In 2012 I began speculating about what Ecuador would be like. After two years of calling Ecuador home, I realize there are a few aspects of the U.S. that will take some time to adjust to when I get back next week. This time I know what to anticipate:
People tend to be tired and stressed in the U.S. I seem to remember that many Americans are one broken glass, flat tire, or cutter-in-line from losing their cool. I’ve been there myself. Being tired and stressed is like a merit badge indicating that an American is working hard. Here that state of mind doesn’t exist. Very little falls into the “it’s OK to snap” category. Working too hard is frowned on because it means you’re neglecting the people around you. After 27 months of living in Azogues, it’s only logical to me that work should not come first in my priorities.
Planning is very important. At home in Colorado even small outings often require some amount of anticipation. Here I have been kidnapped for entire days on the pretext of “going and coming right back.” Perhaps a more telling comparison: Weddings in the U.S. often take a year to plan and execute. In contrast, couples in Ecuador will announce, organize, and wed in less than a month, often in a week or two. Invitations may even be hand delivered by the bride and groom the day before the wedding. I’ve come to appreciate that the focus here is on the present, not the future. When I get home, I will shoot for a middle ground on this one.
Buying. U.S. advertisers have our number. It’s a science and consumers are the white mice. Buying is how we cope with stress, and recreation when we are bored. Americans have 24/7 access to purchase almost anything. In Ecuador, access to goods and exposure to advertising is much more limited. Maybe it’s for that reason that Ecuadorians in my community tend to buy food and replace things when they’re worn out, unless it’s an event and that always requires a new dress, and maybe shoes. My landlord brings suitcases of clothes back from the U.S. to sell. We try on dresses in her bedroom and she lets us pay in installments. With the limited exposure to U.S.-style consumerism, I believe I’ll find the wave of advertising and accessibility of products to be especially difficult to resist.
Anyhow, these are the three big ones that I believe I’ll have to wrestle with right out of the gate. Although in the case of these differences, I will try to avoid readjusting completely.