Home Country: The United States
Currently Living in: Utah, USA
Moved to Ecuador: With other missionaries in the early 80s.
I served a church mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I took 2 suitcases of clothes/supplies and lived very simply.
Lived there from January 1983 to June 1984
Santa Rosa, Guayaquil, Milagro, Manta
For me, in my situation as a young person, the moving was not difficult. The hard part was getting used to the food, language and culture. Getting used to the way things are done (or how they just don't get done :) was sometimes hard.
I was about 20 years old when I got there, so I was still quite young as far as having a real understanding of how the world works. This ended up being a blessing, since we're more flexible when we're young. The language came very quickly because I was speaking it every day. This was extremely important! I would recommend just jumping into the language with both feet. You'll learn more quickly and the people will appreciate and respect you more.
Even if you already know Spanish, if you haven't lived abroad you will likely still have a lot to learn. Ecuador is a great place to learn Spanish! The people were always willing to help me when I didn't understand something.
I love the people of Ecuador. They think differently than those of us from first world English speaking countries, but this can be a great reality check!
I also love the diverse landscapes in Ecuador. There is a lot of tropical coast and also high mountains and jungle. When I came back to the USA I really missed the warm coastal areas.
In the beginning the food was hard to get used to, but now I have lots of favorite Ecuadorian dishes.
Like I've said, I love the people, but there are a few things you should know about Ecuadorian culture. People in Ecuador are often not shy about asking you for a big favor. After you get to know someone, don't be surprised if they ask you to help them immigrate to the United States, or ask you for something equally huge. This can be a shock at first. I would hesitate to get involved with someone on that level unless you really know them well for a long time.
Cultural norms regarding honesty, personal independence, personal responsibility, integrity, etc are different in Ecuador and all of Latin America than they are in the US, Canada, the UK and other first world places. For example, if someone tells you they'll do something, they may or may not actually do it. If they ask to borrow money, expect they might never pay it back.
"If you give a man a fish he will be hungry tomorrow. If you teach him how to fish you will feed generations."
I married a woman from Ecuador, so I have come to understand the culture and language much better then I otherwise would have. I recommend living in Ecuador to people who are willing to learn and accept a new culture and language.
There is good and bad in every culture, but if you go there you should try to assimilate into the culture at least to the degree you think is healthy. What Ecuador doesn't need is another "Ugly American" who just wants to go to Ecuador, throw money around, buy up all the real estate and take advantage of the people. Ecuador really needs people who will influence them in a positive way. It's a beautiful place with wonderful people who need a helping hand.
I have a good friend in Ecuador who I still keep in touch with. He recently told me that many products like cars, etc are now coming from China. In his words, "everything is from China now."
Also I have heard conflicting things about the political situation there. I would talk to people there for the latest info.
A huge thank you to "El Dude" for sharing your Ecuador experience with us!
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