Cuenca 2020 Cuenca, Ecuador MSMU Travels

Por Favor and Perdón: The Etiquette of Ecuador

Good afternoon! Thank you for coming back for another #HolyThursday post. I hope you’re staying safe at home during these times. 

Today, I’m going to talk about some of the cultural differences between Ecuador and the United States, including mannerisms and etiquette. The thing to keep in mind when comparing practices is always to approach them with an open mind; there are no countries whose practices are better than others. I believe that the true way to experience a trip abroad is to embrace whichever customs are accepted in that country. 

That being said, I want to explore some of the “rules” of etiquette that are most distinct from those of the United States. The first difference comes when we greet people. In the United States, as our host mom pointed out, it is common to say a general hello when entering a room. But, in Ecuador, it is an unwritten rule that one must greet every person in the room by kissing a lady’s cheek and shaking a man’s hand. This tradition has been changing, as my host mom’s daughter explained to me, with recent pushes for an end to non-consensual contact. She added that “It isn’t a law that everyone has to kiss.” 

A second difference is the way people behave at home. Unlike in the United States where it’s typical to take one’s shoes off when they come home, it is considered rude to take your shoes off – or just be barefoot in general – outside the bedroom. Another general difference is how people dress, even when they just plan to stay home. Our host parents, though they are both retired, were always dressed like they were going to a fancy party. 

Now, I want to tell you all about some of the phrases I found most helpful while in Ecuador. The country, while it is informal, still expects that you are polite and use good manners. For example, check out this list of phrases to help you seem like a true Ecuadorian!

  • Perdón – this is the equivalent of “Excuse me” in English, so you are likely to hear this on the street or in public places
  • Con permiso – this is another way to say, “Excuse me,” but it is used more when you are leaving, like after a meal or leaving a room
  • Chévere – a way to say “cool,” or “groovy” as our host mom says; the Ecuadorians use this word a lot in their conversations
  • Por favor, gracias, y de nada – everyone should know these words for “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” already, but they are very useful ways to be polite 

I hope you learned something new today about Ecuador and its courtesy! Please check back next week for another #HolyThursday post. In the meantime, stay safe, stay home, and stay healthy. 

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