Differences in the American and Ecuadorian Culture
Culture makes up who we are, what we believe and how we behave. About four years ago, I had the opportunity to live in Ecuador. I found the relationships and communication perspective to be very interesting and after spending two years there, I was able to notice several distinct intercultural differences between the American and Ecuadorian cultures. Since my analysis of Ecuador is only based off of my personal experience, I’ve also invited my friend Luis Salas from Quito, Ecuador who is currently attending Brigham Young University to give his own insights. By gaining his perspective of what it’s like to live in America as an Ecuadorian, I feel that I can draw a clearer conclusion about the differences between the two cultures. Several times throughout the span of two years that I lived in Ecuador, I experienced culture shock due to the vast differences from the American Culture that I was used to. Amongst some of the biggest differences between the American Culture and the Ecuadorian Culture that I noticed was the high/low context, power distance, acceptance of uncertainty, and work orientation. One of the first things that I was able to recognize about Ecuador was the high-context communication skills they render. I noticed that they tend to care more about my feelings and how I would react when I approached them then they would about their own feelings. This was especially difficult as a missionary as we spent several hours teaching someone only to find out a month later that they were never interested in our message. Luis had a very interesting theory when asked about the context of the American Culture. He believes that since our culture is more educated and advanced, it eliminates any sort of “beating around the bush.” Luis said that American’s just want the truth plain and simple to get the job done. He also said this was difficult to adapt to because of the feeling of being pressured and fear of letting somebody down. I found this to be very interesting and couldn’t help but think of my current job as a sales representative in West Valley, Utah. When dealing with a costumer from the U.S., I am able to notice that they are more concerned about their well being and how the product will benefit them personally. If they are not interested, instead of wasting time with an excuse, they simply tell me they are not interested. If an Ecuadorian or another Hispanic customer approaches me without interest in the merchandise, they give me endless reasons and excuses why they cannot invest in the product. This shows a vast difference between the two cultures and that the American Culture is a low context culture, while the Ecuadorian Cultural supports high context ideologies. I also noticed a strong difference in power distance between the two cultures. In the intercultural communications class textbook, power distance is defined as; “Dimension of culture that refers to the extent to which the less powerful members expect and accept that power, prestige, and wealth are distributed unequally.” Although the majority of the people in Ecuador struggle for most of their lives to make money, there is also a fair amount of people who are considerably wealthy. Most of the small percent of wealthy people have inherited money from ancestors who have found a successful living in the banana industry. For a lower-class citizen of Ecuador, approaching these kinds of people for anything does not exist. It would be extremely difficult to contact someone of the upper-class. This concludes that Ecuador supports a very high-power distance culture. Based off of Luis’ experience in America, I imagine the U.S. as being a low-power distance culture. He stated that unlike his country, it is possible to find a successful businessman who still seeks encouragement and recommendations from people who work...
References: Davidson, Kurt. 1995. “Economic Culture; The Very Soul”. Stockholm: Scandinavian University
Fred E. Jandt. 2007. “An Introduction to Intercultural Communication.” Identities is a Global Community. California State University, San Bernardino
Bjorn, Steven C. 1999. In Our Nutshell. Boulder, CO: Westeview Press.
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