"Rule #4: Acknowledge your bad Spanish. "I've found that this gets you a lot of points. Unless your Spanish is legitimately fluent, begin any conversation with, 'Excuse me, my Spanish is not very good, but...' First, this makes the Spanish-speaker more attentive to what you're saying, but it does something else, too. It lets the person on the other end of the conversation know that you're not a cocky American who's going to barge in and belligerently demand what he wants. It signals instead that you're asking for help. That really puts someone in a different state of mind. "Rule #5: Pedestrians do not have the right of way, ever. "Lots of people get run over. One trick when crossing a street with a stop sign is to cross behind the lead car. Locals don't ever cross in front because that car is watching the traffic. When there is an opening to go, they will go whether there is someone in front of the car or not. The pedestrians are just expected to scatter. It takes some getting used to, but you can't expect crosswalks to be honored or for pedestrians ever to have the right of way. "Rule #6: You've got to drive aggressively. "If you're a yield-to-the-right-of-way person, you're going to be sitting at the first intersection you come up to until doomsday. Ecuadoreans are very aggressive behind the wheel. They don't let people in and they don't show courtesy, neither to pedestrians nor to other drivers. If you can't drive like them, you're better off not driving. I found it fun, so much more fun than driving in the States, when I got used to it. "Rule #7: Forget your ideas about personal space. "We tend to treasure a little space around us and don't touch or rub up against each other in public. Once in this country I was taking the bus and sitting next to a 12-year-old girl on her way home from school. As we were riding along, she fell asleep on my shoulder. When we got to her stop, she woke up and got off. That's a kind of closeness we're not prepared for. "Rule #8: Don't get in a taxi without agreeing the fare in advance. "I just read that Cuenca now has metered taxi. Guess what? Cuenca had metered taxis in 2002 when I was living in that city. They became law, but the taxistas refused to use them. They still do. They get away with it because customers don't complain. The taxista just puts a rag over the meter so you can't see it. So you want to get an idea of what the fare should be before getting in. "About a year ago, I arrived at the Cuenca airport and asked a driver, 'How much to downtown?' He said, 'Six dollars.' I said, 'I don't think so. I live here!' He said, 'Two dollars.' "Rule #9: Don't wait to be seated and other restaurant etiquette. "In the United States we wait to be seated, but here you seat yourself. Also, in our culture, a waiter is designated to certain tables, and you only ask your waiter for more water, etc. That doesn't happen here. All the waiters are happy to help. If you need something, don't worry about who took your order, just grab the next guy you see. "Also, you need to ask for the check. I can't tell you how many times I've seen folks angrily waiting for their checks while the restaurant has wanted to close 20 minutes ago. All the waiters stand shoulder-to-shoulder by the kitchen wishing the people would just ask for the check so they can go home. It's a standoff that happens all the time. It would be rude for a waiter to bring the check before you ask for it. By asking for it, they know you're done. You can say, 'La cuenta, por favor.' "Restaurant bills here include a 10% tip. If you want to leave something extra, that is fine but not expected. If I know the restaurant owner doesn't distribute tips to the wait staff, I leave cash on the table. "Rule #10: Bring patience with you. "Know that nothing will be as efficient as where you're from. Be patient. You're gonna' love it here if you learn to appreciate the differences." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Lee Harrison was master of ceremonies for last week's event in Ecuador. His presentation on Ecuador etiquette was recorded, along with every other presentation. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks from today. Meantime, you can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
"Dear Team Live and Invest Overseas, I thought this might interest you... "According to my Weather Pro App (widely used by Irish farmers) we can see that our trip to Dubrovnik next week will be somewhat of a disappointment weather-wise compared with Portugal. I never expected that. Just goes to show your weather reports in your recent Retire Overseas Index report were spot on." --Bea D., Ireland
"Right now it's fall in Nebraska. While fall is a beautiful time of year, it's also a sad time because it signifies the end of the growing season. We don't have that here. The growing season is continual. As a kid, I knew what a poinsettia was. It came in a pot, and you bought it at Christmas time. Here poinsettias are trees. Impatiens, which were annuals back in Nebraska, grow to be bushes here. "I have a house with a yard and a gardener to take care of it, but I'm a Nebraskan. My parents taught me to mow the lawn. My neighbors all think I'm a gringita loca because I like to mow my lawn. They don't know what to make of it. The gardeners here pick something and stick it in the ground and, wow, it grows! There's joy in that. My second F-word for Ecuador is: Fantastic. "We tend to throw around the word 'fantastic' to the point where it ceases to have meaning. Fair enough. We should use it only when it really applies. 'Fantastic' means extraordinary. "I travel with some frequency to Ecuador's three major cities to try to stay on top of my businesses. On any given flight you can have a fantastic experience just looking out the plane window. The Andes...the volcanoes...these are fantastic sights. "One time in Baños, a little town with hot springs, our guide told us to go across the river and up the mountain and wait. At around 4:30 to 5 p.m., our guide told us, the clouds will part. So we went, and we waited, and, just as the guide had promised, the clouds parted...and there was the volcano. Not only that, but we could feel it rumble. I thought, 'Wow, this is definitely not Nebraska.' My next F-word is: Frustrating. "Now we get to the reality of living in a place that is not your home. After living here for nearly 15 years, I still have to remind myself not to become the person who thinks everything in the United States is turn-key, perfect, and efficient and then is unhappy because that's not how things are here in Ecuador. "Banco Pichincha is one of the largest banks in this country, and nearly everyone has an account there. On the 15th and the 30th of each month, there is a line like you would find at Disney World for their most popular ride that just snakes around and around outside the door of every Banco Pichincha branch. That's because everyone just got paid and is waiting in line to cash their paychecks. For me as a business owner, this can create huge frustrations. I can have to wait in line hours to make a simple deposit. But what are you going to do? Nothing. You just have to roll with it. "I applied for my citizenship here months ago. My lawyer and I compiled all the required paperwork and went to the immigration office. They told us, 'You're missing this paper.' "We got that paper and went back to immigration...where they told us that 'this document that you got two weeks ago was only valid for 10 days...' "After a few visits, even my Ecuadorian lawyer was frustrated. I finally said to him, 'I know what I have to do. Let me see what I can do on my own...' "I finally went by myself, said a prayer outside the building, and they took my application. "As I said, you've just gotta roll with it...all of it. Next F-word: Flexible. "This has to do with expectations and attitudes going into a new experience. If you expect that living in another country will be like a U.S. experience only in a different place, you'll struggle. But if you go into it with the attitude 'I'm gonna roll with whatever challenges come' and keep your mind flexible with a capital F, you'll be more likely to enjoy your experience. My final F-word for Ecuador is: Focus. "One thing that has really helped me make the most of my life here in Ecuador has been shifting my focus so that it's not on me and what I want but on other folks. For me this has led to becoming involved in the local community as a volunteer. Several years ago, in the English language church where I attend, they were asking for volunteers for the women's prison ministry. I raised my hand, and it's been life-changing..." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Thank you to Conference Director Lauren Williamson and Master of Ceremonies Lee Harrison who have co-hosted this week's event in Ecuador for us...and who have provided me with from-the-scenes reports to make it possible for me to share some of the goings-on in Quito with you. More to follow next week... Meantime, as always, we're recording every presentation of this week's event, including Theresa's introduction to the F-words of Ecuador. We'll bundle this collection of audio-recordings and other materials to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit, which will be available for fulfillment two weeks after the event has finished. You can purchase your copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
June 10, 2014
"Kathleen, having just spent 12 days in Ecuador, I can definitely state that the U.S. dollar is used there. The only difference is that they don't really care for dollar bills and instead prefer the US$1 coin! Another peculiarity is that the ATMs give you bills of all denominations—US$5, US$10, and US$20, unlike most U.S. ATMs." --Steve P., United States
I moved to Ecuador in 2007 with my wife Maria and our two kids, aged 9 months and 3 years at the time. For years we had been looking for another opportunity to relocate overseas, as both of us had worked in the international development field and spent numerous years living in various countries including South Africa and Nicaragua. That opportunity never came. We finally realized we'd have to create it for ourselves. We sold our house just before The Great Recession, packed up everything, and relocated to Quito, Ecuador.
After searching for market opportunities in Ecuador, both online and on-the-ground during numerous visits to Quito (Maria was born and raised here), we finally hit upon chocolate. I was an aspiring chocolatier and professional cook before we came to Ecuador, and we tested our sweets in Quito on several occasions, selling by word-of-mouth to friends and family. Our plan was to be the first high-end producer of sophisticated bonbons and other chocolate products for the local market. You can guess how that worked out. Life is what happens to you while you're making plans...the best-made plans of mice and men...etc.
For the kids, our time here in Ecuador has been wonderful. It's the first and foremost reason we stay. They are both fully bilingual and bicultural. And while they face many of the same issues children (and their parents) face everywhere, I do find they face less commercialism and enjoy more personal interaction than they might in the United States. They also get to watch their parents struggle with the challenges of doing business in Ecuador.
Our first year, we had high hopes with our "first-mover" advantage. We had little to no competition. We landed a few regular accounts and did a number of Christmas bazars and other events for publicity and sales. But we also found out all the challenges a small business in Ecuador can face...
Bureaucracy in the form of long lines. Arbitrary answers to our questions that seemed to depend on who you were talking to, what time of day it was, maybe the phase of the moon. Answers to the same questions that would differ radically from one person and one day to another person the next. Regulations that seemed to have no basis in any logic we could process.
Nonetheless, we persevered and pushed forward. Our business did not take off as fast as we had hoped, but we managed to pay our bills and our one employee.
I learned, only after some time here, that Ecuador is the world's largest producer of "fine aroma" cocoa (only 5% to 10% of the world's cocoa is considered fine aroma). This is the cocoa that goes into the chocolate industry for the world's best chocolates, pastries, and desserts. Banking on this advantage, I learned as much about and met as many people working in the industry as I could.
Fast forward five years. We are now fairly well known in Quito and somewhat in Guayaquil. A lot of tourists find us thanks to our dedicated blogging and the fact that travel bloggers, including Andrew Harper, have written us up very favorably. Making chocolate pays the bills but is only one of many income sources we've developed. Like any small business, we have diversified our activities and are always looking for new opportunities. I now know all the major and some minor players in the chocolate industry and where to go for advice, manufacturing, and anything else cocoa-related.
Having gained an in-depth knowledge of the chocolate industry, I not only run my chocolate workshop, but offer tours to cocoa-growing regions of the country to teach people about chocolate and its origins. I have partnered with both Ecole Chocolat, an online chocolate school, and The Gourmandise School, a culinary school in Santa Monica, to broaden our market and reach. I provide consulting and industry advice to both local and foreign companies wanting to source cocoa or chocolate products from Ecuador.
We're not sure we're staying in Ecuador indefinitely, but we've definitely made our mark here. Business ebbs and flows, but, after more than five years, we've established a hard-earned credibility and recognition that would be hard to leave behind. The journey hasn't been easy and nothing has worked out has planned, but isn't that the way life usually works? It's been nothing but bittersweet.
Jeff Stern Ecuador Expat and EntrepreneurGianduja ChocolatesContinue Reading:
Image source: Destination Ecuador
Frequently criticized for his left-leaning politics, opposition to free trade agreements with the U.S. and the EU, and, more recently, his grant of asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Correa says he is working to reverse years of neglect of the country's public services and infrastructure.
He frequently invokes Alexander von Humboldt, the early 19th-century Prussian explorer and naturalist who described Ecuador as a "beggar sitting on a bag of gold." Ecuador must use its resources, he insists, to improve the lives of its citizens. With his background in economics, Correa knows that because those resources, especially oil and gas, are finite, the country needs to build a future based on an educated, healthy, and prosperous citizenry.
The government's public projects, in fact, are funded primarily by oil money. After Correa restructured contracts with oil producers in 2007 and 2008, he dedicated billions of dollars to public works. Other public funds are the result of increased revenues generated by higher levels of tax collection. Although his critics say he is spending too much, Correa points to a healthy national balance sheet that shows a growing GDP and a low level of debt.
Among the public projects currently under development or on the drawing board are:
In addition to the headline-catching projects, increased public spending has shown results in other areas as well: In 2012, Ecuador achieved the lowest poverty and illiteracy rates among all nations of South America's Andean region; national and local police departments have added thousands of new officers; and hundreds of top Ecuadorian students are now receiving a free education, at government expense, at the world's top universities, including Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, London School of Economics, and the Sorbonne.
Certainly, major challenges confront Rafael Correa, and he will no doubt continue to be a lightning rod for criticism, both within Ecuador and internationally. He faces a nasty fight with the country's teachers' unions, which are opposed to higher teaching requirements. Many of his oil- and mineral-extraction policies have angered indigenous groups. In addition, his over-sized ego and big mouth continue to get him in trouble with the media.
His plans for Ecuador, however, are borne of an international perspective reflecting his education and years of living Europe and the United States (he earned his undergraduate degrees in Belgium and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois).
Correa says his goal is to position Ecuador among the first rank of Latin American countries by the time he leaves office. Based on early results, he seems well on his way to achieving it. And Ecuador's growing number of expats can only appreciate his successes.
Editor's note: David Morrill, a former syndicated columnist and magazine editor, is one of Cuenca's pioneer expats. He co-founded the city's first English-language real estate company and is president of Trans Andean Trading Company.
You can meet David at our Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference starting Feb. 13. He will be hosting his ever-popular (and always booked) Cuenca real estate and orientation tour immediately after the event. Reserve your tour spot here.Continue Reading:
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
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