All you need to know about Tiendas in Loja Ecuador

 "I'll be back in a minute - just need to run to the tienda." A simple statement one might hear almost any time in Loja. But, what does it mean? The word tienda needs some clarification.

Whether you are visiting Loja in Ecuador’s southern Sierras for the first time, or are thinking of moving here, one of the first things you’ll need to know is where the closest tienda or "corner store" is located. You’ll want to know this for the same reasons you would in any city and most suburbs of the US: where to go to get a couple of items without having to deal with a large supermarket.

As commonly used in conversation, the tienda is similar to your local "mom and pop" convenience store, or a chain like 7-Eleven, Wawa, or Casey's in the U.S. The local tienda is like a little general store where one goes to pick up a quick snack at an odd hour, buy tobacco or beer, grab a roll of toilet paper, or get that ingredient forgotten on the shopping list or that one unexpectedly runs out of.

The confusion comes in when one realizes that the word tienda stands for many types of shops selling many different kinds of merchandise besides food and drinks. Literally, tienda translates as store or shop, so tiendas can sell anything, like car parts or clothing or craft supplies. But when we say we are ‘Going to the tienda’ in Loja (and most of Ecuador), we mean the local convenience store that is usually no more than a five minute walk from residences. 

Each "corner store" tienda is as unique as the owner. It may be literally located on a corner or somewhere else along a block of buildings. It may be nothing more than a walk up, gated "hole-in-the-wall" where you are separated from the interior and must ask the person inside to get your product for you. Alternatively, the tienda may be large enough to have one or two aisles of products that you can peruse through and select your own items.

Generally, tiendas have a limited variety and limited quantity of products for sale. There may be ready-to-eat pastries to go with your morning coffee, or shelves stocked with bottles of cooking oil, small bags of flour, batteries, soaps, etc. Some tiendas will have fresh fruits and vegetables and eggs, but not all. Reflecting the tastes and interests of the owners, a tienda might also offer a computer internet station, photocopying services, ice cream cones, cards for recharging cell phone service, the large "5 gallon" refillable bottles of water, lottery tickets, or Western Union services.

When they have space, some tiendas will also have a place to sit outside with a plastic picnic table and a few chairs to sit and eat your snack. In the evenings and on the weekends, these seating arrangements can also be the place that Ecuadorians and their friends stop at to share a few ‘cold ones’ purchased inside the tienda and exchange the news and neighborhood gossip.

So every store is a tienda, but if you say "I'm going to the tienda" then people will understand you to be saying "I'm going to my local convenience store." 

Having a tienda within easy walking distance is a great asset when you are looking for a housing situation to either rent or buy. Be sure to check out your neighborhood, and support your local business owners whenever you can.

This blog post is an example of how the team at Life in Loja helps tourists and visitors, expats and immigrants, to better appreciate the many aspects of living in Loja, Ecuador. If you would like to know more about our custom tours and relocation services then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation.


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