Some brush off the idea of international paddling because of the quality of whitewater found in their own backyard.  And while that may be true, and while at the same time we might wax eloquent on the thrill of exploring new rivers in new places, paddling is only part of what fuels our enthusiasm for spending time in countries like Costa Rica and Ecuador.

Typical view on a river in Ecuador

Typical view on a river in Ecuador

Kayaking is the reason we travel, but the bonus is the chance to gain glimpses into other cultures.  So while we will share stories of paddling throughout the winter, we would also like to share some of the cultural experiences we find different in Latin America. One of the first cultural differences found on the streets of Ecuador is the personal greeting.

Taking the time to say "buenos dias"

Taking the time to say "buenos dias": the Personal Greeting

One of the fist differences to be found spending time in a Latin American country—and Ecuador in particular, is the importance of a personal greeting. When walking down the street in a town, everyone takes the time to look at the person/s they are passing and say hello/buenos dias/buenos tardes/buenos noches.  There is direct eye contact, there is often a smile, and there is always the courtesy of a salutation.  Young or old, locals or foreigners, strangers merely passing on a street take the time to acknowledge each other.

When actually greeting someone, a handshake or light kiss on the cheek is de rigueur.  Every time. Hello/good-bye.  Time is always taken to greet with a handshake or kiss on the cheek and it does not matter if friend, relative, colleague or new acquaintance.   Hugs are more limited to family—but hand shakes/the cheek kiss is customary. And if a group of people are speaking and someone joins the group, the conversation stops long enough to exchange greetings before continuing on. Here it is inappropriate to burst into a room, restaurant, meeting area and not take the time to greet each other.  And inexcusable for a young person to not extend the same courtesy their elders do. Not doing so is considered “mal educado.”

In Ecuador the same courtesy is extended in restaurants.  Unlike the States where eyes drop down to plate level when a stranger passes the table, in Ecuador you look up/at each other and the person passing offers a “Buenos dias” salutation or a “buen provecho” (which means, “Enjoy your meal.”) The diner takes time to stop and return a “gracias” for the salutation.

If you cannot join us this season here in Ecuador, take a moment at home to embrace some of the warmth of the culture.