Cultural Differences

Alissa Welker
May 20, 2015
A beautiful look at the countryside

A couple of days ago, I got extremely frustrated and wrote a list of all of the things that have been the hardest to adjust to about Ecuadorian culture. As I was writing the list, I realized two important things. One, there are things that I do not like about Ecuador but all of the amazing experiences and aspects that I love about life here totally outweigh the negatives. Second, there are also aspects of American culture that drive me up a wall, but because I have had twenty-one years of my life to adapt to the negative aspects of American culture they don’t stick out to me quite as much as the nuances of day to day life here that I don’t like. No culture, country, city, or place is perfect. It is all about finding the good in every situation, because every place does have something special to offer.

Throughout the semester I have been keeping a list of cultural differences that I have noticed while immersing myself in Ecuadorian culture. And I think now is the perfect time to share some of these differences as my semester is rapidly coming to a close.

First, I have the list of the top five major cultural differences that I have observed since my time living in Ecuador. Some of the differences are the aspects that I really love and cherish about Ecuador, while other differences are precisely the aspects of day to day life here that I do not enjoy.

Major Cultural Differences:

1.       Ecuador is still a very patriarchal and conservative society in many aspects of daily life.

2.       The effects of colonialism on the hierarchical structure and issues of racism are still very present despite the progressive ideas in the constitution which was updated in 2008.

3.       Daily life here moves at a much slower pace. People walk slower and are not as worried about constant productivity.

4.       Time with people, friends, and family are very important here. Sundays are generally spent doing nothing but going to church and spending time talking and enjoying others company.

5.       Ecuadorians that are my age have a much larger dependence on their parents. Children generally live with their parents until they get married, whether that is at the age of 23 or 40.

In addition to the more thematic and large scale cultural differences that effect everyday living here, there are also small things that I have noticed that are just different. Here is a list of the small quirky differences that have been interesting to detect.

List of top 10 Quirky Differences:

1.       Halls, as in Halls cough drops are simply known as “carmellos” here and are one of the most popular hard candies.

2.       It is just a normal day when the president of Ecuador drives by my apartment.

3.       Change/coins are a prized possession. A store will turn you away rather than take your business if you try to pay with too big of a bill.

4.       Kleenex’s don’t really exist. If you have a cold, expect to be using a roll of toilet paper, not a box of Puffs.

5.       You cannot live here and be a germaphobe. You are expected to share food and drink with anyone and everyone. For example, the other day I was out drinking Canelazo with a friend (hot amazing drink from Quito), and this woman (complete stranger) comes up to me and asks if she could try it. You can’t really say no, and when she got done trying it there was a bright red lipstick stain on my cup.

6.       Rice. Rice. Rice. Ecuadorian’s love their rice. Also, meal times are different. You generally eat a big lunch and then have a “cafecito” or “merienda” around 8:00pm, which is normally something small.

7.       You can go to the pharmacy without a prescription and get pretty much anything. I had a friend that had walking pneumonia at the beginning of the semester and they just gave her codeine cough syrup.

8.       There is such a thing as Ecuadorian time. If the concert says it is going to start at 8, you should really expect it to start at about 9.

9.       Public urination is not a crime. It is completely normal to be on the most crowded street in Ecuador and have a guy peeing against the wall on the sidewalk.

10.   There is no such thing as maximum capacity on the bus system here. Maximum capacity is when you get pushed out the door because the door won’t close.

All in all, it has been an amazing experience to truly learn the ins and outs of a completely different culture. As my time in Ecuador is quickly running out I am realizing that I am not sure if I am ready to leave and I am trying to cherish every last moment that I have here. 


Alissa Welker

<p>I am a junior Environmental Science Major with a Peace and Justice Concentration and Spanish minor at Villanova University. I love backpacking, traveling and new adventures. I am so excited to be spending the semester in Quito, Ecuador and I hope that these posts will help you experience the culture and beauty of life in South America through my eyes.</p>

2015 Spring
Home University:
Villanova University
Environmental Studies
Explore Blogs