Adapting to the Differences

Tony Harris
August 16, 2017

My plane trip here went very smoothly and wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. The airport had a lot of bilungual personel. The pilots, flight attendants and staff at the UIO airport spoke both Spanish and English. The transition from English to Spanish was immediate when I left the plane. Everything is written in Spanish and I was very confused as to where to go. Luckily, I knew enough Spanish and common sense to get through customs and retrieve my luggage. My host mom, Lilian; her helper, Olga; Priscila and Eduardo were at the airport to welcome me. It was comformting to see people could trust, but I had arrived at midnight and needed to rouse my groggy brain to communicate in Spanish.

These few days in Cumbuya have shown the differences between Ecuador and the United States. During orientation, you'll often hear that you need to be understanding to differences in Ecuadorian culture and norms. Here are some of the things you'll need to adjust to:

  1. You throw used toilet paper in the trash. The sewage system can't handle the toilet paper. Every bathroom here has a trashcan next to the toilet for your use. I haven't broken the habit of flushing the toilet paper completely and it will take some getting used to. 
  2. Public restrooms cost money. Make sure to have some change on you when traveling. Many public restrooms charge for usage. I learned this the hard way as I frantically searched for a quarter to use the restroom at Laguna de Cuichona. Some restrooms charge for the toilet and toilet paper separately. Utilize all free restrooms and remember to carry change.
  3. You can't drink the tap water. I have already broken this rule. Drinking the tap water can make you ill. Luckily, I haven't gotten sick from drinking the tap water...yet.
  4. Kids live with their parents for a long time. Ecuadorian families are very close and extended. It's common for children to live with their famiies until their married, even in their 30s! Some of the host families may assume you live on campus or at home, rarely that you have your own place. Parents are used to taking care of their children for a long time, and this will reflect in their interactions with you. They will politely ask you where you're going and when you'll be back. It's because they care and worry for your safety.
  5. Ecuadorians enjoy physical contact. People living in the United States like to maintain their personal space. Ecuadorians, however, interact with strangers all the time and will often greet people with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. I was struggling to work a machine in a store (it was in Spanish) and this woman just walked up to me and helped. ts a very expressive culture and the residents want to help you. 
  6. There is no skipping breakfast. Ecuadorians have three meals a day: breakfast, a large lunch (or almuerzo) and dinner. Unlike the United States, your host family probably won't let you skip breakfast. They are obigated to provide breakfast and dinner but I feel like if they weren't, you would still have to have something for breakfat. You might be able to get away with a granola bar. I asked my host mom to skip breakfast one day for extra sleep and that was shutdown. She basically said, "No, breakfast is good for your health."
  7. The buses stop anywhere. I'm very familiar with taking public transportation because I live in Chicago and the CTA is my driver. This doesn't mean a thing in Quito. I haven't rode the bus yet but apparently the driver can let you off anywhere. You say gracias to alert the driver that you want to exit and off you go. I envy the cost for the bus here because it's $0.25 compared to the $2.25 in Chicago.

I'm loving my time in Ecuador. Every morning I have a beautiful view of the mountains from my host mom's backyard. Next week I begin classes and my first week of field trips. It's going to be a great experience. 




More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Tony Harris

<p>I attend Loyola University Chicago and am majoring in environmental science with a chemistry minor. When I’m not studying, I’m planning events and handling communications for the Student Environmental Alliance club. This has included cultivating previous journalism experience into scientific literature or publications. I try to keep busy with internships and campus events.</p>

<p>Besides academics, I enjoy being with friends and unwinding with video games, a book or TV. My favorite games are multiplayer and I binge watched Orange is the New Black in two days. I love being out in nature and try to go on adventures.</p>

Home University:
Loyola University Chicago
Chicago, IL
Environmental Studies
Explore Blogs