A Multicultural Family
By Amber Quijije
HiExpat: Thank you so much for sitting down to do this interview with us. It really is a pleasure for us to have you in the special edition for Mother's Day. You have more than 10 years of experience working as a media director for the government and have been running your own multinational marketing and real estate agencies for the past five years. Currently you are venturing into the real estate, marketing and advertising business as well, and as if this were not enough, you have formed a beautiful international family. Made up of your husband from the U.S. and your newborn girl who is half Ecuadorian and half American. How has the process of combining your international family and business in the city of Manta been?
Ambar: Consolidating our businesses has not been easy. Surely we have had the same struggles as any entrepreneurs in Manta, especially with jag.ec, our marketing agency, because technology is not as advanced as it is in the US. On the other hand though, it has been beneficial because we are the only ones who provide certain services and, above all, strategies that are not usual here. This is especially true for small and medium-sized companies.
As for our family, our daughter has grounded us. We can no longer be the workaholics that we were before she was born. Everything in our business requires a lot of effort and so does our real estate work now that we are venturing into sales (for five years we strictly focused on luxury rentals). Thanks to the help of our team we have been able to devote all the time needed to focus on our daughter and watching her grow while also maintaining our businesses.
HiExpat: Among the main challenges that exist when having an international family are cultural differences, how do you balance North American customs combined with Ecuadorian culture in your family?
Ambar: Fortunately, my husband has always had an interest in Latin culture which helped a lot initially. From day one I got him used to having soup at lunch, even if it was 100 degrees fahrenheit. The truth is that I have also adapted certain basic customs and manners from his country, which are different from the ones I grew up with. And I’ve also learned that when we fight, a little Spanglish does not hurt the gringo.
We learn from each other and we remain open to each other's teachings. That open mindset has been extremely helpful to both of us. Trust, loyalty, communication…these are things that are universally required for the success of any relationship. Hard work, sacrifice, and dedication too. Somehow any "culture shock" is resolved as we go along.
HiExpat: As a mother and businesswoman, we’re sure that your life changed once you became a mother. How do you see your daughter experiencing the world in Ecuador 20 years from now?
Ambar: In 20 years, the world will be so different from what it is now that it is difficult to predict anything, but with two parents who are passionate about marketing and communications, I see my daughter taking advantage of every minute of her time, learning, and growing from anywhere she wants.
Our goal is for her to learn to adapt, evolve, and love life. Wherever she wants to go in the world, she will learn to evolve and grow. Without a doubt she will embrace the qualities that make her, her and love the two countries that made her, all the same.
HiExpat: For young couples coming from other countries, what should they expect when having a baby in the Ecuadorian health system?
Ambar: When it comes to the public health system, well, bureaucracy and poor customer service. This does not mean that workers within the public health system do not care about their work or the people they care for, but there are some aspects that should be improved.
I imagine that a young couple coming from another country would feel much safer with private health service, where they can find bilingual doctors, quality equipment, good service and excellent prices. To give you an example, a cesarean delivery costs around 1k, which in the U.S. could be 20k or more.
What I don't like about the private health system is that they will almost always induce a cesarean section. We intended to have a natural underwater birth at a reputable private clinic and the price was around $2,000 to $3,000. Unfortunately this service was only offered in Quito and in the midst of a pandemic I felt safer staying in my city with my family.
HiExpat: Many of our readers are curious about the expenses around raising a child in Ecuador. Can you tell us a bit about the pediatric care a baby needs and a final recommendation for those expats who would like to have babies in Ecuador?
Ambar: For a healthy baby, pediatric consultations with private, specialized and current doctors are necessary and cost between $30-40 dollars. Vaccines are free at any health center.
Vitamins are also common and necessary for both mothers and children. They are cheap and cost around $5-$10.
However, in the case of an emergency or if any issues were to arise, I’d recommend obtaining a private health insurance plan that costs between $60 - 100 dollars.
Surely the investment in education is the most representative though. I have a long way to go to reach that stage, but from what I know, the difference in costs between Ecuador and other countries in North America or Europe is quite abysmal, giving our country an advantage. For this and other reasons, we are one of the most favored destinations for expatriates to live.