An Etiquette Guide For North Americans Volunteering In Ecuador


When volunteering abroad in Ecuador as a North American, it’s important to be respectful and considerate of the local culture and customs. Here are some tips to help you navigate social interactions and show politeness in Ecuador:


When meeting someone, greet them with a handshake and maintain eye contact. It is common to greet people with “buenos días” (good morning), “buenas tardes” (good afternoon), or “buenas noches” (good evening/night) depending on the time of day. Check out this list of common Spanish phrases you may need while you are volunteering in Peru!

volunteer abroad ecuador

Use formal language

Address people with their titles (Señor, Señora, Señorita) followed by their last names unless you are given permission to use their first name. Using formal language shows respect in Ecuadorian culture.

Respect personal space

Ecuadorians value personal space, so be mindful of keeping an appropriate distance when interacting with others. Avoid touching or hugging unless you have developed a closer relationship.
Dining etiquette: If you’re invited to someone’s home, it is customary to bring a small gift, such as flowers or a bottle of wine. During meals, wait for the host to start eating before you begin. It is polite to try a little bit of everything served and to compliment the food.

medlife riobamba ecuador

Polite phrases

Learn a few basic Spanish phrases to show your respect and politeness. Examples include “por favor” (please), “gracias” (thank you), “permiso” (excuse me), and “con permiso” (may I pass).


Being on time is generally appreciated in Ecuador, but it’s also common for events and gatherings to start a bit later than scheduled. Try to arrive close to the appointed time, but be prepared for some flexibility.

Dress modestly

In Ecuador, it is generally advisable to dress modestly, especially in more conservative areas or when visiting churches. Avoid wearing revealing clothing or beach attire in public places.

volunteer abroad Riobamba

Be aware of cultural sensitivities

Ecuador is a diverse country with various indigenous cultures. When volunteering abroad as a North American, it’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. For example, avoid discussing sensitive topics such as politics or controversial social issues unless you have established a close relationship.

Remember that each individual is unique, and cultural norms can vary within Ecuador. It’s always a good idea to observe and adapt to the specific customs of the people you interact with, and don’t hesitate to ask for guidance or clarification if you’re unsure about something. Demonstrating genuine respect and an eagerness to learn about Ecuadorian culture will go a long way in establishing positive and polite interactions.

If you are interested in volunteering abroad in Ecuador, MEDLIFE offers Service Learning Trips to Lima and Cusco that brings a holistic approach to assisting local communities to access healthcare, infrastructure, and education. Complete the form below to find out more!


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.