One of the awkward moments that often comes up is being called a “Gringo.” It can feel isolating to be singled out-especially when trying to communicate well with the people around you. One way to deal with this is to look at the word in context and use it to your advantage. Keep reading to find out the positive side of the word ‘Gringo’ in Ecuador.
For many who visit Ecuador and Latin America, bridging the gap between cultures is daunting. There are many aspects to this- including the language, learning the customs, and finding your way in places that operate by a different set of rules. It becomes part of the adventure to explore while becoming aware of the world around you.
“Gringo” is a term that generally refers to people from other places who don’t speak Spanish and stand out. To put this in context, consider that the Spanish language and culture can be direct to a shocking degree. People use words like ‘flaco,’ (skinny) and ‘gordo’ (fat) in reference to each other without meaning disrespect.
In Ecuador and many other parts of Latin America, the people are open to travelers. Get in any taxi, go to a restaurant, or sit down on a plane and people will ask where you are from, how you like the country, and what you have discovered. This curiosity is refreshing and goes a long way when trying to make the jump between cultures.
By pairing the Spanish language sense of humor and the natural thirst for knowledge of the people in Ecuador and beyond- the word ‘Gringo’ loses its negative connotations and becomes more inclusive. A way to break the ice and get a conversation started that isn’t a part of the daily routine.
Learning to use ‘Gringo’ to your advantage is part of successfully navigating the landscape. Some people introduce themselves as ‘gringo,’ causing good-natured laughs from those in the room. Others feign offense-citing funny reasons why they don’t belong in the category. Appealing to people’s sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously mirrors the cultural reaction on the other side of the aisle, and can open doors to a new understanding.
The other side of the coin when it comes to the Ecuadorian culture is that people are more formal and polite here than in other parts of the world. ‘Buenos Dias,’ (good morning) ‘Buenos Tardes,’ (good afternoon) and ‘Buenos Noche,’ (good evening) are everyday greetings. People can be polite to a fault if you ask for directions and someone doesn’t know the answer, you will often get an answer anyway. This can lead to some funny moments-you can ask five people the same question and get five different answers!
‘Gringo’ in this context can be a signal that you are missing a cue, and asking how to pronounce a word or finding something about the country to compliment brings out openness to help in understanding the cultural norms.
Breaking the stereotype of the word ‘Gringo’ is a way to find common ground with people in Ecuador. Showing a sense of humor and making fun of yourself brings smiles to people’s faces and can lead to fun conversations that reveal the warmth of culture. Happy Gringo’s tongue-in-cheek name still gets laughs from Ecuadorians when mentioned, crossing a barrier and making a lighthearted connection that is part of the fun of travel.