Culture Shock: Business Edition

When I moved to California, having grown up on the East Coast, I thought that San Diego was as relaxed as business culture was going to get. I was wrong.

I began my internship at a boutique travel agency in Ecuador about a week ago, and business culture here could not be more different.

“I can only imagine the possibilities if a more worldly emphasis like this was implemented in the United States.”

Before arriving, I was told to dress business casual to the office. If I were to label the actual environment, after being here for two weeks, I would lean toward just casual. I realized this on my first day after being sat next to a woman wearing a superhero T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Since my first day was a Friday I thought maybe this was their version of “Casual Fridays?” But after returning the following Monday to the same style, I realized that is just the norm here.

In several ways, the lack of social pressure to look a certain way in the office is a huge breath of fresh air. Several days I have gone to work with no makeup, straight out of the shower. As long as it is comfortable and appropriate, I am certain none of my coworkers would think anything of the way I look at work — something I could definitely get used to.

Another pleasant surprise in the workplace is everyone’s impressive ability to speak English. Granted, I work at a travel agency, and most of our customers are, in fact, foreign, so a decent amount of knowledge is required. But aside from the use of it for business, people here learn to speak at least one more language from a very young age. And unlike the language education in the United States — at least in my experience — people graduate from high school completely fluent and confident with another language and culture. I can only imagine the possibilities if a more worldly emphasis like this was implemented in the United States.

I know at San Diego State we all love our headphones. Whether it’s a walk to class, doing homework in the lib, or working out, you will always see students (and people of all ages and professions, really) with their headphones handy and tucked into their ears. In Ecuador, music is shared. In my office, they have a radio constantly playing music in the background for everyone to hear. It’s really not unusual to hear someone singing or humming along to the radio if one of their favorite songs comes on. Music is constant, and complete silence rarely occurs.

While several differences are definitely present in the workplace environment, they are all things that I have grown to enjoy.

After all, who wouldn’t want to be a little more comfortable and a little more open while still being productive at work?

Andrea Escobar is an international business senior. She is completing a two-month summer marketing internship with an ecotourism company in Quito, Ecuador.

One thought on “Culture Shock: Business Edition

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  1. I really enjoyed reading your post; especially the part about music being “heard”. I believe listening to music should be shared experience. Music has been shown to both improve mental outlook and have positive bio molecular effects which makes sharing music a great tool for team building and fostering overall communal good will. Nice job!


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