Assimilation In Ecuador

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On the Expat Forum this morning, I saw a question about Assimilation in Ecuador. I thought anyone looking for more information on Assimilation In Ecuador would be interested in both this question and two of the responses.


“In the USA we accept foreigners, it’s what we do. In Ecuador I doubt that takes place. I would love to hear expats who have had experiences, positive and negative, with regard to assimilation. “


“I think the process for gringos who stay here in Ecuador is much the same as a similar foreigner in the USA.

Most, if they arrive in the US old, do not learn English. Most of the old folks socialize with one another. They buy from from a barrio market if they can because its more than just a grocery store, its a touch of the familiar, the language, the food.

A twenty year old will assimilate. That’s what twenty year old’s do…..they come from being teens, a different culture than adults are part of. So adapting to Ecuador would become part of the normal process they go thru. Assimilating/maturing. Might be two names for the same process.

For us old folks, not easy…but helpful in keeping the brain functioning.

If you have never lived in another culture and are armchair travelers let me tell you…. calling it another reality vs another culture better expresses the gap. It really seems like that sometimes.

Better that than a place that was boring (aburrido) for my declining years.


Another person added: “Resistance is, after all, futile (I’m sorry – I had to plug the Borg)”

In my book, “Words To Thrive By for Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador” I cover a lot about this topic. Feel free to purchase my new bookWords To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuadoravailable both on Kindle and Paperback formats. Personally, I prefer the kindle version as all my photos are in color in that version. However if you like a traditional paperback in your hands where you can make your own notes, feel free to purchase that version where the photos are in black and white.

Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador

Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador

COLOMBIA: A New Perspective from The International Woman Mary Anne Dorward

For those of you considering moving or visiting South America, here is some helpful information on Colombia.

Colombia has been given a very bad rap over the last 30 years, mostly due to Hollywood movies and the government of the world not updating people about how Colombia actually is now.

Everyone I meet here or around the world when I travel these days who is from Colombia goes on and on and on about how beautiful and safe a country it is and encourages us to visit.

Since I haven’t spent a great deal of time in Colombia, I don’t feel I have a comprehensive enough experience to truly comment personally. However, I thought readers looking around at various South American countries might enjoy this article from Nick Giambruno today for further perspectives on opportunities currently available in Colombia. Nick is a wonderful writer and writes regularly for the newsletter, International Man.

To Thriving Travels For All,

Mary Anne Dorward, The International Woman

Author of Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador

WTTB_Ecuador_FINAL full cover

How to Profit from the End of the Longest Running War in the Americas

by Nick Giambruno | December 02, 2015
Drug cartels. Kidnappings. Assassinations. A war for billions in cocaine profits. Leftist guerrillas looking for a piece of the action.

If you’ve seen a movie with this stuff in it, there’s a good chance it was set in Colombia.

Popular culture has depicted Colombia this way for decades. The media has pounded this image into the public’s consciousness. So it’s no surprise most people think of the country as a scary, dangerous place.

There were plenty of facts to support this image 30 years ago…but not today. Today, a violent Colombia is just a Hollywood fiction.

The real Colombia has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. Some remote areas are still no man’s land. But the drug wars and civil conflict that started in the 1960s and tormented much of the country have wound down. I’d feel much safer walking down a street in Medellín tonight than I would in many parts of New York City, Chicago, or Washington, D.C. Plus, unlike most Latin American countries, Colombia welcomes and respects foreign investment.

It’s clear to anyone who has been there recently that Colombia has turned a page to a better future. The country has immense charm and plenty of opportunity for investors. That was certainly my impression after visiting earlier this year.

Yet the average person still thinks it’s the 1980s. He’s still holding onto ill-founded fears, thanks to all the negative but out-of-date images in the media. These images have created gross misperceptions about Colombia. That’s not a bad thing for us. It’s an opportunity.

The perception gap about Colombia has pushed the price of most things down to bargain levels. This is a blessing to anyone who can see beyond it.

This is exactly why I visited Colombia earlier this year. I found the opportunities there so compelling that I purchased a beautiful penthouse apartment in the nicest part of Medellín. I signed the papers and closed in early September.

Colombia, and Medellín in particular, has been on my radar for many years. My old college roommate was originally from Medellín. So I’ve known what the place was really like for some time.

I’ll share more on the investment opportunities in Colombia in a bit. But first, some important background information…

Peace Brings Prosperity

In the 1960s, friction between leftist guerrillas (generally allied with drug lords), right-wing militias (in some cases dabblers in the drug trade), and the Colombian central government developed into widespread civil conflict. This is the main reason Colombia has had a “red alert” travel advisory next to its name for decades.

The leftist guerrilla armies, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the much smaller Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), were the most notorious source of violence. Farming families started militias to fight back against FARC and ELN. They needed protection and, for many years, they were skeptical about the central government’s ability to provide it.

At one point, the leftist guerrillas controlled nearly half the country. But over the years, FARC lost territory, membership, and military strength.

The success of the Colombian military is one reason FARC’s power has shriveled. The military has pushed FARC out of most of the country.

Another reason is that FARC lost its foreign patrons. Cuba had been one of FARC’s biggest sources of financial and military support. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban government lost its ability to finance mischief in Colombia, or elsewhere.

Cuba’s reconciliation with the U.S. has recently changed the geopolitical equation even more.

Add it up, and it’s no surprise FARC thinks more armed conflict is a losing bet. The remaining FARC forces have reached a tentative peace agreement with the Colombian government. They plan to finalize the agreement by March 2016.

In the coming months, I think there’s a good chance the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running conflict will come to a clean finish.

Below is a picture of Cuban president Raúl Castro bringing together Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, better known by the nom de guerre Timochenko.

A Contrarian Investor’s Dream

Colombia has the right mix of ingredients to make any contrarian salivate. Most people think it’s a country in crisis. In reality, that crisis is only a memory.

The world’s attachment to an outdated Hollywood stereotype of a country overrun by battling drug lords is handing us an opportunity. This stereotype, which is just beginning to fade, has kept prices of Colombian land and Colombian stocks low. And the recent strength of the U.S. dollar has pushed prices even lower.

It’s clear to me – and should be clear to anyone who has visited recently – that Colombia has turned a page to a better future. The country’s middle class is vibrant and growing. It has more than doubled in the past 13 years and now includes more than 30% of the population.

Massive, intelligently planned infrastructure projects are underway. An ambitious four-lane highway will cut through the Andes with tunnels and bridges to connect Medellín to ports on the Pacific and the Caribbean. It will also open up vast tracts of rich farmland for development.

Walk anywhere in Medellín and you will feel a dynamic energy in the air that tells you this place is on an upswing.

Put it all together, and you have a perfect crisis market…a place where the crisis is a fiction.

These opportunities won’t last forever. The word is starting to get out. But, for the time being, Colombia hasn’t hit the radar of most foreign and institutional investors. However, that could change soon, especially if the government and FARC reach a permanent peace agreement in the months ahead, as I expect they will


My First Impressions Of Ecuador vs Chile: A Collection Of Contrasts

The Art Of Andy Goldsworthy
Art Of Andy Goldsworthy
Ecuador vs Chile is a collection of contrasts. After living here for three months, I feel now I have been in Chile long enough to be able to write just a bit about my first impressions.
  • The Faces Of Chile

Ecuadorian faces are different than the Chilean faces. The Ecuadorian faces have more of an indigenous look to them, a result of the Quichwa influence from their Inca heritage and also those people who have come from Peru and other neighboring South American countries.

Here in Chile there is more of a European influence in their faces, as they are more mixed cultures coming from many other countries.

  • The Contrast Of Immigration Policies

Chile also has a great history of immigration. Countries like Chile and Argentina have always highly encouraged immigration from other cultures. This cultural influx over many years has added to the great mix of physical characteristics, rich culinary options, world class fashion and different political ideologies seen here.

Ecuador by contrast over the many centuries has been rather closed unto itself, with little or any European influence upon it. Many educated Ecuadorian people told me that unlike , Ecuadorians prefer to retain their own culture. As a result, few people from other countries in Europe or other Latin American cultures have moved there or intermarried with the local Ecuadorian people.

  • The Culture Of Beauty and Fashion

From what I observed living in Ecuador two years, unless you are in a more professional community of Ecuadorians, Ecuadorian culture encourages their women to be the ruler of the home and take care of their kids and their husbands not to become a fashionista.

The elder Ecuadorian women, on the coast at least, tend to be a bit on the heavier side and appear to pay little attention to fashion. But this fashion sense tends to shift to a bit more upscale in more professional areas such as the female lawyers of Quito who we met.

Younger Ecuadorian women tend to emphasize their physical features and show off their figures. I would characterize their fashion sense as “sexual,” seemingly designed to get attention from men and at the same time also be comfortable in the heat of the Ecuador climate on the equator. I never quite got over the fact though that so many of the Ecuadorian women start having babies at age 12, regardless of how they dressed.

By contrast, Chileans have a greater sense of what I would call “elegant sexy.” This “woman of fashion” will often endure physical discomfort for high end fashion effect. I have seen  this all over Latin American countries and also in Europe.

Sure, Chilean women of all ages dress up for the beach.  Their beach outfits can be very revealing in the string bikini sense or sheer dresses. However, both the young and older Chilean women have the tanned and toned bodies to pull it off.

But even if they don’t have that “perfect skinny body” so promoted in the US, it doesn’t stop a Chilean woman from putting on a bikini and showing off whatever she does have. Some women also make a more conservative choice of a one piece bathing suit or T shirt and shorts.

Whatever the choice of beach outfits, they are out there walking and playing paddle board or catch or soccer or making sand castles with their children.

Overall, Chilean women seem to aspire to also dress for what looks good on them and be “pulled together” in the latest fashions you see being sold in Europe or the United States, whether it is out for a walk, going to the grocery store, working or shopping.

Sure, some Chilean women go a bit over the top with their huge bags, earrings, platform heels and high skirts up to the bottom of their butts. But as Diana Vreeland says, “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”

As I watch Chilean women, all I can say is that they seem proud of  their personal fashion stamp and also look like they are having a lot of fun wherever they go, whatever their taste. I respect that.

  • Hair

I love the long, drapy, sexy hair of the Chilean women and also how they dress always so pulled together in their skinny jeans and loose flowing tops that sway along with their hair.

I didn’t ever see Ecuadorian women putting a lot of effort into their hair or their clothes. Ecuadorian women by contrast tend to put their hair up in braids if they are in traditional indigenous Quechwa dress or in pony tails on the bus to keep it off their necks in the heat. Styles are short and stylish in the city of Quito but otherwise just long and straight cut for the most part.

  • The Fabulous Chilean Walk

The really stylish upscale  women of Chile are absolutely fabulous to watch, especially when they walk. They are the epitome of what Sophia Loren said,  “A woman’s dress should be a like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.” These upscale Chilean women really do walk like one famous European designer suggested a woman should do: “As if three men are watching them intently from behind.”

  • Chile Is A Culture of Travel

Chilean younger people are encouraged to get an education, make something of themselves and travel.

Both Chilean women and men aspire to and have both local and international careers. They love to travel all over the world and do travel on a regular basis as a part of their ever expanding interest in the world as a whole.

Even the men who are the concierges at the desk here at our building travel in their time off from work. One guy downstairs just came back from a two week trip to Paris and commented how much he “loved the food” but that the weather was just “too cold for him.”

Younger Chileans go off to study at Ivy League colleges in the United States and have commented to us that “the values are very different between the two cultures.” (More on that in a future blog!)

Most Chileans take 2 week length holidays thoughout the year, and more than once a year. Average Ecuadorians on the coast we met were lucky to travel beyond the next town in their entire lives.

  • The Malls

Chileans LOVE to shop and get the best of everything the world has to offer. And the malls reflect that. Every top name brand merchandise is here. Chileans shop for entertainment on the weekends.

A friend here told me that if a Chilean takes up a new sport, such as hiking or windsurfing, they tend to buy everything for that sport, top of the line brands of clothes and equipment, before they even take their first lesson!

The Ecuadorian malls for the most part are not nearly as elaborate as the malls in Chile. With the exception of the one mall we went to in Cumbaya, just south of the city of Quito, malls are quite small and have very few first world brands. Ecuadorians tend to choose their buying options for how they function rather than for being seen in a famous brand or fashion.

  • The Culture of Food and Music

Chileans LOVE good food of all kinds and cultural traditions.

The Ecuadorians love a certain type of food that is traditional Ecuadorian tradition of fish, rice, and beans or fresh chicken soup from a chicken you killed and plucked that morning.

Chileans adore live music and the musical cultural contributions people from around the world make to Chile with their musical traditions.

Ecuadorians don’t have live music anywhere unless it is at a rare concert in Quito. However in Ecuador you do hear a lot of music from boom boxes from the back of the cars and from DJ’s at their many discos until well past 5 AM.

  • The Chilean vs Ecuadorian Culture of Hello

 Chileans are very friendly and kiss you hello on the right cheek the moment you meet them. No Hollywood “air kisses” from Chileans.

The Ecuadorians are a bit more reserved, but from an early age, even the children are expected to give you a kiss on your cheek upon greeting.

  • Chilean vs Ecuador Curiosity

Chileans are also extremely interested in anyone who visits Chile and you are asked all kinds of questions about who you are, where you have travelled, what you love, what kind of area you have worked in, how you like Chile so far and what you like about Chile compared to where you came from. They want to know YOU and ask LOTS of questions.

Ecuador by contrast, are very curious why you would ever leave the United States. Many of them have a cherished dream of visiting the United States one day, kind of like the United States is their version of Mecca for the people of Muslim faith.

More often than not in Ecuador, you get the question, “Why are you here?” and “Why would you EVER leave the United States? It’s perfect there.”

As you enter more of a conversation with an Ecuadorian, invariably you learn that the person who you are talking to has either gone to the United States to work and bring back money they saved or has great aspirations to go to the United States one day.

Ecuadorians never speak of ever visiting Europe or Asia, let alone Chile or other South American countries

  • Ecuadorians Think Chile Is Too Expensive

The common comment from Ecuadorians about Chile is, “Oh, it’s so expensive in Chile. Too expensive for me. ”

However, our personal experience so far on the cost of living at least right now in Chile with the currently strong U.S. dollar exchange rate, is about the same cost currently as living in Ecuador.

  • Chileans Think Ecuador Is Too Third World

When Chileans learn that we just spent the last two years of our lives in Ecuador, Chileans invariably get this look of concern on their faces as if to say, “poor you,” but they always first ask, “So what did you think of living in Ecuador? How was it?”

When  we tell them a bit more about our experience and how much we are enjoying our time in Chile now, they say things like, “Well, you know. We are a First World Country here in Chile. Ecuador has a ways to go now doesn’t it?

  • The Cultures Of Personal Space Are Very Different

Chileans have a very different sense of respect for space than Ecuadorians do. Chileans give you lots of space, whereas the Ecuadorians really do not.

Ecuadorians will practically be on top of you from behind you in a line and move even closer to you when you move away from them. At the bank counter, Ecuadorians will just come on up, stand beside you and lay their arms on the counter or look over your shoulder, even when it is not their turn. The tellers at the bank do not tell them to step aside or back.

At the ATM machine, Ecuadorians think nothing of coming up and standing up very close behind you where they can see everything you are doing and even how much money you are getting out of the machine.  However if there is a guard standing by at the bank door near the row of machines, Ecuadorians will stand back behind the yellow line usually painted on the floor a couple of feet back.

Ecuadorians will also use the armrests well over on to your side of the seat on a plane or sitting in a public chair at an office. They just have a habit of spreading out wherever they are.

Ecuador tends to be a culture of patience with all the long lines everywhere you go to do anything. However if you are doing anything while you are waiting, like a needlepoint in a public space like I tend to do while I am waiting, a crowd will usually gather around to get a closer look at what I am doing.

Strangers will even stick their faces in very close to mine while I am looking down and working on my needlepoint as if to see exactly what my eyes are seeing as I work. Ecuadorians think nothing of asking many questions about who the needlepoint is for or what I will do with it.

I ever quite got used to an Ecuadorian’s sense of space.

However, you never feel like a Chilean person is on top of you or crowding you, like I always felt in Ecuador. Here in Chile, I feel a bit more like I can breathe as people are generally more respectful of space, at least in the way I think of giving another person a sense of spacial privacy.

There is at least 3 feet between you and the next person in line here in Chile. At an ATM machine Chileans tend to wait five feet back or even outside the door of the bank until you are finished with your transaction.

  • The Culture of  Speaking English vs Spanish

Another thing I notice is that Ecuadorians will encourage you to speak Spanish and gently and quietly repeat what you just said correctly if you didn’t get it right. They love seeing you try to speak their language, and then try very sweetly to help you improve.

The Chileans seem to have a sense of keeping their opinions about your Spanish, good or bad, to themselves and will not correct you unless you ask them specifically to do so. Then they will be happy to help.

But we have known people a full month before learning that THEY spoke PERFECT ENGLISH! But Chileans have always respected our attempts to blend in with them and make an effort to speak Spanish, however clumsy.

Rarely does a Chilean speak English to you or in a conversation in Spanish switch to English, which would have been more comfortable and easier for us.

  • More Impressions To Come

Anyway I hope this description gives you at least a little sense of the two countries, Ecuador and Chile, by contrast. I know I will have more impressions the longer I am in Chile. I will share those “boots on the ground personal experiences” as I can speak to them more fully.

If you came here to this blog really only wanting to know more about Ecuador, feel free to download or purchase my new bookWords To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador. My book is available both on Kindle and Paperback formats, though I prefer the kindle as all my photos are in color in that version.


Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador

Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador

Black Friday In South America

Perhaps I am a bit of a “spoil sport,” but in the USA, I usually stayed home and enjoyed the peace and quiet, rather than going out shopping on Black Friday. Now that I live full time in South America, I still cannot fully escape Black Friday. It’s all over the internet and some form of Black Friday Sale was in just about every single email I saw in my inbox this morning when I woke up.

To me, Black Friday is a totally made up holiday “must do”  yearly shopping experience, created by people who capitalize on the fact that everyone likes a bargain. They know that you will buy a whole lot more other stuff that you really don’t need while you’re there at their store in the mall or out trolling on their website looking for your “must have” items.

Here in South America, they don’t have the traditional “Thanksgiving Holiday” and so there is no “Black Friday Day After Thanksgiving Shopping Event.” Frankly, this is kind of a relief. No more unconscious or conscious consumerism everywhere I look, the day after Thanksgiving Holiday, in stores at least.

I must be honest and say that I did check out several of the online Black Friday Deals just for fun this morning.  I wanted to observe my reactions to all the online consumerism temptation so I could write an honest blog here.

In some ways it was the best of both worlds. I could see what was available if I wanted it, while I could also sit peacefully, sipping my coffee out on our deck overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean here in Chile while I did it.

I’ll admit I saw lots of great deals online, but the shipping costs and import taxes to South America exceeded the value of every item that I thought looked even remotely interesting, even at the Black Friday Sale price.

So while I didn’t get the consumer conquerers “buzz” of buying anything for a good deal, I did save myself from any and all buyers remorse of buying something I really didn’t need.

I read this blog below by Seth Godin this morning and I loved it. I couldn’t have said how I feel about Black Friday any better myself so I thought I would pass it along to you in case you missed it.

I hope these words help you resist the temptation offered by the retailers of Black Friday to lure you into the mindset of greed and consumerism, moving you off your center, shifting you from the mind set of “not enough” to “more, more, more.”

 ~Mary Anne Dorward

“Black Friday, of course, is a con.

But it’s also a symptom of a terrible trap we’ve set for ourselves.

Consider the joy a little kid has the first time he spends his own money to buy an ice cream cone. This isn’t something he does every day, it’s not something he has to do, it’s not something he’s trying to get over with. Instead, the entire process unrolls in slow motion. It’s consumption, no doubt about it, the last step in a long industrial/agricultural/marketing system. But at least this last step is special beyond words.

Now, consider the mall. The mall, today.

For the three billion people on Earth who have never experienced air conditioning, window displays and the extraordinary safety and wealth that the mall represents, a trip to the mall is mindblowing. For the typical consumer, egged on by a media frenzy and harried by a completely invented agenda, today is nothing but a hassle.

All that time, all that money, all those emotions spent for not one good reason.

It’s more about what you didn’t get on sale, or how many more people you need to “cross off” or just how much shiny but useless stuff you can grab faster than the next person. A reversal of 100,000 years of not enough to a brief few decades of more, more, more.

Every person reading this today has access to more wealth than the last King of France did. An astounding array of choices, a bounty of available connections and emotions.

Don’t let someone else scam you into being unhappy.”


And if you came here looking for more information on Ecuador, I suggest you consider downloading my new book, Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador.  My book has tons of great stuff about Ecuador, things you would never get from International Living or the New York Times, who are really interested in selling Ecuador to you as a product, not giving you the real information you truly need to evaluate whether Ecuador is a good choice for you based on real information from someone who spent two years there.

My book will help you see Ecuador as it really is, not the high gloss consumerism version. Check it out.

GRATITUDE Day 8: If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself



“Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about his religion.

Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

• Tecumseh, Shawnee •

This is Day 8 of 9 in my GRATITUDE here on Footprints in Ecuador.

In doing this 9 Days of Gratitude experiment, I have noticed that I am more focused on Gratitude than I already normally am.

I think this sentiment by Tecumseh is worth keeping in mind, especially as the stress of the Holiday Season creeps into our daily lives: “If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” There is always something we can find to be grateful for, no matter what

And if you are really here not to find anything to be grateful for and really just want me to cut to the chase and tell you something interesting about Ecuador, I invite you to download my new book: Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador.

I was so thankful to have the opportunity to live in Ecuador for two years. I had all kinds of interesting experiences there that I think are worth sharing with others, especially people who are considering visiting or moving there. I guarantee if you take the time to read it, you will find something to be thankful for! At least I truly hope you will! 🙂

GRATITUDE Day 7- I Am Thankful For My Struggle To Strength



As the quote above by Alex Elle suggests, “I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.”

On Day 7 of 9 Days of Gratitude here on Footprints In Ecuador, today  I am acknowledging the strength we all have within us, however we get there –

kicking, screaming, stumbling, bumbling, fumbling, being hit by a gentle nudge, sledge hammer or lightning bolt.

We will all get there eventually, one way or another.

And as long as you’re already here, below is a book I wrote about the stumbling into strength and understanding that I did while living in Ecuador for two years. Feel free to download my new book: Words To Thrive By for World Travelers: Footprints in Ecuador:




Gratitude Day 6: Enough Is Enough

Enough Is Enough

                        Enough Is Enough


On Day 6 of my Gratitude Project, I think this quote says it all. So I will just leave it at that.


If you want more info about Ecuador specifically, please feel free to download my book, “Words To Thrive By for World Travellers: Footprints in Ecuador.”