This post will be helpful to those of you who are thinking about moving here and want to know what the culture is like. If you want to move to a country that still maintains some family values than Ecuador is that place. Ecuador’s family culture has been compared to what North America used to be like back in the 1950’s.
UPDATE 2015 - However, this notion is going a bit overboard. We see some things here that are nothing like North America in the 1950's such as Cuenca's high teenage pregnancy rates. For a Catholic nation, there's a lot of intimacy between young, unmarried people in Ecuador and we all know where intimacy leads...need I say more?
One of the reasons we chose Cuenca Ecuador was because of the family oriented culture and conservative values; and there still is a lot of that with the older Cuencan's, but the younger generation don't seem to get it. We doubt many of the parents know what their children are doing in the many parks around Cuenca.
Some of you might wonder about a few things, particularly how the women dress. So we have updated this article to bring a better understanding to the table about this issue.
UPDATE: January 2014- Yes, the women wear tight jeans in Ecuador but this does not mean she is loose or looking for attention. It is the cultural dress for women to wear tight jeans and sometimes when going out to pair that with a pair of high heels. It is the style for Ecuador and is engraved within the culture...it is nothing more, so please do yourself a favor and do not read into it.
The other piece of clothing you will find the women wear often here is the leotards or tights. Normally we're used to seeing these worn by ballet dancers under their tutu's or you might find women wearing those to gymnastic class. Here they wear them out on the street as every day clothing. We had one gringo ask us if they forgot to put a dress on over it, and at first it seems like they are not fully dressed, but here again it does not mean anything other than, they are very cheap ($6 to $9). It is what's available to them at this time in Ecuador and is only what some Ecuadorians can afford to buy. Clothing is expensive here.
It is not unusual to find Ecuadorian adult children still living at home until they are married. In the U.S it is anticipated that young people, once they reach the age of 18, move out, even when they are not married! But this makes it easier for young people to shack up before they are ready to make a commitment, unless the parents taught them values and morals about remaining a virgin for their new wife or husband, which some parents do, but many do not. Most Latin American culture is conservative in this way as is Italy. BTW, did you see Italy's divorce rate? It is very low--almost at the bottom!
Young people here do go to college, if this is what is decided between them and the parents, but most of these young people still live at home and help out with the family business. If a young person is not yet married they don’t move out and get their own apartment and live as if they have no accountability. Sadly, in the U.S many young people move out to test their independence from mom and dad and behave as if they have no accountability. I’m not saying that all young people do this, but a lot of them do. Many young people ruin their lives over this testing.
There is no need to be independent from mom and dad here in Ecuador. The young people are not striving to get away from mom and dad either. In fact the attitude is quite different here. And mom and dad are not pushing their children out of the home the minute they turn 18 either. The culture in Ecuador is constantly showing us the importance of family.
If you've noticed in many of our videos family's are always out together walking around, eating out, shopping together and the whole family holds hands as they walk down the street. It’s beautiful! It’s not uncommon to see Father’s and daughters holding hands lovingly together as they go about their day. Now, that’s a sight for sore eyes because you never, ever see this in the U.S. anymore. In fact, if an older man is seen holding hands with his daughter in the U.S, people would think he is a pervert or cradle robber.
Most Ecuadorian father’s protect their daughters by loving them with “tough love” rather than being not interested or absent in their lives. And because fathers take their fatherhood role with such importance here, it makes sense then that when the daughters get married they are not defiant with their own husband’s for independence. They let their husband’s take the lead and be the man! This is one of the keys to a happy marriage. Study after study has been done that shows when a young woman respects her father and when the father protects his daughter through whatever means he deems appropriate, then when she is married she will treat her husband as the head over her with respect! Respect is an important part of marriage. In fact without it, the marriage is most-likely doomed, or at the very least, unhappy.
The rates of divorce in Ecuador are much, much lower than what they are in the US. See the divorce rate chart here. The married men take their position as head of the household with great importance in Latin America. And most wives do not undermine their husband’s masculinity by being bossy and belittling, because quite frankly, the men don’t let them get away with such irreverent behavior like they do in the U.S. In fact, the women here respect their husband’s position as the head, and this is one major reason for far less divorce in Latin American society. However, things do change over time but we do not see it happening over night or even in the next decade. For now, morals and values on this issue are still in the 1950’s, at least for the most part. As most of you should know all of Latin America is a Patriarchal society and that means men still behave like the man here, which is very normal, the way God intended it to be!
Is the culture perfect here? No, it is not. A problem with most Latin American culture is the womanizing by some of the men, even if they are married. Not all men do it, but some of them do. It seems that it is ok for married men to flirt but if the married women do it, it’s another thing.
Most Latin women are conservative and wouldn’t dare flirt with a man when she is married. The view that it is ok for married men to womanize is flawed and morally corrupt. It just goes to show that no place in the world is perfect. It is not wise for a married man to womanize because it harms his relationship with God, with his wife, and with himself. God’s wisdom for our lives is far more precious than anything else on this earth.
For the most part here in Ecuador the men treat their women like ladies and the ladies behave feminine. When a woman allows her man to be the man she is behaving feminine. This is recorded in the bible as that of being her husband’s help meet. (Genesis 3:18) If she is not behaving as a feminine lady then she is not helping her husband to meet his position as the man in the marriage. Most women here wear pants rather than a dress, but they don’t act like they wear the pants in the marriage.
Understand that it’s not so much what a woman wears that makes her feminine its how she treats her husband—it’s in her behavior. She may look more feminine when she wears a dress, but it is “what’s in her heart” that really counts. In other words, wearing a dress is not going to make a woman more feminine than she already is within her being.
When I use the term feminine, I’m not saying that a woman can’t fix a broken doorknob or leaky kitchen faucet either, or even chop wood. What I am saying is a feminine wife allows her husband to be the man and she works beside him rather than fighting for her independence from him. I think we could honestly say that families that work together stay together.
In Ecuador most families work together in their own mom and pop type business. Here in Cuenca, bread and other baked good shops line the streets and there are five and dime type stores and mini marts everywhere. There are family run restaurants, craft shops, hardware stores and custom built furniture stores. It is not unusual for the family business to be on the bottom floor of a building while the living quarters are on the second floor. This working together teaches the young people the importance of work, marriage and family.
Don’t get me wrong, when a son or daughter marries, of course they move into their own apartment or house and they have their own lives, but they may still work in the family business helping out their mom and dad when they can. Family comes first and they still have family get-togethers, and most of them don’t move hundreds or thousands of miles away.
People are happy here and more relaxed and it is because the love of family takes priority. Very rarely are there family feuds among Latin Americans. People are quick to forgive and forget and love one another. Sadly, this is something that rarely exists in other parts of the world. Today marriage and family values still exist in Ecuador and we're happy to be a part of that.