadian Expat in the third world.

By October I was on a plane with a one way ticket in hand flying to Guatemala. The country of choice was not actually chosen by me. I’m a Libra. We have a hard enough time deciding what colour underwear to put on in the morning.

I called up a tea leaf reader and told her to pick a country for me. She did. I hung up and booked my flight. Just like that. You could say I’m a little crazy.

Anyway. Enough about that.

Here we gooooo…

I chose a town and away I went. Not a care in the world (ok well maybe one or 10) and I was finally off to live the dream I had been thinking about for years.

I only came down with two suitcases as I honestly had no idea how long I was going to last here. I crammed as much first world stuff into these as I could. Little did I know at the time I would be staying here, for a really long time.

  • First struggle-not enough first world things that I ‘must have’ like hair products. I’m a hair snob. Nothing but salon professional shit goes in my hair. I assumed (yup I know, bad idea) that you could find most of the good stuff here but in reality, you can’t. The stuff you do find is so ridiculously overpriced, you just learn to do without.
  • Second struggle- language barrier is a real hard fucking thing. Again, I assumed (don’t even say it) that there would be at least a good number of locals who could speak English. Nope. Not a chance. My first 6 months here was extremely frustrating as I couldn’t communicate what I needed. I’ll admit, I even cried and wondered what I was doing here in the first place
  • Third struggle- finding friends. Oh sure there are lots of expats here but to actually find someone who is relatively like minded, and that you like even a little bit is tough. After a little over 3 years I can say I now have one or two close friends but I sure wish I had one or two of my friends from back home here.
  • Fourth struggle- you’re gonna get sick, a lot. I’ve been sick down here more times in 3 years than I have in 10 back in Canada. You always have to be careful of street food. There are no health and food safety inspectors here. You go on hope. That hope didn’t work out so well for me a few times, and it’s not pretty. For two years I bought my mixed nuts from one vendor and then one day I got sick from them. It’s a hit and miss.
  • Fifth struggle- the dating scene doesn’t exist. At least not where I am anyway. Meeting a ‘good’ man who I am compatible with is virtually impossible. There is no dating app here. You literally just wait and hope the wind will blow someone in soon. Batteries come in handy in the mean time.
  • Sixth struggle- the culture and mentality here is SO different. Now I’m not a complete idiot. I knew it would be. How much it actually is is really hard to get used to at first. You have to go from a “in a hurry go go go” lifestyle in the first world to “don’t worry, it’s ok, slow down” pace down here. It’s very frustrating when you expect the same level of service you had back home. You just don’t get it here. You learn to calm the fuck down after awhile and let things slide.

I’ve learned to live with many of these struggles (obviously) and am fortunate enough to have people randomly come down from either Canada or the US just in time for me to need more first world stuff. My son usually stocks me up quite nicely.

I did, once, have to buy grocery store shampoo and was happy when my hair didn’t fall out.

Independent of the struggles that you just get used to, I wouldn’t trade this life in for anything else in the whole wide world. I can honestly say I have never been happier. The freedom and inner peace I now have is beyond description.

Though I did experience a little culture shock (there’s an understatement) in the first 6 months, nothing prepared me for the shock I would feel when I had to go back to the first world after being down here for over a year. Now that was tough.

I had gotten so accustomed to living a simple life, surrounded by beauty and poverty, that when I took a business trip to London I was crying after 4 days to go back ‘home’ to Guatemala.

I think everyone should experience life, if even only for a short visit, in a third world country. It completely blows your mind and will have you looking at your life and your world in a totally different light.

Peace and Love

xo iva xo

Self help Guru|Expat|Website: mini self help eBook series here:

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