Posted on | March 9, 2012 | 20 Comments
After living in Peru for such a long time – April will make eight years for me – I’ve started to find myself more and more in a Peruvian mindset. There are lots of differences between the Peruvian and North American cultures and it seems like I’m slowing acclimating to the Peruvian culture.
So I figured I’d make a fun list of ways that expats in Peru know can know that they’re turning Peruvian. Of course, this is a list that may be more about living in Lima than in the rest of Peru, so if you gringos in the provinces want to throw in some comments about ways that you’ve adapted down in the comments, that’s cool too!
1)You complain about the cold when it’s under 70 degrees outside. When I first moved here, I thought people were crazy! It was barely under 70, and they were dressed fro an arctic expedition! People wear big down jackets, scarves and hats to go out in the winter, and it just seemed ridiculous. Until I’d lived here longer and suddenly realized how freaking cold it is! Part of it is the humidity, of course; it makes the mild cold seem bone-chilling.
2) You start showing up at least a half hour late for everything. I don’t like being late. And I’m not sure if I’ve adapted to the “Peruvian time” or if I’ve just given up on trying to get my husband anywhere on time.
3) You call everyone by endearing names. “Mamita” and “Cariño” are typical. The lady at the bodega says “Hola, mamita linda!” when I walk in – “Hello, pretty little mommy!” It sounds weird in English – both to say or to think that it would be acceptable, but in Spanish, it has a way of making everyone seem your friend. What I don’t like is when people that you know are not your friends over use the terms to ingratiate themselves. There is a shade of hypocrisy to it sometimes.
4) You kiss everybody hello. Well, if you’re a woman you do. Men will with family and if not a kiss, do a formal handshake when greeting someone. There’s something so adorable seeing little boys meet on a playground and shake hands hello.
5) Speaking of the weather, we do! The weather is a constant source of conversation. Get in a taxi, and the driver will either comment on the heat or the cold. There is no in between!
6) You use the diminuitive for EVERYTHING! Peruvians love to make everything small and cute – it’s a way to “make life a little sweeter” says the Hubs. How do they do that? Well, in English we do it by calling a dog, a doggy; a horse, a horsie; a cat, a kitty. In Spanish, they add -ito/-ita to the end of words. It words for people: I’m Kelita, Chato become Chatito. I call the Hubs my “husbandcito”, he calls me his “wifecita” (there’s that Spanglish again!). But it’s not just people – in a restaurant, I ask for an extra “platito” (the idea being it’s just a little tiny plate, I’m sure it would be no problem!) or maybe for directions to the “bañito” (the little bathroom – it just seems more polite). We drink a gaseosita, and eat cevichecito.
7) You argue the price on everything. Whether you’re buying a kilo of fruit at the market or a pair jeans at Polvos Azules, you try to get that discount price: “Y por tu caserita?” (and for your favorite customer?) Y el mejor precio? (and the best price?) You won’t step foot in a taxi without negotiating the best price you can and woe upon the bus conductor that tries to charge 50 cents too much!
8) You walk – A LOT. Even with a car, you find that you often have to park a few blocks from where you want to go. Take a bus, and the route may not go to your street. But most neighborhoods have bodegas and panaderias (bakeries) – and you’ll happily walk two or three blocks to get that fresh bread at 6pm!
9)You eat a lot of bread. I know I talk about how much rice Limeños eat, but they eat a lot of bread too. Our family can easily go through a bag of 15 pan frances (small French rolls). The boys can put away four or five for breakfast. As mentioned above, most neighborhoods have a nearby bakery and it’s wonderful to be able to step in and get fresh bread all day long.
10) Your “Personal Space” has shrunk. Latin Americans in general have a smaller personal space than North American gringos. I’m talking about that invisible circle we all have, where once someone is inside we feel like they’re standing uncomfortably close. Before I came to Peru, mine was huge. I did not like people standing close to me. When I first got here, I would try to ride in combis without touching anyone – you can imagine what a lesson in futility that was! Now, I don’t care – I don’t even notice when the smelly guy next to me falls asleep on my shoulder!
How about you? Have there been ways that you’ve adapted to Peruvian life, or where you feel like you’re “Going Native”?
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