There's No Amazon Prime Here and We're FINE with That.
But we do have THE Amazon.
It was bound to come up. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
But seriously we are talking Amazon.com. Have we envied our friends in the US when they could get organic flea medicine for their cats in less than 2 days, or for when they could easily find minute Christmas gifts from the comfort of their couch?
Yes. And. Yeeeeeesssss.
But why does everyone LOVE Amazon Prime anyway? Selection, high quality products, fast delivery, and great prices. What if I told you that what we have here is better? And I’m not a hippie trying to sell you on butterflies and blue skies (although those are a great perks of being here too).
I’m talking about high quality items custom made here for a great price. If you can dream it, you can have it made here. Furniture, clothing, bedding, bicycles, shoes, playground equipment, stove hoods, exercise equipment, jewelry, cabinetry, and so much more! All of the above I have seen made at a fraction of what it costs to buy their imported counterparts with the added satisfaction of supporting local families NOT corporations!
In the same vein, the practice and skill of repair is still very much alive here. People don’t throw out clothing when a zipper breaks or it gets a hole- they take it to the town seamstress where she repairs it for 50 cents. If you start to get a floppy tread on your Birkenstocks, you take it to the shoe repair guy and he will replace it with a new one. If your blender breaks you can buy a new glass pitcher for it, replace the blade and have the motor repaired. The best example of this is when Jesse crashed his new $30,000 truck. The damage was enough that had this happened the US, the truck would have been totaled and sent to the junkyard. Jesse would have received an insurance payout. Not here- The entire thing was re-built for $5,000. This is not a throw away culture in any sense of the word.
THE EXPAT COMMUNITIES
I’m also talking about the surprising variety of products in small stores here. One perk of the many Expat havens here is the variety and selection of items that we can find. Money talks and in these types communities it is no different. The most successful shop owners have listened to the needs of their foreign clientele and delivered on them. Coconut oil, gluten free flours, organic produce, and natural personal care items are easily found in these small towns.
Photo courtesy of ACWA Cafe & Health Food Store, Vilcabamba
If you still can’t find your special health supplements or your favorite brand of pantyhose, you can arrange for it to be sent here with a private shipping service in about 3 weeks time, or with a “mule”. A “mule” is a person who travels back and forth to Ecuador from the US and offers to carry items for you for a fee. With both private shipper and mule you can avoid the importation taxes.
ALWAYS A SOLUTION FOR EVERYTHING
In addition to the material comforts, there is an added convenience of being able to solve almost every dilemma you come across. Most western countries are very rigid in their rules, regulations, and operating procedures. This can be comforting at times, but when you really need to get something done, or find workarounds this is a nightmare. It all comes down to relationships here. When you form those bonds (which often times just come by saying hello to someone by name and asking how they are when you see them) you are privy to a work around. One of our expat team members needed to get their Ecuadorian-born baby’s passport during the COVID-19 lockdown. All passport services were suspended indefinitely. Because of her friendship with a local, she was able to not only get the passport, but it only took her about 25 minutes from start to finish once in the building! How’s that for customer service? Amazon-Shamazon!
So while seamless and beautiful online shopping experiences and two-day delivery on most items here is almost unheard of, it matches the slow place of life in this culture. I like to see it as quality over quantity. Here you can get a custom tailored suit made for you for around $200. A $200 suit from Amazon might get there in 2 days, but the quality would be atrocious and it certainly wouldn’t be tailored.
While we have traded off many modern ways of comfortable and fast living when we left our home countries, we just need open our eyes to see the plethora of ways that living in an Amazon.com-less community actually has it perks.