Little Things are Big Things: 5 Small Differences from the U.S. to Ecuador

Going back and forth between countries, it is often overwhelming. When you arrive in a new place, you immediately notice many little things that will eventually, with time, disappear into the “new normal.” When you leave a country, you also notice many of the small differences that you took for granted. Here is a list of five small things that you may notice when you arrive in Cuenca, Ecuador, things that you may miss when you leave.

1. Lines are Bundles

In Ecuador, lines don’t always exist. At first, this can be exhausting. Whether you’re bartering for fruit in the market, trying to get medicine in a pharmacy, or watching a parade, there are just crowds of people who move in a general forward direction. The elderly women often end up served first, which is probably the way it should be. But, as a traveler, you do have to learn how to maneuver a “line” and insert yourself into the mix of bodies. Ecuadorians also don’t have as many qualms touching or pushing one another when in line. It’s something that, while perhaps annoying at first, you may miss when you return to your home country.

Cuenca Walking2. Street Musicians and Artists

Since Cuenca is a patrimonial cultural city, it attracts many artists from all over South America. These artists might be juggling on the street corner, playing guitar by the New Cathedral, selling bracelets and necklaces in Parque Calderon, or painting small pictures along the river. This constant display of art and creation is not the norm in many cities and countries. While in Cuenca, take time to ask the artists where they’re from and how long they’ve traveled. The creations are often beautiful, and the artists themselves have fascinating stories.

3. Jaywalking Happens Constantly

The streetlights are more or less observed by drivers, although the occasional bus will come zooming through an intersection, but pedestrians are apt to walk whenever they please across the streets of downtown Cuenca. This means there may be an older woman crossing slowly in front of traffic, or young kids running across the road, backpacks flapping. To study abroad in Cuenca, Ecuador, it’s important to pay attention to the flow of traffic. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself part of a mob of people shoving across an empty street, sometimes you’ll find yourself amazed at how the cars, bikes, buses, and trucks with pigs and chickens can maneuver the tiny, cobblestone roads. Be careful, proceed with caution, but enjoy the flow of pedestrian life.

4. Netflix, HBOGo, and TV

Ecuador bus movies

In Cuenca, though there are certainly televisions in most houses, there isn’t as much constant TV watching as in the United States. In the States, it’s common to always talk about what shows you’re watching or which you want to watch. In Ecuador, you will find that your Netflix account is slightly different, the Ecuador version rather than the American version (this is great for watching shows in Spanish and practicing the language). Also, HBO Go does not work in Ecuador, eliminating any Game of Thrones marathons. Some of the other streaming services may work, especially if you have a VPN, but the overall message is that you won’t have as much time to watch TV. There are so many things to do in the small city of Cuenca that you won’t find yourself locked up in a room, eyes glued to a screen, nearly as often. This all being said, whenever you take a bus between cities, you will find yourself captive to a movie with Spanish subtitles. The small bus screens often favor any Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Lee, Nicolas Cage, or Bollywood films. Enjoy!

5. Sports…Exist, but Not Always

In America, sports are a way of life for many people. Men and women of all ages have their teams they follow, their favorite players, their anticipated games. Though you can find some sports bars in Cuenca, namely Inca (a popular gringo hangout for any big games), games will come and pass without you while you’re busy doing other things. The host family you live with may not be interested in sports, or they may not have the television channels to watch sports together. While you can stream games on your computer, watching games isn’t the same when you’re not living in America. It is nice to know that you can watch any really important games, like the Super Bowl or March Madness, in one of the sports bars, but you might have to adjust your fandom and just watch when you can.