Expat Interview with Andrea - British Expat in Ecuador

Published: 25 Feb at 4 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Ecuador
Andrea Gardiner is a medical doctor from England who has lived in Ecuador since 2005. Working for the charity Project Ecuador she currently attends patients in the village health centre, runs a sponsorship scheme for local children and a sewing project for women. She has written about her experiences in her book Guinea Pig for Breakfast. Andrea's expat blog is called Andy in the Andes (see listing here)

Meet Andrea - British expat living in Ecuador
Meet Andrea - British expat living in Ecuador

Here's the interview with Andrea...

Where are you originally from?
I am from England.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am living in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Ecuador.

How long have you lived in Ecuador and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here for 9 years and am here indefinately.

Why did you move to Ecuador and what do you do?
I moved to work with the charity Orphaids as a medical doctor. I have since set up the charity Project Ecuador to sponsor children so they can go to school. I continue to work as a doctor in the local village and also run a sewing project for local women.

Did you bring family with you?
I arrived in Ecuador young, free and single. I have since married an Ecuadorean and we have two girls.

Andrea, Vladimir, Emily and Tamara
Andrea, Vladimir, Emily and Tamara
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
At first it was an adventure. The more I integrated into the society the more challenging it became as I encountered more cultural clashes. It took me several years to adapt. Learning the language was the easy part. Learning how people think and act and how to interpret what was said to me was much harder.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I have one expat family I see regularly. Apart from that all my socialising is with Ecuadoreans. They are very friendly and easy to make friends with.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Santo Domingo is famous for its Tsachila indigenous indians. They have fascinating customs and traditions. You can find out about them in their open air museum which is well worth a visit.

What do you enjoy most about living in Ecuador?
I love being able to swim in the river, watch the humming birds, spot iguanas and have a barbeque any night of the year.

A trip to the jungle
A trip to the jungle
How does the cost of living in Ecuador compare to the UK?
Food and petrol is cheaper than the UK. Clothes, toiletries, books and chocolate are more expensive!

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Ecuador?
The corruption and inefficiency of the auhorities drives me mad. Everything from getting your driving licence, to paying taxes, to obtaining your identity card can and does descend into a mind numbing process that seems endless.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Try the local food, it is delicious. Guinea pig is scrumptious, ceviche refreshing, encebolladas a filling breakfast and hornado will have you licking your fingers!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest thing has been learning how to accomplish things in Ecuador. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb and am an easy target for pickpockets and worse. You cannot rely on the police or the courts for justice. You need to make friends locally who will help you when you are in difficulty.

Trying maggots with my daughter.
Trying maggots with my daughter.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn some spanish, it will transform your experience.
  2. Keep safe. Find out where it is safe to wander and keep your possessions close.
  3. Make friends with locals who can help you understand local customs.They are invaluable.
  4. Travel to all the corners of this amazing country. Wildlife, jungle, volcanoes and tropical beaches: Ecuador has them all.
  5. Relax and enjoy the slower pace of life. Take time to smell the anthuriums!

Donating a wheelchair to a needy patient
Donating a wheelchair to a needy patient
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I write about all aspects of my life as an expat charity doctor in Santo Domingo. Sometimes I have heartbreaking tales about sick patients. Sometimes I am enjoying the tropical wildlife. Sometimes I am ranting about the paperwork. Sometimes I am sharing family experiences and trips.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can contact me through the website or by leaving me a comment on my blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAndrea is a British expat living in Ecuador. Blog description: The adventures of a British doctor working in rural Ecuador for the charity Project Ecuador. Eating guinea pig and maggots - no problem. Homeschooling two little girls and doctoring the locals - more of a challenge. Laughter, tears, joy.
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