Here, as everywhere, relationships are the focal point of life, the source of joy and fulfillment. They may also be a source of frustration. So let’s share some principles with an Ecuadorian twist.
Latinos are mostly Catholic, family oriented and warm. Sunday is definitely family day. And by family we include parents, children, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandfathers, grandmothers and sometimes, their friends. The day is usually dedicated to the familial group with lots of food, entertainment and children.
If you are fortunate to be invited, expect it to be all day or much of it. You will be an honored guest. Frequently, this may involve a beautiful trip to the country to the family farm acquired by their abuelos (grandparents!). Ask questions about the family history, children and activities. Enjoy their home style meals!
Working relationships may be entirely different. Cuencanos have their own way of doing things and their own way of managing time, tools, and priorities. Families trump work commitments. Mother’s Day may involve taking several days off work unannounced. Work may be done without a great deal of planning. You know, of course, that everything changes, so flexibility is a way of life. (Something I must continually learn.)
Remember this motto: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken when bent.”
While warm and friendly, Cuencanos dislike being told how to do their particular trade. Americanos feel we are paying for the work and have the right, even the responsibility, to direct it in a personal way. Be careful. Your suggestions may save time, but they want to save face.
Beware also that projects, materials, and timing may be subject to constant renegotiation. If you get a firm (turn-key) quote, some material costs may be added later. Gently restate your agreement. Get it in writing if significant sums are involved. Workers may arrive without the necessary materials. They may expect you to go get them or pay them additional monies. My problems in the US with contactors while remodeling a dozen homes were even more numerous, but different.
Always be cautious to avoid negative words and attitudes. They rarely have a positive result. And, it seems that everyone in Cuenca is related to everyone else. Reputations and honor are very important to all parties.
Gringos that come to Ecuador are a bit adventurous, eccentric, and fiercely independent. Most of us are well-traveled, politically informed, and financially proactive. Some are financial refugees, politically dissatisfied, or estranged from family.
Gringos are highly motivated to establish a foreign “family” during their first year in Ecuador. Newcomers are open, available and friendly, anxious to gather information about their new country and culture. We love to “pay it forward” helping others as we have been helped in our transition.
Finally, people are mirrors. We will have our attitudes and actions reflected back to us. And we will reap what we sow. Our transition is a wonderful season to improve our way of life with others and within ourselves!