First Week *check!*
Hola todos! Ok so I’ve officially been in Lima for a week. This post is going to be one part list of cultural differences and one part raving about how much I love Lima. [Disclaimer: I am not good at math so the division may be off. It is likely that each part of this blog will not be exactly the same length]
PART ONE! Culture.
- Shoes in the house. In the US, typically you don’t wear shoes in the house. It is common courtesy to take off your shoes to avoid dirtying the floor. Well, here it is the opposite. I got a lot of really weird looks from my host mom when I started walking around the house without shoes on. I haven’t figured out the reason behind this, when I asked my host mom’s mom she just said it was what they do. So there you go, readers. Why do Peruvians wear shoes in the house? Because.
- Lunch is a huge meal, kind of like dinner in the US. Dinner is basically irrelevant and breakfast is only slightly larger. Typically breakfast consists of some sort of bread with jam or eggs. (It has for me anyway. All host families are different). Dinner typically isn’t much. Some bread and butter with a small piece of meat. For me, though, it is different because my family lives a fairly busy existence and it is rare for everyone to be at home during meal times. So my host mom prepares food obnoxiously early in the morning and puts it in the fridge for everyone to eat when they have time.
- This isn’t cultural so much as regional, probably, and your experience may be different depending on your tolerance of weather. Being from central Illinois where the weather is crazy unpredictable and where temperatures actually get cold, I have built up some tolerance to the elements. So you’ll hear people saying “Its cold. Hacia frio” and it isn’t cold. Its like 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit (ALSO, temps are in Celsius here. FYI). I wear shorts and tshirts until it gets down to like 50 Fahrenheit so keep that in mind “cold” is objective.
- Personal space. If you absolutely hate touching people, don’t come to Peru. Touching is a required part of society. When you meet up with a group – even if there are 15 people in the group – you go around and kiss everyone’s right cheek and give them a small embrace. They return the favor. When you leave the group, you repeat the process. This goes for people you have never seen before and may never see again. If you are meeting them, you kiss. Now, if you’re prone to bouts of social awkwardness like I am, you’re probably worrying about this. Especially with attractive men/women (depending on your gender and/or preference). But I promise that it will probably be ok. MOST locals know a foreigner when they see one so if you don’t actually kiss their cheek or if you’re a little awkward, they don’t mind and won’t laugh at you. IT WILL BE OK. I PROMISE. You might think that you can just shake hands with new people, but that is considered the height of rudeness. So please don’t do it. It is very American to either A) try to shake hands or B) only kiss the people in the group that you know well. Avoid doing either of these things if at all possible.
- Personal space. IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HATE TOUCHING PEOPLE, DON’T COME TO PERU. Besides the kissing part, buses, combis, streets, bars, stores…etc are often crowded to the point of everyone just kind of mushing together. So touching is inevitable even if you choose to be the rude American that shakes everyone’s hands.
- Drinking age is 18. If you’re like me and 19 when the study abroad experience started, you have never been in a bar. If you are a law abiding citizen from a state that doesn’t permit ANY underage drinking, you’ve never had any alcohol (or very little). BE CAREFUL. Lima is a large city and not everyone will do the right thing and help you home if you’re drunk and lost. However, if you go to the playa (beach) you will likely be offered beer. You can get into bars and order beer without being questioned. You can go to the store and buy 3 bottles of wine if you really want to. YOU CAN DO IT. But don’t go overboard. Alcohol can be pretty strong and is really expensive (at least it seems to be) too, so if you know that you want to drink in Peru, make sure you add that into your budget.
PART 2: LIMA IS AWESOME
Ok. I am the ultimate country girl. I have never taken a bus by myself, never spent more than a week in any major city and I’m used to needing to drive everywhere I go. So this was new experience all around. It won’t come easy at first. But in the week that I’ve been here, I have grown ten times more confident in myself. Yes, there is a lot of “fake it until you make it” and “act like you know where you are going” attitude involved. However, not much compares to the euphoria of getting safely to your destination. Regardless of how long it took or how much back-tracking you had to do, getting there is an amazing feeling. Advice on this front: Don’t be scared to ask for help BUT choose wisely about who you ask. If you’re in Miraflores or San Isidro, it is relatively easy to find a friendly face on the street and politely ask. In other neighborhoods, be more selective. If you are accepted to this program, you will listen to a talk during orientation about how to be safe in the city. Heed that advice.
Lima night life is amazing. And yes, I suppose that if I had grown up in the city, this might not have been as much of a discovery. But I didn’t grow up in the city so discovering night life was like unwrapping presents on Christmas. It is just so. Much. Fun. Our patas helped us find bars the first weekend. On Friday night, we went to a bar called “El Jardin Secreto” or “The Secret Garden.” Basically we just sat around, drank, and talked (well, yelled. It was very loud). I might have gotten a little tipsy. But my friend Alexandra and I managed to get home without a hitch. Saturday night Thais (a pata) took a group of us to a dance club in Barranco. We stayed in the club for awhile before leaving and taking a combi back to Miraflores. In Miraflores, we continued the night by going to an open air bar. Advice: the first couple of weeks, they encourage you to say yes to any opportunity. Do that. Seriously. You can sleep when you’re dead. If you really hate going out, then obviously don’t do it, but if its something that you’ve never done before, give it a try. Studying abroad is about trying new things. Plus, everyone is trying new things. You aren’t alone.
Lima is beautiful. While it may be that some areas are less secure than others, the beauty of the city is unmatched. I’m not going to say any more, I’ll just let these few pictures do the talking….