Ecuador is a small country in the northwest portion of South America. Bordered to the north by Colombia and Peru to the South, there are four distinct regions with four distinct cultures. Quito is the capital, as well as the second largest city, with enormous mountains flanking its sides. Mostly characterized by it’s Andean culture, the Sierra is a large part of the country. The spine of the Andes Mountains runs down the country, with many of the cities sitting in valleys along the PanAmerican Highway.
The coast is defined by warm water beaches and poorer cities with an emphasis on banana farming. The largest city in the country, Guayaquil, is also the richest, with the majority of the money coming in from banana plantations. Machala is considered the banana capital of the world. The coast is always hot.
The Galapagos Islands and the Oriente, or the jungle, are the two other regions which are unique in their own way. There are hardly any real locals from the Galapagos, and the culture is that of one which focuses around tourism. The jungle, on the other hand, is completely unique and many different tribes have different customs and languages.
Ecuador is comprised of descendants of the Inca, the Cañaris, and the Spanish. In recent years, immigration from other countries have brought new cultures into the country, but it is generally minimal. Though there is Inca influence in the country, the pride generally tends to lean more towards the Spanish influence, unlike that in Peru, which leans more towards the Inca side.
For such a small country, it can take quite a while to travel around. With such rugged landscape and unsafe roads, old buses have to drive slowly, and they frequently make stops to pick up and drop off new passengers. A typical 10 hour bus ride from Quito in the north to Cuenca in the south could be matched with a 30 minute flight. Night bus travel is dangerous and not recommended. There have also been security concerns increasing in the last few years, and the U.S. Department of State often issues warnings about safety in the country regarding robbery, kidnapping, and assault. However, it is also considered to be on par with safety in other Latin American countries by many people who travel or live there.
The main languages of Ecuador are Spanish, Quichua (different from Quechua in Peru), as well as some other indigenous languages specific to the sierra and Amazon. Many people choose to study Spanish in Ecuador because of the ease and clarity of the dialects in the Sierra, though the language on the coast is faster and more difficult to understand.
One thing you have to realize when teaching English in Ecuador is that the students are not like the students in other countries, specifically those from the United States. Attendance can be a problem, especially at the university level, where they are also busy with other classes. The other problem is tardiness. In general, Latin Americans are known for being very late, and Ecuador is no exception. Don’t be surprised if your students amble in 20 minutes late, interrupt you by saying hello to everyone, and then sit down and start talking. This is a discipline problem that you need to address right off the bat. You can always start harsh and ease up, but rarely can you try be stricter as the term goes on. You can choose your own methods, but a tough attendance policy is probably the only way to ensure that your students respect your and the other students’ time.
Another issue you might encounter is the enthusiasm your students have. It all depends on where you teach, but you could wind up in a situation where your students don’t really want to be there. That would differ in no way from other places around the world where students are lazy and don’t want to participate, but keep in mind that many students who study English in Ecuador are doing so after or before work, and they are tired and just want to be proficient in the language so they can get paid more. Of course, you could also be working at a community school where the students want to participate and learn, and genuinely love being in class. It’s all relevant to your situation.
Salaries for teaching in Ecuador range from $200-$400 a month, depending on experience and the amount of hours you work. Each institution will probably not work you more than 30 hours a week, especially if you’re new there. You can increase your income by teaching in two locations as long as your school doesn’t have a rule against that and private tutoring can be lucrative once you start collecting your own students.. Depending on what city you live in and your living expenses, your teaching salary may or may not be enough to live comfortably. In Cuenca, for example, a teacher making $400 a month, who paid $200 in rent and food, had more than enough left over to enjoy themselves within reason, but other teachers from the same institution had to really stretch the paychecks each month.
Some of the institutions are great and supportive, giving you Internet, TV access, and other amenities to use in the classroom. Other schools don’t have any of these luxuries and it’s entirely up you to create a curriculum. The more you teach the easier this will come, but keep in mind that unless you are given a book and told what to teach, it’s often your responsibility to come up with an entire semester’s worth of classes. Bureaucracy is notorious, and the schools and offices often create tons of paperwork for you to fill out, making paychecks difficult to receive, and useless meetings that are held in Spanish. Secretaries pretty much run the show, so be friendly to them and they will help you out when you need it. When in doubt, just do what other teachers are doing.
TEFL English teaching job listings in Ecuador
Information on visa requirements to teach English in Ecuador
Detailed living costs for teaching English in Ecuador
Interviews With English Teachers In Ecuador