In my job I am learning quite a bit about social and business etiquette for Ecuador. I have been given a book to read and I found some things rather interesting. Some I already know, having lived here for 12 years. But, other stuff was new or at least explained some of the customs I didn´t quite understand. Perhaps some of the information might be of use to some of you newcomers. So, the following are some things I found interesting.
1. Tipping. A tip is not required in restaurants. A 10% service charge is added to the bill and this amount should be shared among the employees. However, many businesses fail to give this money. So, if the service is good, you can give a 10% tip directly to the waiter. Taxi drivers are not tipped. Airport porters and hotel employees should be tipped $1.00.
2. Titles. These are very important to Ecuadorians. Señor is reserved for those who do not have a title. So use the title if you know it such as Doctor Fulano, Abogado Fulano, etc.
3. Race based labels. Names such as Gringos, Negro and Chino are a legitimate way to describe people and is not considered an insult. Don´t be offended if you are called one of these names.
4. Greetings. Kissing on the cheek is a common way to greet or say goodbye. Handshakes all around on arrival and leaving are customary among men. The handshake should be soft and brief. (None of that Texas grab and squeeze tight stuff). It doesn´t matter if there are 2 or 100 people at a gathering. You should make the rounds and greet all and say goodbye to everyone when leaving.
5. Ecuadorians are very polite and usually greet even strangers in elevators. You should always say a greeting when you enter a taxi or store before getting down to business. In restaurants it is customary to say buen provecho to diners as you pass their tables if they are eating.
6. Seeing people off. When you leave someone´s home, the custom is for the host to stand at the door to see the guest off or accompany them to their car.
7. Entering a home. When entering someone´s home, you always wait to be invited to enter. You pass through the door with the host following. This applies even if you are looking at property to buy. Once in the house, you ask before climbing stairs, opening closets, etc.
8. Being invited to eat out. BEWARE. You never offer to pay if someone asked you to dine with them in a restaurant. The term le invitamos (we invite you)actually means we pay. If you offer to pay you are inferring that they are unable to pay or making the point that you are economically superior. It is considered an insult.
9. Ecuador, especially Cuenca, usually uses the formal Spanish and you should use Usted when addressing new acquaintances, unless it is a child.
9. Parties. You never arrive on time. It is customary to arrive 45 minutes to an hour after the appointed time.
10. Yawning. Yawning is considered particularly impolite here.
11. Where´s America? You should identify yourself (if from the States) as from Estados Unidos, Estadounidense, or Norte Americano. Ecuadorians also consider themselves as Americans so don´t just identify yourself as an American.
I thought some of this was interesting and maybe you guys can use the info to help make your transition to Ecuador a little smoother.