ecuador Work abroad

Quito, Life Lessons & the Culture Shock

After traveling through Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, I thought that I would fairly smooth adjust to life in another Latin American country. Obviously… I was wrong!

“Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life.”

While writing this post I realize that this is my 3th day in Quito. It is therefore not really worth worrying about the fact that I am currently really struggling more than I would like to admit. Let me explain how the last days went…

what am i doing here culture shock

Saturday evening I arrived from a long journey so Sunday I decided to take it easy. The altitude sickness catched me from the first moments when I arrived: I was feeling a constant pressure in my head, and whenever I walked ‘too fast’ or climbed the stairs, I felt so dizzy that I could possibly pass out. Fortunately, it did not happen (yet). 😉

Sunday afternoon my guest father, Francisco, joined me for a small walk through the area nearby, La Mariscal (also called Gringolandia because it’s full of gringos, Americans). There was almost nobody in the streets because currently people are celebrating Carnaval near the coast of Ecuador. Apparently Carnaval is way more important here than in Europe. Walking down the streets, I felt happy to have Francisco near me, because I could feel it was not safe at all.

Therefore, also Monday morning, when I had to be at Yanapuma for my first day of work, he accompanied me on the bustrip to the office. I can feel that my family does this because they want to protect me from the everlasting dangers in the neighborhoods. They have told me so many stories of robberies that I frankly became scared. So even after work, mi padre picked me up near the office to take me home like I was his child.

Quito bus 1

Tuesday morning, the story continued… And nothing seems to work out fine so far: shops are closed so everything I would have liked to buy (sim card, umbrella, notebooks, …) I couldn’t buy, and when I wanted to pay my food in a local restaurant, they didn’t have change for a $50 bill. Apparently, in Quito bills of $50 and $100 are not accepted nowhere because of safety regulations. And changing the money is a hard thing to do as nobody wants to change…

As you can feel while reading, it really bothers me not to be able to independent. If you know me a little bit, you also know that I absolutely don’t like to be vulnerable and dependent. I am always self-reliable, sure of myself and strong. But for the first time in my life I feel like a child that desperately needs somebody to protect me, even for the smallest things like walking around and taking a bus ride for 10 minutes.

But there is nothing to do about it, maybe this shouldn’t make me feel weak or stupid, maybe I just have to go with the flow, and maybe to become strong again, I must become weak first. This teaches me another important life lesson like so many other paradoxes in life:

–          To be first, you must become last.

–          To become rich, you must first lose everything.

–          To become truly independent, you must learn to become dependent.

–          To become strong, you must become weak.

Maybe for the first time in my life I have to learn to take distance from the one thing I am trying too hard all the time, and therefore finding true freedom in a kind of imprisonment here.

be grateful

P.S.: Special thanks to Kristiana Chan who helped through this hard times, your blog post ‘Independence Day’ encouraged me to keep positive about this experience so far. I feel you!



  1. De onbekende paden zijn de geschenken van het leven.
    Zolang er een doel bestaat, kan er niets fout gaan.
    Ook in het zich klein voelen ontdekt de mens zichzelf.
    Wees niet ontgoocheld als niet alles perfect is,
    maar dankbaar en gelukkig ook om wat voor de helft reeds perfect is.

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