Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Guatemala

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Guatemala can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Guatemala?

What are the most common clichés about life in Guatemala in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,


Have lived in Antigua since 2006.  Lots to learn and still not finished.  Not dangerous unless you do stupid things like go out when everyone else goes in!  Get to know people.  It is really a small town after awhile and having Guatemalan friends can expand your world a lot.  True everywhere in the world I would guess.  Not cheap.  Used to be less expensive but not now.  Sticker shock when in the states is huge but so are the expenses in Guatemala.  Love it though and hope things settle down.  Hard to stay in Guatemala City as recommended by the embassy if you live in Antigua!  Get a grip embassy people!

I like Antigua as well and I think it is not that dangerous when you are cautious.. and not living to isolated from the main city..
Of course living in a gated community tagged you as a potential victim.. versus living in a mix neighborhood .. Regarding Guatemala City for me the best place to live is Zona 10.. everything walkable distance, during the day very safe.. and over the week end very quiet...

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is your view now?

Before moving here, I thought Guatemala was truly and entirely a third world country. I thought the whole country was mired in desperate poverty and that I would be living at a very low level of convenience.

I am happy to report that parts of Guatemala are very modern! There are Walmarts and Burger Kings and soooo many shoe stores you would not believe! I can get pretty much everything I want, if I'm willing to travel to a big city and pay for it. (Except black licorice. Haven't found that. Ha!)

Having said that, a lot of Guatemalans are very poor and living in squalid conditions. The rural areas are quite shocking to see. I live in Panajachel, and while it is a rather prosperous town as a whole, there are families still living in tin-roof shacks with dirt floors, cooking on open fires. The outlying towns are even worse

Luckily for everyone, there are many great charities run by locals and expats alike that are helping the impoverished and unfortunate. Be sure to connect with one of them when you move here so you can give money or time through proper channels so it goes where it's most needed. Giving to beggars and shoeshine boys on the streets is fine, but oftentimes that money doesn't go to appropriate things. Helping a registered and organized charity is the best way to provide food, medicine, and assistance to the poorer communities.

P.S. One of the most eye-opening things I saw when I first moved here was older Mayan ladies in their traditional dresses talking on iPhones! They have nicer phones than I do.  :D