Here are a few things to keep in mind while adapting to Quito and to Ecuador in general. I bring them up in no particular order.
- THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is to always say Good Morning (buenos días), Good Afternoon (buenas tardes), or Good Evening (buenas noche) WHENEVER you encounter or are about to interact with someone in a store, a bank, a restaurant and so forth. To not say these phrase is considered impolite and it undoubtedly will affect the service you receive. After that if you Spanish is weak or good, the majority of staff will be forgiving and even likely to pull out their smartphones to use a translator
- If you are waiting in a line, say at the bank, it is not uncommon that if a person receives a call they will leave the line (phones are not allowed), and when done they will come back to the original spot they had eg they do not go to the end of the line
- If you are waiting for customer service at a business or government office, factor in that it may take time to get to you, or more normally, for your turn - number to be called. This is especially true if you are not at the business when it opens, but come in the afternoon.
- In any form of customer service, raising your voice will only increase the lack of customer service that you will receive; a firm, controlled voice, if absolutely necessary is okay.
- When walking around the city, you may feel that there is a lack of awareness regarding social space e.g. sometime people walk very slowly, 3 wide and it can be frustrating to get around them. A simple “Permiso” is enough for them to allow you to get past.
- Although not legal, many car drivers feel they have the right of way over pedestrians. This can make it feel challenging sometimes when crossing the street but many Ecuadorians feel the same way. When there is a turning right lane and the light goes red, some drivers run the red so ALWAYS check that the traffic has stopped.
- The “air kiss” - men shake hands with each other but they don’t really shake; more of a short hold. As for greeting a lady from Ecuador, usually by the second meeting women will give put their cheeks together and give an air kiss. How soon this happens with a man and a local woman depends on her and/or how well you know each other; always best in this case to let her take the lead
- The majority of the time in stores, banks, etc use the polite form of Usted/ustedes. If you are not in such a “formal” situation and the person you are talking to is much younger Tu is preferred. This is in general a tricky one but you can’t go wrong with Usted. Also addressing a female in the above locals it is always safe with Señorita/señor.
Of course it takes time adapting to cultural differences. If something gets frustrating, a deep breath is a good idea and then remind yourself that all parties are coming from what they know and each has to navigate to somewhere in the middle.
About The Writer:
Koos A. De Beer
"I am a Canadian expat who has been living in different countries since 1987. I came here to Quito, Ecuador in June, 2017. Before that I was teaching Academic English at a university in the Middle East. Here in Quito I keep enjoy sporting activities in Carolina Park, taking photography classes, and reading one of my far too many books (Middle East art, carpets, nutritions, personal development etc). I have only travelled to a few places in Ecuador and plan on doing much more as now my permanent visa is in my hands thanks to the dedicated work of the whole EcuaAssist Team"
“Ask Koos” for those that have non-visa related questions about how life is as an Expat in Quito, leave your comments below.