Culture shock in Ecuador… the culture of yes

After a long talk with a friend of mine, an American who is living in Ecuador, I realized I was not the only person struggling with some habits of the country… the culture of sí (yes) being one of them.

I just arrived to Ecuador, and it is a very easy country to fall in love with. The people are sweet, helpful and warm that you start talking to strangers without noticing, there are beautiful natural parks all around you and it is small enough that it makes it easier to explore. It is normal to be eating in a local restaurant and hear everyone who walks in wishing you “bon provecho.” It is definitely a people of ‘easy’ smile, and warm personalities, living in a country full of beautiful things and amazing culture

But then you have the issue of “Sí! (yes)…” This will be one’s answer for everything, especially when you are hiring a service. “–Can you deliver this by tomorrow? Sí.”  “-Is this a direct bus to Cuenca? Sí.” “-Can you bring me a fork and a knife? Sí.” You will not receive it by tomorrow, the bus will not be direct, and you will never get a knife…Yes!

On my third day in the country, before I started working, I decided to explore the South. For the first time I had the “si” culture struggle when buying a 10 hour bus-ride to the south. I asked a few general questions if the bus was direct, if there was AC, and how long it would be. Turns out that the bus had nothing of what he firmly promised by answer “si” to all my questions. By the time I got to the South I was annoyed by his lack of honesty. But after weeks I realized that most people will answer yes, or what they think you want to hear, in every situation. My landlord has been promising me he will fix the internet tomorrow for the past 2 weeks, he always has a cute smile saying that “the guy bailed on him” “there is a cable missing” “tomorrow will be fixed.” They don’t necessarily want to take advantage of you, it is just sort of their culture. They will claim that everything is easy to be done, possible and doable… they will promise it. And soon you will realize it is not that simple.

When you have to deal with it in your daily life, it is surely frustrating. A service can take 1 day or a month to be delivered, and you will not be able to do much about it or know for sure how long you will have to wait. A lot of times you will try to fight for your rights just to be defeated by a smile, an excuse, or a great story coming from the other side. The longer I stay here, more I I feel like it is part of their culture. Confrontation barely exists, so not much one can do…

Coping mechanisms: I’ve been learning to be more patient. To prevent frustration, I don’t ask a lot of questions, instead I ask few specific questions that will require a longer detailed answer. I am learning to plan ahead so I am not in a rush, and don’t need anything done quick. These are parts of the adaptability in a new country. Surely a lot of times it is frustrating, but it is part of the learning process…

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