Volunteering Abroad in Ecuador as a North American - MEDLIFE

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.

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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.

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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!