25 Lessons I’ve Learned in My First Year Living in Antigua Guatemala

It’s already been a little over a year since I made the move from the US to Guatemala. It’s been quite the adventure in some ways, frustrating in other, and a smooth transition in many areas. Overall, I have to say it’s been a great experience!


Here are 25 lessons I’ve learned in my first year living in Antigua Guatemala:


#25Everything isn’t better back home. I have no idea what the Kardashians or Lindsey Lohan are up to. Nor does anyone else here bring them up.


#24 – For roughly $5 a day my child receives a vastly superior education than what she would’ve ever received in an US public school.


#23 – Just because something is cheaper here, it doesn’t mean you’re getting it at a good price.


#22 – I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. Or the Martinezes. Few people here can afford to anyway.


#21 – The US medical system is ripping you off big time. As is the pharmaceutical industry.


Guatemalan Tortillas

#20 – Corn tortillas are not that bad. Just give them another chance.


#19 – Don’t trust a Realtor to help you get into a ready-to-move-in house or apartment. Make sure EVERYTHING works before receiving your house keys and waving the Realtor goodbye.


#18 – Police here are not out to “get you.” Heck, they may even be polite and give you directions if you ask!


#17 – Is Guatemala dangerous? Well, they haven’t had any mass shootings or stabbings at any schools, sporting events, movie theaters, or universities lately.


#16 – Unleaded gas here sucks. Always get Premium gas.


Mercado Antigua Guatemala

#15 – Paying over $10 dollars to see a movie is insane.

I will never pay over $1.00 for a movie DVD if I can help it.


#14 – Don’t ever lock yourself outside your home or car on a Sunday. Nobody works on Sunday, if they can help it. As it should be.


Antigua Mercado

#13 – Eating vegetables and fruits here is actually cheaper than eating at McDonald’s, not the other way around.


#12 – Always change the locks when you move into a house, unless you want the owners or their relatives to drop in when you’re not home.


#11 – Don’t buy your ceviche (seafood cocktail) just anywhere, specially from that street vendor selling it in little plastic cups for Q5. Unless you’d like to cleanse your digestive system fire-hose style.


Antigua Guatemala

#10 – There are places in the world with perfect weather year-round.

Antigua is one of them. Remember this when the weather is below zero and you’re shoveling snow away from your driveway.

Your move, hotshot.


#9 – “Chicken buses” will rarely, if ever, have any chickens in them. They will often have clowns, though.


#8 – Always bargain prices. You’re expected to. Except at restaurants. It won’t work, trust me.


Carne Asada Guatemala

#7 – Carne asada is not the same as steak. Not by a mile. But it’s still dang tasty.


#6 – The quality of clothing and shoes in the US, even at Wal-Mart, is vastly superior to Guatemala’s. Just because the label says “American Eagle”, it doesn’t make it so.


#5 – Lava-spewing volcanoes are just part of the landscape. Enjoy the fireworks and have a travel bag ready at all times.


#4 – Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way. Cross the street leisurely at your own risk.


Guatemalan people

#3 – It’s OK to say “Buenos dias” (good morning) to total strangers on the street.

They won’t think you’re a psychopath or a mugger. They will even smile and greet back!


#2 – No one ever wears gloves when preparing or handling your food. And yet, I haven’t died. I got over it.


And the #1 Lesson I’ve Learned While Living in Antigua Guatemala?


Naranjada Guatemala

Arguing over politics or politicians is a waste of time.

Just kick back and enjoy a cold beer. Or a naranjada, if that’s your thing.


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    About Rich Polanco

    Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook.
    Currently exploring: Guatemala.

    Welcome Antigua Guatemala Expat & Slow Travel Forum 25 Lessons I’ve Learned in My First Year Living in Antigua Guatemala

    This topic contains 10 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Andreas Kallmeyer 1 year, 3 months ago.

    • Author
    • #7881

      Andreas Kallmeyer

      Great collection. And from my roughly two months down in Antigua I can confirm all except one thing – the school system as I don’t have kids ;-)
      The weather is great, the people are nice and helpful, lots of fruit and veggies at almost nonsense price compared to the ‘first’ world.

    • #7882

      Rich Polanco

      Thanks for visiting, Andreas! Don’t be a stranger here :)


    • #7883

      In Nica Now

      Great post! With 1 year and 10 months under my belt in Nicaragua I have learned many of the same lessons.

      Elisha in Nica
      Formerly from Calgary, AB, Canada

    • #7884

      Rich Polanco

      Hi Elisha!

      Thanks for stopping by! Have actually been following your blog for a while. Great stuff! Actually planning an exploratory trip to San Juan del Sur soon, as its a possible next destination. Will reach out when the date gets closer.



    • #7885


      Great article Rich, really enjoyed that. Antigua on our list, maybe we’ll get there sometime in 2014!
      Good job on the blog,
      Frank (bbqboy)

    • #7886

      Rich Polanco

      Hi Frank! Thanks for checking us out!

      By the way, there’s an authentic Texas BBQ place in Antigua, Pappy’s BBQ, if that’s you thing ;) Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/PappysAntigua

      Good luck in your travels!


    • #7887

      David D

      Pure gold Rich. Definitely a keeper and appreciate the good old common Twainian sense.

    • #7888

      Rich Polanco

      Wow! Twainian! Not sure if I should take that as a compliment… I have to ask first:

      Are we talking about Mark Twain the American author or Shania Twain the Canadian singer? Because I don’t know how quite take it if it’s the second one. I certainly don’t feel like a woman here! ;)


    • #7889

      linda anthony

      Enjoyed your comments. Working at an orphanage in San Marcos, 2 yrs in march. Love our kids but do miss family & friends back in Mi. Finally feeling relaxed with the culture, takes awhile especially in more rural area. Take care, Linda & canica kids :)

    • #7890

      Rich Polanco

      Hi Linda!

      Thanks for the work that you do. Glad your settling in fine :)


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