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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Observations - 1st Edition

- Gosh, I'm very tardy with this post.  Not that I have a schedule I must adhere to.  Nothing is a 'must' here in EC.  I've been pretty busy lately, and when I'm not, I've been lazy.   No photos this time, sorry.  

Being an Analyst in my former profession, I analyze everything to death.   I have to be careful with my Ecuadorian friends because I tend to make a lot of comparisons between the USA and EC.   What we do, what we have THERE and what we do and what we have HERE.    I make it a point of reiterating I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm just making an observation of the differences.   If you've only lived in one place, there's nothing to compare to.  I've lived in Washington and Califiornia, in the country sticks and the beeg ceety, and traveled all over Europe, a bit in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  I love to observe the culture, lifestyle, laws (or lack thereof), habits, and character of the people wherever I am.

Here's a random list of observations I've had in the 7 months I've lived here in Ecuador.
  • There are virtually no drive-thru fast food joints.  No Jack in the Box, Carls Jr, McD's, Taco Hell, or Arby's.
  • It's challenging to find any coffee that resembles what we used to order up on a daily basis at Starbucks back home.  Once in a blue moon, you'll find someone who serves a cafe latte, but forget about any flavors or special ordering.
  • Baking Soda is next-to-non-existent.  Bicarbonado in a small plastic bag can be found at specialized spice tiendas (stores).
  • Kitchens in homes here are purely functional.  Cabinets, countertops, and appliances are there for a job, not for looks.  Kitchens are not designed to be a social gathering place or a status symbol.  Dishwashers are extremely rare, even in new construction.  Kinda like a toilet.  It's there for pooping and peeing...not to ooh and ahhh (though you might find yourself uttering those sounds while pooping or peeing).  But, I digress.
  • People seemingly don't care about noise.  Constant horn-honking, incessant dog-barking, car alarms running rampid (or chirping when turned on /off) is just part of everybody's 'normal'.  NOT MINE!!
  • Everyone is pretty kick-back.  Long lines at the bank?  No problemo.  No one is in a hurry or stressed out.
  • Dogs don't have collars, or ID tags, and they wander anywhere and everywhere they damn well please.  They are very adept at maneuvering through all the dangers of roaming free.   They are rarely bathed or groomed.   There are verrrrrry interesting combinations of mutts here....like german shepard and chihuahuha.  Freaky.
  • You are not allowed to turn right while the light is red...even if there is no traffic coming.
  • Drivers regularly drive through stop signs.   Frequently, even red lights.
  • Rarely do people just say 'hi'.   99% will address you formally "Good Morning"  "Good Afternoon" "Good Evening"....but in Spanish of course.  You always have to be aware of the time of day so you know which expression to use.
  • Burger King and KFC are the most common recognizable fast food joints in EC...typically associated with a mall.  McDonalds is a rarity.  (thank goodness)
  • There is no house-to-house mail delivery service in EC.  NO JUNK MAIL!!! 
  • I have yet to hear the sound of someone slamming on their brakes and the resulting screeching of tires.
  • Gyms, the few that exist, are small, not sprawling, glamorous complexes.
  • There are maybe 5-6 large supermarkets that serve the entire city of Cuenca....a city of over 500,000....made up of 2 or 3 companies. 
  • Property taxes are low.  Approximately $100 - $200 a YEAR (vs $5,600 I pay back home).  And, they go DOWN the longer you stay in your home. 
  • Out of gas (for hot water, cooking , etc)?  Just listen for one of many small trucks loaded down with a hundred 70lb tanks driving slowly thru the neighborhood beeping his horn.  Run to the front door and wave him down.  Give him your old tank and he'll give you a full tank.  $2.  I guess if his horn stops working, he's outa business.
  • So far, I have not had to produce one prescription for medications I take.  I walk into any pharmacy and tell them what I want, buy it, and walk out the door with product in hand.
  • Whether old house or new house, every single freakin door has keys.  Every bedroom, office, bathroom...HAS A FREAKING KEY!!!   That's one of the first things I got rid of.  I swapped out all my interior doorknobs with simple privacy locks that don't require a key.   I must've thrown away 20 keys!!!
  • There doesn't appear to be a maximum limit on how many people can be on ONE motorcycle.  It's all too common I see a male driver with a young child between him and the handebars, with wife behind him, with baby in wifes arms....all without helmets.
  • Speaking of motorcycles, for some unknown reason, it is extremely rare to see a motorcycle larger than 250cc.   Almost all the shops sell 125cc, 200cc, and 250cc.   Even the cops ride 250's.  To give a perspective, my 'road hog' I had back in the USA was 1,300cc !!
  • Chevy Grand Vitaras are probably the most common car in EC.  They are assembled here in EC.  Try counting all that you see on the roads while out running errands and you'll quickly be into the 3 figures.
  • Regular gas almost never fluctuates from the $1.48 (a gallon) price.  Super generally bounces around from $2 to $2.20.
  • Latino men LOVE their hair.  Whether they're going to be digging ditches or work in an office, their hair is PERFECT.
  • Professional dress is still the requirement in the office.  Suits/ties for men.  No such thing as 'casual day'...or, on the rare occasion there is, it's slacks and dress shirt.
  • In Cuenca, we surpassed our average annual rainfall of 29" by JUNE!!!!  We are STILL having torrential rainfalls.
  • Very seldom do I see anyone simply panhandling without anything in exchange.  Everyone here seems to WORK (read 'earn') the money they receive, even if it means standing in the middle of an intersection and bouncing a ball on their head, juggling swords, or twirling colorful flags....then walking between the rows of cars to receive tips (if any)...smiling and thanking their audience.
  • Kids play freely and without fear in the streets, yards, parks, and neighborhoods.  They walk home from school with their friends, unaccompanied by an adult. 
  • School busses are generally the size of a VW bus.  They are yellow.  They don't have swing-out STOP signs.  You are not required to stop behind a school bus loading/unloading students.
  • There is no such thing as 'don't talk to strangers' here.
  • 99% own small cars and/or small pickups.  They don't own enormous gas-guzzling behemoths, but you'd think they would what with all the hills, rough dirt roads and such that screams for a 4x4 and big powerful engines.   No, they keep things simple.   I guess the big, domineering, ego trucks are only for those city dwellers in the USA, that never see the light of day of a rough hilly road, but need to at least fantasize of the idea.   But, I digress.
  • It's ALLLLL about families here.  BOTH parents dote on their children, young or old.  Kids WANT to be with their parents...even into their 20's and 30's.  Kids show a great deal of respect for their parents and grand parents.  It's very common to see young adults walking arm-in-arm with their Moms.  It seems as though everyone has kids-in-tow here...everywhere you go.  Thank goodness, it's rare to see and hear a brat screaming and flailing about because he/she wants something the parent won't give.  Kids are spoiled here..but with affection...not with materialistic things.
  • Speaking of...you're hard-pressed to find any home or yard scattered with debris in the form of abandoned toys.  Dunno why.  Maybe parents don't buy that many for them.  Kids seem to be content with a stick, chalk, a soccer ball, or whatever else they find and make use of.
  • Soccer is KING here.  Everywhere you look, kids and adults are kicking the ball around in yards, parks, wherever there is space.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way....cars do.  It's so strange to see pedestrians purposely stop to let a car pass, whereas back home it would be the other way around...pedestrians would flip you off if you hindered their walking.  Sometimes I'll stop to let a pedestrian cross and the expression on their face is HUH???...then they express a 'Thank you' and go along their way.  I think it makes better sense here...it keeps traffic flowing.  People take responsibility for their OWN actions.
  • Ice cream is a normal, everyday treat here.
  • Good luck getting anything done between 1pm and 3pm.  Either the store is closed, or if they're open, the person you need is invariably out to lunch...come back after 3pm.
  • Peanut butter is not a commonly purchased product here.  I have YET to find one peanut butter cookie to buy.   WAAGGGHHH!!!!
  • Eggs and milk (in cartons) are on the dry shelves in markets...not in coolers.  Markets sell very little in the way of frozen foods and next-to-none in the way of pre-packaged frozen meals.
  • Haircuts cost $2 to $4.
  • Need your car cleaned?    A manual car wash, including pressure washing the engine, and underbody of the car (a guy descends into a pit below the car and manually sprays the underside), wheel wells spic-n-span, vacuumed, interior wiped down and treated, windows cleaned, exterior dried...all of which entails about 45 minutes of work.   $8.50
  • The average shop rate at a dealer mechanic is $25 an hour...versus over $100 back home.  Far less, of course, if you go to one of a zillion neighborhood mechanics shops.
  • Speaking of mechanics, you ARE allowed in the shop and you CAN crawl under the car (or go down into the pit) with the mechanic (with their approval, of course).  No fear here!!
  • Doctors give you their home phone #.
  • There are no sprawling (or multi-level) parking lots at the airport.  There is NO overnight parking, either.  There's one small parking lot to pick up your family/friend.  Otherwise, taxi's are used.
  • In Quito, you can walk right up to the Presidential Palace (equivilant of White House).  The busy street out front is maybe 50 ft from the front.
  • Everywhere you go, there are armed guards (not pistols in holsters...but holding a rifle in front of them) posted at the front doors, whether it be a bank or a pharmacy or appliance store.   It isn't because it's unsafe, it's to squash any notion of robbing the place.   It's very effective.  And, they actually say hello to you and welcome you.


  1. Hi Dano in EC

    I have a job that allows me to work wherever I want. . .I think I'd like to explore Cuenca. Do you have any time to flip emails back and forth with my inane questions? I also live in WA - Union, to be exact (tip of Hood Canal). I am thinking about maybe a 6 month trial of Cuenca. I'm at sm80422@gmail.com if you have a chance to email.

    Really enjoying your blog! Very informational and lovely photos.


  2. Dan,
    Thanks for this post. I have had similar observations and experiences when living in different parts of Latin America. There are so many aspects that make so much more sense than in the U.S., others that don't at all wherever you are. For me it's always the people that I fall in love with, their appreciation for life's simple things and courteousness.

    Take care,


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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