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The Ecuadorians

Ecuadorians like to party – they actively look for excuses to celebrate on most days of the week. Monday – it’s Monday! Tuesday – it’s not Monday! And so on until someone has a birthday. These fiestas are lively occasions, and Ecuadorians were not satisfied with allowing only their citizens to celebrate – in Ecuador, cities have birthdays too, and on Quito’s birthday you will find thousands of locals fired-up on box wine, careering round the streets in party busses. Want to join in? Run as fast as you can next to the bus and yell for a hand up.

Fun is not exclusive in Ecuador, and anyone can join in as long as you have the backbone to withstand repeated slaps on the back and the liver to manage the skin-eroding local vodka. Along with this party mentality comes a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that is remarkable. Stop locals on the street for directions (or even just complain loudly that you are lost) and willing hands, mouths and legs will walk or ride with you wherever you want to go.

Ecuadorians love to talk and have no concept of time or distance, which is refreshing and made even more entertaining by the fact that they know it and will be damned if they’re going to do anything about it. If you are asking locals for directions, make sure you confirm their suggestions with a second opinion. Ecuadorians love to assist and will say anything (even rubbish) just to feel like they are helping you out.

A touchy-feeling people by and large, cheek-kissing is an accepted form of introduction and greeting. Get used to it, because stiff foreigners are not invited round the next night. Ecuadorians provide the perfect platform to let go of your pretensions and they are very accepting of difference and individuality – or maybe, they just don’t notice. As long as you are entering into the spirit of things, they are happy to have you in their country.

As with most countries, Ecuadorians love you to Join In. A strong group mentality exists, with people moving in bunches and bands. This hyper-friendly atmosphere has unfortunately opened the door for opportunistic types. In some places, people are out for what they can get and if being friendly and inquiring after your family and home country will allow them to charge you exorbitant prices for services and goods, some will do just that. This is especially prevalent in the more touristy areas such as the Galapagos Islands, but remember: a friend trying to rip you off is still a friend in Ecuador.

Being an entertainer is highly valued in Ecuador. Strum, dance or belt out music of any kind – but always offer to teach those listening the words or chords. Listening is not high on the agenda, but Joining In will be. As you move into the countryside, people become less and less extroverted – but make an effort to introduce yourself to the local taxi drivers, shopkeepers and vegetable sellers. They can tell you stories of the kind you might never hear again, and you will invariably be invited to the next volleyball match.

Robyn Leslie

I am a South African, which means I like sunshine and sticky-tape coins together so no-one knows I have money in my pocket. An environmental scientist by qualification, I studied at the University of Cape Town. My years there taught me about the grand narratives of communism, neo-liberalism and post-modernism, and how shitty people can be when they can't find a spot to park their car. After that I needed a break and went off to South America, where I lived and worked for a year. Now I am freelancing as a writer and holding out for a job that combines a morally specific mission with valuable, practical development goals. With a salary. Hmmm. By the way, I was just being snarky before. South Africa is totally safe. Really. Come and visit.