Expat Stories: I Love Bolivia's People and how Accepting they are of Foreigners (Part 1 of 2)

by Debbie

1. How did you first hear about Bolivia and/or become interested in Bolivia as a possible place to live?

I had an aunt (well, actually my grandfather’s cousin) who was a missionary in Bolivia for 50 years. She first introduced me to the country when I was in high school, and the first time I went to Bolivia was to visit her for 6 weeks.

2. Where are you from originally and why are/were you considering living overseas when you first took Bolivia into account as an option?

I am from western Canada. I was teaching in Alberta and wanted to go overseas (somewhere in Latin America) to teach as I was working with refugees from Central America at the time. I actually applied to a number of schools in different countries and the one in Bolivia is the one which took an interest in my application.

3. Which languages do you speak? If you do not speak Spanish, has this made adjusting to, and living in Bolivia more difficult for you?

I speak English and Spanish fluently. When I first arrived in Bolivia I could speak but it was not as fluent, but my skills quickly improved.

4. Did you come here as an individual, couple or family?

I originally went to Bolivia as a single. After 10 years I married my husband (a Bolivian) and we have two children now.

5. Are you planning to live in Bolivia short-term or long term?

So here’s where my story differs from most of the ones you will have on your site; I actually don’t live in Bolivia right now. I lived in Cochabamba from 1987-2001. In 2001 my husband and I decided to move our family to Canada for a number of reasons. Our hope and dream is that we can go back after we retire and live at least part of each year there again.

6. Do you work or plan to work or start your own business in Bolivia?

When we move back, I expect that we will have to do some part-time things – most likely I will be tutoring and teaching private classes – to help supplement our income.

7. Is Bolivia the only country to which you contemplated moving, or did you consider other choices? If so, why did you ultimately choose Bolivia?

I really didn’t have a preference of country when I originally went, as long as it was Latin America, as I had come to love the people. However, after visiting my aunt I was very pleased when I ended up in the same country. Now, however, we wouldn’t consider living in another other country when we retire as my husband’s family and our many friends are there.

8. What steps did you take to research about Bolivia to prepare yourself prior to arriving?

Mostly my trip to visit. At that time there was no internet so you could only go to the library and look up books about it. I did read a lot of books about cultures and adapting to other cultures.

9. What do you miss most about your home country?

Probably the only thing I really missed was my family (especially when I was single) and some of the foods – you suddenly get cravings for things you didn’t even like before! And my first Christmas there I was very homesick, and really missed having snow.

10. What do you like/love/appreciate most about Bolivia?

I love the people. I love how everything is slow, and family is so important. I love how you can take an entire Sunday afternoon to go for a walk to the park and just sit and do nothing except watch the people. I love how accepting the people are, so accepting of foreigners. I love how the country is 10 years “behind” Canada in development and technology (though it can be frustrating). I love the food, I love the markets, I love the churches, I love the villages and towns...

11. Did you relocate on your own, or do you work for a company that relocated you to Bolivia?

Applied on my own to different organizations who needed teachers.

12. If your plan is/was to retire in Bolivia permanently, how did you prepare financially, and in other ways to make that possible?

Still working on this one. I imagine we will have to supplement our income somehow. Please click here to continue reading Part 2.

Photo by: José Porras

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