Picking Up Some Ecuadorian Norms

As of today, it’s been about two weeks since I’ve arrived in the community of Santa Ana, Cuenca, and I thought I’d share some of my observations, thus far.


1.     Years of high school Spanish classes go out the window when you live in a place where the Spanish language is so rich in whatever modismos are used by the locals, or Ecuatorianismos in this case. Throw in some Kichwa, and I’m as confused as a baby coming out of the womb. Here are some examples:


  • You don’t want palomitas (popcorn), you want canguil!
  • You don’t need your chaqueta to warm you up when you’re feeling achachay (interjection used to describe feeling cold), you need your chompa!
  • He doesn’t have a resaca (hangover), he’s got a chuchaqui!
  • You don’t have an hermano(a), you have a nano(a)
  • It’s not a fiesta it’s una farra!
  • Those ain’t just yo’ babies, those yo’ guaguas (pronounced wawas)!


2.      You better drop some cariño on that palabra by adding -ito/-ita. Ecuadorians love using the diminutive form of words, because, to them, it doesn’t sound as cold, and adds warmth and affection to the way you interact with people. So I’m not just told to ven acá, I’m told to ven acacito! You don’t just want uno, you want unito!


3.      Buses will not be expensive, since buses are usually 25 cents, or maybe 35 cents if you’re going towards some areas farther away from the center. Yet, the most I’ve had to pay was 80 cents, and that was to go to another city.


4.      One does not enter an intimate situation in which people are eating, and not say “¡buen provecho!”. Even when you’ve been sitting and eating with them for the last 20 minutes, once you finish, and decide to excuse yourself, you should say buen provecho to those still eating.


5.      You don’t simply walk by your neighbor on the street without politely greeting them with a good morning, good afternoon or a good night. This rule applies especially in the smaller town settings, where errbodeh knows errbodeeeh. In the big cities, it’s not commonly expected of you.


6.     If you enter a room where people are gathered, you need to acknowledge their presence, one by one. Here in Ecuador, the rule I’ve learned is that girls give everyone one kiss on the cheek, more specifically, you bring your cheek to their cheek and maybe make a kiss noise, you do not just go all willy nilly, pressing your lips to everyone’s cheeks. Also, guys shake the hands of other guys, and kiss the cheeks of women.


7.     In situations when someone is not talking directly to you, but talking to someone about you, you become la/el -insert name here-. I’ve heard people say la Sahar, or la Sajar, countless times.


Throughout this journey of interacting with Ecuadorian people, and immersing myself in Ecuadorian culture, I find myself making mistakes, completely embarrassing myself, and maybe even offending some people. Thankfully, I’ve had, and have, some great guidance from Global Citizen Year, my host families in Quito and in Santa Ana, and all of the Ecuadorians I’ve crossed paths with and observed ever since I arrived here. There’s so much to learn, and I’m completely down to just listen and observe before making any assumptions. I look forward to the day where I can consistently communicate my thoughts, ideas and emotions properly, and have my humor shine through as I use the Spanish language and some of these awesome Ecuatorianismos. I look forward to the day where I can navigate cultural norms like a boss, spotting anomalies and ambiguities, and overall, being more sure of how I will go about my day-to-day interactions.

I trust this process of experiential learning, and acquiring skills, and find myself excited to see where all this new knowledge takes me throughout my time here, and beyond it.

Note: I apologize if there are any inaccuracies, or if other Fellows would like to add any of their observations, please feel free to comment them below!