I have, in my lifetime, walked into countless Ecuadorian joints, provoking reactions ranging from mild bewilderment to thinly-veiled hostility. Waiters take a deep breath before approaching my table in halting English, dreading the prospect of trying to accommodate the imperious clueless gringo.
But, in spite of appearances, I speak Spanish, I'm friendly, and I understand the cuisine and the culture. More than that, I actually fit in - if you'll give me a chance. I'm not just some anglo foodie who knows to order guatita; I am 1% Ecuadorian under the hood, and by the time I leave the restaurant, the waiter will be my pal and the other customers will nod amiably and ask whether I have an Ecuadorian grandparent or two (my usual reply: "¡ojalá sea cierto!", i.e. "if only it were true!").
The problem is that whenever I enter a new Ecuadorian restaurant, I always start from scratch. Ecuadorians can't detect the cumulative approval of previous paisanos. And while it's fun to pull off this magic trick, it is, after decades, starting to get tedious. I feel as if I'm caught in a loop, and am developing an irrational expectation that all these experiences ought to afford me some tailwind.
Restaurants aside, the same issue applies in the myriad other circumstances where I must strain to overcome initial impression because I simply don't look like everything I am.
Most people avoid such issues by not meeting many new people or going to many new places. They segregate into tribes and retract into routines. They fit themselves more or less comfortably into narrow circles from which they seldom emerge.
To reject all that and maintain a thirst for adventure requires, alas, locking into a perpetual Groundhog Day loop. Unless you're skillful at making yourself seem special or at projecting a shticky image (ala Tom Wolfe's white suit), you've got no choice but to play each and every new hand without chips.