Ever since I stepped on that plane for Ecuador, I expected to go through some sort of culture shock. I think what I imagined was that in that first week or two, I would feel completely out of place and have my mind-blown by this new culture. I anticipated feeling completely foreign at first, but that I would slowly adapt to the culture and get used to it in a few weeks. I had always considered culture shock being a staggering, difficult experience; one of those experiences that when it’s happening, you know. But that’s not what happened.
Culture Shock: It’s the Little Things
Even since Quito, Ecuador felt far less foreign than I imagined. In fact, I started to feel at home right away, in a welcoming family, taking the bus to classes every day, and wandering through malls and parks with my friends. Things were different, of course, but in a good way and I enjoyed the adventure and excitement that came with moving to a new country. I felt none of this anticipated, “you know when you have it”, culture shock that I was expecting. In fact, I could draw more parallels for you between my lives in Ecuador and the US than I could find differences.
But having been in Ecuador for about a month, immersed in the culture, I feel as if I’ve learned more already than a tourist ever would. And as I’ve reflected on what I’ve experienced in Ecuador thus far, what I’ve realized is that I have gone through culture shocks, just not in the ways I expected to. The culture shock that I’ve experienced has been in the little things: things my family says or does on a routine basis, and is completely normal for them, but almost unfathomable for me. It’s in these little moments, that I’ve really learned about what makes Ecuadorian and American culture so different. And it’s really only on afterthought that I’ve realized I’ve been going through culture shock ever since I got here. I’ll give you some examples of what it’s been for me:
– It was hearing how my sister has never left Ecuador, barely ever left Azuay, and that my family has never even seen the ocean, despite living a 3 hour drive from it. They’ve lived in the Andes Sierra region all their life, and never left even once.
– It was meeting many people my age with boyfriends of over 3 years, some of whom already with children.
– It was seeing that children don’t leave their parents homes until they get married; I’ve been with host siblings up to 25 years old, still having their mom pack lunches every day and coming home for dinner every night
– It was eating a fried guinea pig from a bus and seeing whole pigs roasting on the side of the road.
– It was being woken up at midnight, to go on a day trip consisting of a 15 hour car ride, just to go to one church service to worship a saint.
– It was working at the elderly center in my town, and seeing the abuelitos struggle to write even their names and copy down various nouns. But every day, all day long, they weave beautiful straw sombreros at incredible speeds.
– It was making the mistake of wearing shorts to gym class, and getting whistled and called so many times on the 2 blocks walk that I almost turned around and changed my clothes because I felt so uncomfortable.
– It was attending a ceremony where they crowned the “Reina of Sigsig”, the girl who was chosen as most beautiful in the town, and the princesses “madrinas” of all the soccer teams were chosen.
– It was going to the doctor because my sister had a slight headache during the day, and watching them inject fluid into her forehead to help the headache pass.
All of these things were practically insignificant for my Ecuadorian family, not even worth a second thought. But for me, they’ve completely opened my eyes, because they have each taught me something important about Ecuadorian culture and values. And they have been shocking, because they highlight the differences between my home culture and that of Ecuador. But the more of these experiences I have, the better I can understand and be apart of this new country and culture that I am living in. And the more I reflect on and analyze these situations, the more I can learn about my own culture and values as well.
Until next time! Ciao!
This is where I live, the town of Sigsig!!