Ecuador Culture Shock 101: Things that are STRANGE to Expats, but NORMAL to Ecuadorians!


– Hola, unconventionals, I’m Amelia. – And I’m JP, and we have been living in Ecuador for over three years now! – Coming from the United States, there’s still a few things that seem a bit odd to us, so today, we’re going to share the 10 things that seem strange to expats – but normal to Ecuadorians. (upbeat music) – While we share the 10 things that are strange to expats or immigrants but are normal to Ecuadorians, – we’re gonna show you San Jose, which is about a five-minute drive north of Olón. – It’s a quaint little comuna with an amazing beach.

Before we dive in, we have a really exciting announcement. – We just launched our new channel Live Abroad Now! – [Amelia] If you’re thinking about moving to Ecuador, this channel is for you. – [JP] We share highly focused information about being an expat in Ecuador that’s really easy to find. – We’ll put a link up there and in the description so you can go check it out.

– And be sure to subscribe while you’re over there. – And now for the things that are strange to expats but normal to Ecuadorians, and we are filming this on the east side of San Jose because it is quiet and shady here. – You guys asked to see the sun. Well, here it is! Makes it a bit difficult for us to film, though, with the lighting and everything.

We did save the strangest for last, so be sure to stick around till the end. – The first thing that’s strange to us is how they handle elections. – We are in the middle of a presidential election right now. There were 16 candidates on the ballot, but nobody won! – So there’ll be a runoff election in April between the top two candidates.

– What’s strange to us expats is that if you are between the years of 18 and 65, you are legally required to vote. – If you’re 16 or 17, you can vote if you want to, but you are not legally required to do so. – Yeah, so even kids can vote. – Another thing that’s strange is that the elections are on Sundays, and from noon on Friday till noon on Monday, there are no alcohol sales.

– That is to make sure that people show up to the polls sober and also so the candidates cannot incent people to vote for them with free drinks.

– Before we left the US, we rarely used our ATM cards, and I was always forgetting my PIN. – Yeah, me too. We used a credit card for everything. It was just so much faster and easier. – But Ecuador is a cash society.

While the big stores, chain restaurants, and hotels do take credit cards, most places do not. – Ecuador is still a mom-and-pop economy. That means you gotta pay with cash almost all the time. – That also means that there are very long lines at the banks and the ATM machines. – So that also means that the banks hire armed guards to protect the customers, who are often standing in line with bags full of cash to deposit.

– We were also told that we’d need two letters of recommendations from Ecuadorian citizens to open a bank account, and that seems a bit strange to us.

– If you are a driver in the United States, you’re probably familiar with the concept of right on red. If you pull up to an intersection and there’s nobody coming, you can go right even if the light is red. In Ecuador, they don’t really do that. We see people sitting through red lights, waiting to turn right all the time.

However, there is a thing called left on red. They pull up, and they will turn into oncoming traffic to go left while their light is red. (relaxed mysterious music) – In the United States, we have a lotta safety standards to protect everyone. – There are not a lotta safety standards in Ecuador, though. When we lived in Cuenca, I was walking home one day and looked up and saw a guy standing on top of a two-story cinder block wall about that thick, hitting the cinder blocks under his feet with a sledgehammer, picking up the pieces, throwing them over the sidewalk into a dump truck in the street.

The sidewalk wasn’t even blocked off. – The bottom line is you need to be responsible for your own safety because we’ve seen all sorts of things: open manhole covers, broken sidewalks, weird things protruding up out of the sidewalks, no handrails on stairs, and like JP said, flying cinder blocks. – Jeff Foxworthy would fit in really well here, though. “Just let him fall in the sewer once or twice.

They’ll learn!

“We often get the question, “How do you get your mail from the US?” And the answer is we don’t, and that’s because there is no postal service here in Ecuador. They did have one, but they finally just canceled it altogether. The bottom line is that there is no daily delivery, door-to-door service here in Ecuador, so if you want to get something, we use Traveling Mailbox, and then they scan it, and we get it through an email, or you can use DHL, which is very expensive. Locally, they have couriers, and they have a service called Servientrega, which is a very affordable option to ship things between cities.

(relaxed mysterious music) – Well, we ran out of water and battery last night, so we weren’t able to finish filming the video. – So we’re back in San Jose to share the remaining things that are strange to us expats from the United States. (gentle music) – In the US, you are not allowed to move into a new house until it’s finished.

That’s when you get your certificate of occupancy, or the move-in permit. – In Ecuador and throughout Latin America, it’s common to see people living in unfinished houses.

– They build part of the house, but then they leave rebar sticking outta the second floor or the top floor. We’re told they do this for a variety of reasons. – The owners may not have enough money to finish the house, or they may be leaving space for an expanding family. – And in some cases, based on land agreements, construction has to start by a certain date, but there’s no requirement to finish by a certain date. – We were also told that you don’t have to pay your property taxes until the project is completed, which is the most likely reason that we see so many unfinished places around here, and that seems a bit strange to us.

The next thing that seems strange to us and probably will to you as well is that since there is no daily door-to-door delivery service, Ecuador has been very slow to adopt the American addiction to online shopping. – Amazon does deliver here, but it can take weeks or months before your package arrives, and if it does arrive in Ecuador, we’ve heard from several people that sometimes, it gets held for ransom by the customs companies or the shipping companies, and you do have to end up paying a couple hundred dollars in fees to get those packages released. – Because of the pandemic, online shopping is becoming a lot more common here. It’s just nothing like what we were used to in the US. – We have adopted a more minimalistic lifestyle, so online shopping isn’t really that big of a deal for us anymore.

No, and we have come to really enjoy our scavenger hunt that is involved with most of our shopping trips now. (gentle music) In the United States, getting your driver’s license is a rite of passage, or at least it used to be.

– In Ecuador, a lo of people don’t know how to drive, so they don’t have a driver’s license. – However, if you’re over 18 years old, you are legally required to have a government-issued ID known as a cedula. – What’s strange to us is that most people carry copies of their IDs rather than the original.

– In fact, there are even copy and laminating places located right next door to the government offices where you get your cedula so you can go outta the building and get your copy made, and then you can leave your original safely at home. – People also memorize their cedula number, and they just rattle it off when someone asks for it. They do this because if you’re pickpocketed or you lose your cedula, it is a hassle to replace. (gentle music) – Ecuador also has some holiday traditions that seem really strange to us expats. – An interesting tradition we observed in Cuenca is that people have Baby Jesus dolls, and they sell elaborate costumes to dress those dolls, and people carry them around.

(rooster crowing) – For New Year’s, they create papier-mache mannequins they call monigotes, and they can depict anything from somebody you hate, somebody you love, animals, cartoon characters, or pretty much anything that has significance to the individual creating them.

– At midnight, everybody lights their monigotes on fire, and then they jump over the fire. That’s supposed to bring in good luck, and there’s other things that they do to ring in the new year and bring good luck as well. We have a video about our (rooster crowing) awesome New Year’s Eve experience from 2020. JP will put a link right up here above my head and down in the description below if you wanna check that out.

– And then there’s Carnival. That is when, the young people really enjoy this. The older people shelter at home for a week, but they throw water balloons at you, buckets of water, eggs, muddy water, foam, pretty much anything that makes a big mess when it hits you, and it doesn’t have to just be your friends. It can be complete strangers walking by on the street. We’ve been doused ourselves a couple times.

They also have big giant foam parties that are outdoors, and everybody shows up with their goggles to protect their eyes.

It’s crazy! That may seem normal to the younger Ecuadorians, probably not so much the older ones, and it’s definitely strange to us expats. (relaxed music) – The next thing that seemed strange to us, especially coming from the United States, is that prostitution is legal and regulated here. In fact, they have their own version of the red light district.

– They also have very discreet motels that you can drive into through the gate in the high walls so your car can’t be seen while you’re getting busy, and that’s where you go rent the room for the hour to enjoy yourself. – While this is normal to Ecuadorians, this seems really strange to us. (rooster crowing) – And this is one tradition Amelia says that we will not be embracing.

– ) Okay, we have a bonus for you.

While we’ve been filming today and yesterday, we’ve seen a bunch of people walking around with machetes. – [JP] Yeah, you know the first time I saw that was in Honduras, actually, kinda freaked me out then, and I gotta say, I’m still not used to it, seeing people walk down the street with a machete in their hand. – [Amelia] It is a bit unusual. – That’s all we have for this video.

Hope you enjoyed the walking and aerial tour of San Jose, Ecuador.

– And if you wanna see more of Ecuador, make sure you subscribe and ring the bell because we show you what it’s really like to live here. – All right, guys, hope you have an unconventional day. We will see you all in our next video. – Chao! – Chao!

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