Una Cultura Amable

Alissa Welker
February 2, 2015
Two Ecuadorian children selling bug spray in a small town

Last Friday I was playing on a playground in a park in Quito when an elderly Ecuadorian man came up to me and struck up a conversation. He asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Ecuador. He told me that he hoped I was enjoying myself and the beauty of the country, but more importantly, the beauty of the people. He explained to me with a big smile on his face that it is the people that make Ecuador a wonderful place. All in all our conversation lasted about five minutes, but this snapshot encounter that characterizes much of my experiences with Ecuadorian friends and strangers alike illustrates the loving nature that embodies many of the people of Ecuador.

One of the differences between American culture and Ecuadorian culture that is very much related to the loving and open demeanor of the Ecuadorian people is the concept of personal space. Every person, culture, and country has their own idea of the definition of what amount of space defines your personal bubble. According to urban dictionary, the definition of a personal bubble is “the area around a person, approximately 1 - 2 feet (depending on culture), that you should not enter without their permission to do so.” Notice that even urban dictionary recognizes that this invisible phenomenon of a personal bubble changes depending on the culture.

Upon arriving in Ecuador I quickly learned that your personal bubble is much smaller here than in the United States. Friends and even people that you are meeting for the first time are greeted with a hug and a kiss on the right cheek. In comparison to American culture this is very different, but I have to say that I love it! The smaller personal bubble in Ecuadorian culture is a manifestation of the caring and friendly demeanor of its people.

No matter the time or the deadline you are trying to accomplish, people, friendship, and family trump all. A ten minute grace period is written in for attendance for every class because even if you are running late for class or a meeting, in this culture you are expected to take the time to greet friends.

Sometimes at home, in the United States, it is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the deadlines that I  have to meet and the constant productivity of our culture that I forget what is truly important. Learning to prioritize and put my family and friends first is one of the lessons that I am reminded of here on a daily basis. And although sometimes the slower pace of life is difficult to adjust to, I am slowly learning how to stop and realize that a lack of productivity can be a good thing. Life shouldn’t be measured purely by what I have accomplished, rather it should also be about the snapshot encounters that I have with the people that surround me, like the spontaneous conversation that I had with the elderly Ecuadorian man in the park. 

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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
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