Service in Our Small Coastal Town in Ecuador

If you are expecting to be fawned over, watched constantly and pampered while in a local restaurant in San Clemente, you may feel ignored. Not intentionally, mind you but just because the culture here is to allow folks time, time to sit and get accustomed to their surroundings, time to enjoy the others in their company, just time!  Plus serving you is probably not their only job, the server may also be the person cooking or helping in the kitchen. If you are in a hurry, you will not be happy with this cultural difference.

If you want a server who is all over you asking about your needs and wants this also will frustrate you. Here, when you are ready to order, all you need to do is signal the restaurant staff. Like at Viviana’s they leave us alone for the most part. When they deliver the menus which could be immediately upon sitting down or it could be awhile after we arrive, we order our drinks. Letting the server know that we will not be ordering our food for at least 15 minutes and if Joe and I are enjoying and are into our conversation it may be 30 minutes before we order. At that time we order another drink and wait on our food. We have never felt ignored just left in peace to enjoy the atmosphere, the people, our drinks, the great food and just how lucky we are to be in this beautiful area. We have never been given a check here, when we are ready to leave we find someone and pay them. Our experience in the old country was that when you were asked if you needed anything else many times they were really just trying to hurry you along –  give you the check and the boot so to speak.  They were more rushing you than serving you. An exception might be some of the truly finer – real expensive – places. But the fish meal at Vivianas is $4. complete.  Not plus tax, service charge, valet parking, etc. And its right on the beach.  And they smile, seem truly glad to see you again and not just because you are spending money.  That’s something we as Expats tend to ignore.  It’s not always all about the money yet that is how we see many things. I like their way better. Sometimes we are poor in other ways but only judge based on the worlds only measuring stick these days – money.

On the other hand most tiendas, stores or shops will have someone almost follow you around the store trying to help you. And most of the small tiendas and pharmacies do not allow you inside the store you would need to know what you wanted and ask for it.

Estrella and her family who run the tienda at the end of our street are the exception. I am allowed to roam the store at my leisure looking for the items that are of interest to me. Most places have been wonderful about allowing us behind the counter, this is because first we cannot see to read all the descriptions of the items and not being familiar with the products it is just so much easier to allow us to look for ourselves.

I guess the purpose of this post is to make you understand that you are not being ignored on purpose. This is the way things are done here. Snapping your fingers, whistling, yelling across the room or clapping your hands to get a servers attention are rude in any culture, in my opinion. Catching the eye of the server and motioning for them to come over, thanking them or greeting them with a smile and a hello will work far better than being upset with how things are done here.

If you want another drink get any servers attention and point to your drink…don’t wait for them to come around to ask you. Or get up and go over to someone and ask for a server to come to your table. Things are done differently here.

This small story may help to illustrate exactly what I am trying to say. When we lived in Panama our friend Keith would drive down to David the Provincial Capital of Chiriqui for his supplies. On the way he found a man swinging in a hammock selling beautiful pineapples. After stopping several times and purchasing a pineapple he ask the gentlemen why he did not sell other fruits and vegetables instead of just pineapples. The man asked why should he, he sells ENOUGH to support himself and his family. And he climbed back into his hammock not looking to change how his life is. We have been looking for that ENOUGH because in our opinion that is the true meaning of paradise for us.

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One of the first things we did was have Patricia put up very good hammock hooks and we found a great hammock for our porch. We want to be more like that pineapple vendor from Panama.

How envious we would be to find out we worked so hard all our lives to be able to sit under a tree swinging on a hammock and these folks found out early just how much they needed to have a happy and content life…this is what we have searched for, he does not want to change nor does he need to change, his life is complete…ENOUGH of everything!

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Our idea of the perfect day is switching between the lounge chair and the hammock several times.

We (Joe and I) are not here to change these beautiful people, their culture or their way of living, we actually want to be more like them. Relaxed, enjoying their jobs instead of hating to come to work each day. Please don’t try to make our Ecuador what you left, because if it was such a wonderful place there, why are you here?