La Hora Peruana
I am still struggling to grasp the concept of time in Perú. I have always been habitually prompt whereas Peruvians are notorious for being late. They even have a common phrase to describe the relaxed concept of time here: “la hora peruana.” In accordance with the “hora peruana,” university classes and meetings start 20 or 30 minutes late, people don’t show up at parties until an hour or two after their start time and when people say they’ll be ready “soon” or they’re “close-by,” I can never be quite sure what that means.
If a Peruvian tells me that something is happening “ahorita” or “ahora,” literally now, that means it will take place in 15 or 20 (or 30) minutes. An hour, “una hora,” means it’ll be another couple hours. If someone says “mañana,” or tomorrow, it’s never going to happen. I’ll concede that I am slowly beginning to embrace the concept of mañana though. I have homework that I’m putting off until mañana.
I think the relaxed system of time in Peru exists, at least in part, because it takes a long time to accomplish anything here. Simple tasks, such as running at errand at the bank, post office or grocery store, take at least three times longer than they would in the United States. I have found that sometimes the extra time is my fault as I like to venture down a new street instead of taking the shortcut or am often distracted by one of the many street vendors selling cookies. Other times, however, it’s the fault of the people I’m with as I am usually ready to go on time, and they are not. Lastly, the tardiness is also caused by a general disregard for efficiency in Perú. For example, at the fotocopiadoras on campus, where I purchase printed copies of my homework readings for classes, the workers do not delegate tasks, and it turns into a complete free for all.
I’m trying to embrace the hora peruana. I chose to study abroad in Perú because I wanted to immerse myself in a completely foreign culture, unlike what I was accustomed to in the United States. When I made that decision, however, I did not realize that something as simple as time would be one of the most straining aspects of Peruvian culture for me to understand. I have valued promptness for so many years that in Lima it feels like I must often make an effort to be late. But now, as I sit here finishing this blog, I look at the clock on my laptop and realize I was supposed to meet a friend five minutes ago. It’s okay because I know she won’t be on time either. Es la hora peruana, and maybe I’m better at adapting to this change than I thought.