Sunday, July 24, 2011

Learning and Adapting

For Linda and I, one of our many motivations for moving abroad was to experience and learn about new cultures and to learn a new language.  We believe that to move into a completely new language and culture successfully requires of us a "spirit of adaptation" and an openess and eagerness to learn.  I wanted to reflect here on some of our early "learning and adaptation opportunities" and how we have dealt with them. 

It is far easier to play the observer that sits back and passes judgements from the bounds of his/her current frames of reference rather than to adapt to another person or culture's frame.   We all have developed and own "personal frames of reference" for what we believe is acceptable or "proper" in a given circumstance.  We use these "frames" everyday to manage our own behaviour and sometimes (unfortunately) to attempt to manage the attitudes and behaviours of others.  In moving into a new culture and language there are many circumstances where our current "frames" simply don't fit.

I will offer a few simple examples of our need to re-adjust in our first few weeks:
  • When asking directions my frame of reference is that if the person you ask does not know the answer they will say so.  In Cuenca, a person that does not know how to direct you is just as likely to guess and give you a vague idea of where to go.  There is no point in our passing judgement, about whether that is good or bad, rather, we have to adapt by asking multiple individuals as we go along our way in order to be sure we are headed in the right direction.  We have now learned this cultural difference and have made the necessary adjustments to our frames of reference.
  • When Linda asked to buy wine in the supermaret last week we were told there was a three day embargo on liquor sales.   As it turns out several Ecuadorians had been poisioned by bad liquor.  As a matter of public safety, President Correa, banned all liquor sales in the country for three days to ensure the supply could be verified for safe consumption.  On refelction I thought how sensible that response had been.  In Canada, this may have led me, and many others, to respond with considerable indignation (huffing and puffing).  I can't imagine the hue and cry if PM Harper had done this.  My reframe is that we charge our governments with the role of protecting public safety - we may just have to put up without wine for a few days to allow that to happen.
These two simple examples are typical of the everyday adjustments and learning that we need to do in coming to a new country with a different language and culture.  We strongly believe it is our duty as guests in our new country to make our best efforts to learn and to adapt.

On a different note we are loving the architecture of our new city.  I have included a few photos below.

The food and the flowers are great too!

Lot's of love, Linda and David.


  1. I love the pics. I showed them to wade and Diane the other day and they were also very impressed with the European style architecture.

  2. Cuencanos aren't the only one who give vague directions just to fill the void! I do that too!