Story: When we were in Panama the Internet was not working in the hotel we stayed in. We asked the desk clerk, “When will the Internet come back on”? We had to let them know we were working and needed the Internet. And she said, “Soon, in a few hours”. A few hours goes by and still no Internet. We asked her at least four or five times about the Internet and we still got the same answer each time.
The Internet was out half of that day and all of the next day because the manager was gone for the weekend and she was the only one who had a key to the room where the router was to reboot the modem, which is all that was needed. The desk clerk was not upfront with us and instead of coming out and telling us that the manager is gone for the weekend and will not be in until Monday, she kept telling us it will get turned back on soon, today, in a few hours, etc, etc.
These kinds of appeasing stories happen all the time in Latin America and it doesn’t matter which Latin American country you live in, it still happens.
2. Friendly and Gracious – Sure, ALL Latin Americans are gracious folks; it goes with the territory, literally. On first meeting most people in the world are gracious. It’s funny how foreigners who do not speak a lick of Spanish say that all the Ecuadorians are the friendliest people in the world.
How about getting to know someone and doing business with them? Do you interact and communicate with them on a daily basis, and in Spanish? You might find some of that friendliness has vanished. Just saying, people go overboard with the friendliest people in the world when they don’t really know them.
3. Curious to a fault – There’s curious and there’s nosy. Here they tend to lean toward the nosy. However, it’s not in a confrontational manner but rather, “Let me get to know you” manner. They think that they can know someone by how much money a person makes and what kind of education they have had. What they are really doing is deciding if they want to be friends with you, and or deciding on how they will treat you.
This is a common trait throughout the world and does not necessarily pertain only to the Latin American culture. Latins are known for not being straight forward BUT with this subject and wanting to find out “how much money you make” that goes down the bath drain with the soap suds.
This is why it is unhealthy to flaunt your wealth in Latin American countries. If you find it difficult to keep a low profile in Latin America, you might find yourself in trouble and not just financially but in other ways as well.
When we first moved here our neighbors asked us “How much money do you make?” We told them, “We’re on a tight budget and are not tourists”.
4. Easy Going and Even Tempered – Yes, Ecuadorians and Panamanians are laid back and take the day as it comes. They do not allow much to bother them. They understand patience and don’t complain much, except for when they are driving a car. Behind the wheel of an automobile their other, more radical personality side comes out of hiding. You wouldn’t think it’s the same person. By the way, the Latin women are much calmer behind the wheel of an automobile than the men.
5. Easily Slighted – If you don’t drink with them they take it personal and get insulted. They can’t wrap their head around “why” someone doesn’t like to drink. To them, “everyone drinks” and if you don’t drink you don’t like them.
If you don’t eat their traditional foods like cuy they feel affronted. We don’t mean to rub anyone the wrong way and we’ll eat everything they put before us but we’ve had to tell them we are not interested in tasting cuy.
Our son Angelo said it well when neighbors asked him to eat cuy, He smiled and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t eat pets”. We had to explain to them that in North America little boys and some girls have pet gerbils, hamsters, rats and guinea pigs. They didn’t know that, so they learned something new that day.
We have found that if they feel slighted it’s because they do not understand something about the North American culture. Once you explain yourself they are usually ok with why you didn’t want to eat something or behave a certain way or believe a certain way, etc. Now, that’s getting to know someone on a more personal level.
6. Conservative Dress - In both Ecuador and Panama the women dress more conservatively than women in North America. Excluding the tight pants, Latinas rarely expose a lot of cleavage or upper thighs bared to the world, unless they are at the beach.
Latin’s take pride in their overall appearance and dress casually but very neat and tidy. No baggy pants, holey jeans or dirty ripped clothing like what you see the younger generation wearing in North America.
Most Ecuadorian and Panamanian women have their LONG hair put up in pretty clips or tied back into a bun. The men are clean-shaven, short hair, and many of them use gel to keep their hair in a style. Here's a video cam of the Cuenca people in the Park Calderon.
7. People Pleasers– Latin Americans in general do not like to tell you they don’t know something when you ask them. Instead of saying, “Sorry, I don’t know where that is” they will make something up, sending you on a wild goose chase. Have you ever tried to catch a goose in Latin America? Might take you all day.
This is an endearing quality and many times after the fact we laugh about it. But when you are still chasing the goose, it can be a bit annoying. We have learned to get multiple opinions instead of going by the word of one person.
Until we write again!
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We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!