My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

Ways The US is Better Than Peru

Posted on | April 5, 2012 | 27 Comments

Anyone who reads my blog even occasionally will know how much I love Peru. I love the people, I love the weather (most of the time), I love the country.  There are times when we’re out in the car and I see something that will strike me in a certain way, and I have to turn to my husband and say “Man, I love this place.”

That said, there are some things that I find much better in the US.  And if we want to really get specific, some of these things are more a comparison of where I’m from in Florida (Cape Canaveral) compared to living in Lima.

And don’t worry – at a later date, I’ll be doing one on how Peru is better than the US! 😉

1. People respect your personal space. I know I’ve talked about this more than once, but I’m kinda fond of having my personal space. I’ve gotten a lot more used to it now, but it still bugs me when people crowd me in a line (especially at the grocery store!), or stand right on top of you when there is plenty of space around.

2.  Food variety. Yes, I know that Peru has a billion and one different dishes – but sometimes it seems that 99% of them involve chicken, rice and potatoes.  With aji and onion. It’s true that I really do love Peruvian food, but  I long for variety – Chinese food (that doesn’t come with “More Peruvian Flavor!), Italian food that doesn’t have aji panca mixed in, Mexican food, good steak houses, a barbecue place… and just a million other things that I’d love to find in the grocery store. I will say that things are getting better – but there have been more than a few recent days where I went without eating lunch because I just couldn’t stomach another criollo plate.  (It would probably be different if I went back to cooking every day – I like my own cooking better than anyone else’s!)

3. Organized traffic. I don’t think I even need to explain that one – this video shows it better than I can tell you. I usually ride in the car with my eyes closed, holding on to the door handle tightly.


4. Clothes!  You can buy a lot of really inexpensive clothes here, but I swear you get what you pay for. No, it’s worse than that – as cheap as the clothes are, you STILL aren’t getting what you pay for.  Every pair of jeans I’ve bought for my kids has had the riveted button come off – and my kids are skinny!  All their tshirts seem to come apart at the seams after just a couple of washes. There’s not much variety, either – clothing styles come in waves, and all the stores will carry all the same things. And if you’re overweight like me? Fahgeddaboutit. There’s just not anything. I’d love to see a Lane Bryant open here!

5. Clean air and water. People can bitch about government regulations all they want – it’s easy when you’re breathing air that’s not heavy with soot and exhaust. Those of us living in a place where the few regulations in place aren’t being enforced are too busy coughing black crap out of our lungs to do much bitching. And it would be nice to have tap water that wasn’t contaminated with arsenic, if that’s not too much to ask.  Of course, at least I HAVE tap water – millions of Peruvians don’t even have that “luxury”.

6. Public restrooms. Ok, I’ve seen some gas station bathrooms that had me fearing for my health back in the US, I won’t deny it. But that is the norm in Peru, not the exception.  A decent public restroom is such a rarity here that people share their locations with each other! Ripley and Saga usually have very nice, clean bathrooms, as do any of the major grocery stores. But unless you’re in a very upscale restaurant, be prepared for no paper, wet floor, no soap, NO SEAT…. and probably no cleaning in  weeks, if ever.

7. Cheap Cell Phones and service. ‘Nuff said.

8. Decent Toilet Paper.  Toilet paper here doesn’t seem to biodegrade as well as paper at home. And it’s not as absorbant. And there never seems to be any in public restrooms.

9.  Central air and heat. I’m kind of torn on this one – while I love being able to have my house open all year because of the mild weather, I really dislike the humidity and dust. Being able to put on the A/C once in a while would do wonders. And when it’s 60F in the house and my hands feel like ice cubes, I’d love to have a little heat!

10. Clean beaches. Ok, this one is strictly a Lima/Cape Canaveral comparison – I lived a block from the ocean, with a beautiful sandy beach.  Here, the beach is rocky, small, dirty and smelly. It just makes me sad.

Bonus: Cool stuff to do with the kids. Ok, I know here I can go to the jungle or Machu Picchu with our kids, take them sandboarding at Huacachina or to Nazca to see the lines – but those aren’t really things you can get out and do a lot. At home, we had lots of amusement parks (I lived less than an hour from all the parks in Orlando), go cart rides, county fairs (and church fairs!), a nice beach as mentioned above – and there were all sorts of sports for kids, not just soccer; lots of extracurricular stuff in school…. it just seems like kids in the US always have something to keep them busy. My kids don’t have friends in the neighborhood – because there is no neighborhood school to unite them; there are not school districts. There are no clubs or extracurricular activities in school – no intramural sports either.  I want to get out and do something fun with my kid every week, but it always seems to go back to play soccer in the park, go to a movie or… yeah, that’s about it.

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27 Responses to “Ways The US is Better Than Peru”

  1. jessica frietze
    April 5th, 2012 @ 17:47

    I agree with you. I was born in Lima and lived there for 20 years, I moved to California and I have living in the states for 22 years. I dont think I will be able to live in Lima anymore, because of all the things you listed above. It’s always being like that and hasnt changed at all and I think is even worse. It is a shame to say this of my own country but is the sad true.

  2. Kelly
    April 6th, 2012 @ 00:42

    Well, like I said, I do love Peru. I’ve been living here for 8 years now, and probably wouldn’t have stayed so long if I were unhappy! But there are certain things that are sometimes frustrating. I think that sometimes I paint a pretty rosy picture about life here, so I want to make sure that anyone thinking of moving to Peru has a more complete picture of the country!

  3. Rick
    April 6th, 2012 @ 14:06

    On the food front, things are looking up. For the first 10 years there was no reliable Indian restaurant. Now there are two: Guru and Mantra, both on Avenida Benavides. Siam, on Avenida Camino del Inca, is world class Thai food. For Middle Eastern food, Tierra Santa, on Calle Schell, has stuffed grape leaves and schwarma sandwiches that are excellent and inexpensive. Have yet to find decent Sechuan… although I’ve heard there is one chifa on Avenida Aviacion in San Borja that offers authentic northern Chinese cuisine… anyone know the name and address?
    Basic southern Italian fare, haven’t found it, but home style chicken parmigiano is easy enough to make in your own kitchen.
    Rick´s last blog post ..Happy Easter 2012 from Fertur Peru Travel

  4. Kelly
    April 6th, 2012 @ 14:54

    Yes, it is true that the restaurant front is getting better! I had some visitors here from India a few weeks ago, and they went to eat at Mantra – they said that the food was delicious and very authentic. I certainly enjoyed it when we went!

  5. Rick
    April 6th, 2012 @ 14:07

    Haven’t eaten there in years, but Si Señor in Miraflores, near the Malecon, at least used to be pretty decent Mexican food….
    Rick´s last blog post ..Happy Easter 2012 from Fertur Peru Travel

  6. Erin
    April 7th, 2012 @ 17:30

    I agree … while I have been introduced to Peruvian Culture from my husband, who is from Lima … I agree with you Kelly. Love Peruvian Food even love Aji and Limon, which my husband puts on everything. But, sometimes I would just like to cook a meal I enjoy, like my mothers Smoked Sauage and Saurkruat, which my husband hates. One time I went to the trouble of making one of my very favorite French Dishes, Boneless Chicken Breasts poached in butter then the sauce is reduce with Sherry added and heavy cream. It is too die for … my husband put Limon and Aji on it. I was like, this is French, he said but I like the aji and limon cause that’s the way I like it. Frankly, I think it makes everything taste the same.
    Also, personal space I agree … but one thing that bugs me people will come over the house, unannounced and hang out for hours. No previous call … just show up and my husband will say but, that is how Peruvians are. He can’t understand that sometimes I don’t feel like that.
    Dirty Air .. can understand this, visited Lima 3 years ago and came down with bronchitis from the smog, real bad.
    Oh well, I love my husband and Peru … so I will live with it.

  7. Lucy
    April 7th, 2012 @ 20:26

    I’m a Peruvian married to an American, I’ve been living in USA more than 10 years and I have gotten so used to live here! I think I might get used again to living in Lima but I would miss USA a lot.

    I agree about the food, and yes, I love my peruvian food BUT I also love cooking/eating different kinds of food, I am SO blessed that my husband is the same way.

    Personal space: I love my personal space, I love that about here.

    Clothes, I think it depends, I am very petite and I got my clothes tailored made in Peru, it was very cheap, over here I have either Ann TAylor, Talbots etc. and it’s good quality but very expensive, which is why I buy on ‘consignment stores” or when I go to their stores I go with coupons and to the Clearance racks.

    Good article!

  8. Jorge
    April 10th, 2012 @ 14:14

    Just a reminder, every place/city/country has its goods and bads. I simply love Lima because i think its an exciting city, full of diversity, like several cultures in one, and people are awesome, so warm. If you go back to canaveral to stay you will probably miss all this.

  9. Kelly
    April 10th, 2012 @ 17:56

    Thanks for commenting, Jorge – I love Lima too, as I stated at the beginning of the post, and also mentioned I’d be doing one soon on ways Peru is better than the US. 😉 Remember I’m not saying that one place is better or worse – just pointing out pros and cons of each.

  10. Margau
    April 11th, 2012 @ 13:24

    I’m a peruvian who has lived in at least 15 countries and about to move to the U.S. (a place I would have never thought I was going to move to in my life. I am getting to know it and yup, I support the personal space thing completely. About food, it’s amazing the variety of food you can find in the U.S. just around the corner. I see this improving in Lima. I guess this is linked to the country’s development. Oh I also love Mantra and the owners happen to be my cousins! How nice is that? LOL. Traffic. a big yikes! in Lima. Although, I’m a huge defender of public transportation vs moving in your car. I can’t get used to the US public transportation system which only take you downtown most of the time while in Lima, you can even find the “combi” that will drop you at your door. Clothes: I think it depends. You can find relatively cheap clothes in the US with great quality, but the “cheap” here is very relative if you see it in soles! 20 soles jeans? Sure they will only last this summer and you must be aware of that if you decide to get them. For what a pair of jeans cost in the US you can get pretty decent ones in Lima and they will last. Sometimes is worth it to invest in higher quality clothes. I never had a problem with that while in Lima. (just a tip, you can find cheap-Lima-like clothes with US-quality and much much more cute items in Colombia, ah, paradise of clothing shopping!. Water tastes differently in every part of the world. I didn’t think water was a problem in Lima. Air pollution can be though. Public restrooms, i support that. Central air and heat. Wow, that’s one of the things I love the most of Lima: You don’t need them! thus, you are not killing our planet with all these energy monster consumers! wohoo! Beaches in Lima are not that clean indeed, neither they are picture beautiful, but you will find those if you drive 40 minutes away from the city. Of course for real beautiness you need to go to the north of Peru. About the cool stuff to do with kids, yeah there are many more options available in the US for the public. You can find as many in Lima but they are restricted to wealthy families I think, and that’s bad. I was fortunate during my childhood, I could ride horses, sail, play squash (Regatas club has a great squash court), surf, play instruments, practice modern dance and marinera… etc. Now that I think about it a lot of these things don’t cost much, you just have to go out and look for them.

    I guess it all depends of the eyes that look at it and of course, the place where you grew up would always naturally be your frame of reference!

  11. Kelly
    April 11th, 2012 @ 13:40

    Thanks so much for sharing your point of view – you bring up some really good points. :)

  12. Yannick
    April 13th, 2012 @ 02:55

    I guess that after all, there is still the American side of you after all these years in Peru.
    Yannick´s last blog post ..universal studios tickets for cheap

  13. sonia
    April 18th, 2012 @ 05:20


    Even after a year and a half back in the US from Peru, I am still grateful every day for the cleanliness of public spaces, including roads, parks, sidewalks, open fields, and buildings. I remember visiting many spots of great geological beauty or historical significance in Peru and being saddened by how the space was ruined by dusty litter, open containers of garbage, and the smell and sight of human and animal waste. Here in the US, public spaces are generally very clean and tidy, making visits much more pleasant.

    I also never cease to be amazed at how much quieter apartment and condo buildings are in the US. We live in a building with four families on every floor, yet we never, ever hear our neighbors’ phones ringing, we never hear their conversations, their pets, their car horns, or their TVs, and we are unaware of their tastes in music. The silence contributes to much more restful living.

    As much as I love Peru, life in the US is wonderful. In spite of the Great Recession, working conditions are also better, and long-term, well-paying jobs more available. I am glad that you wrote this essay. I am very grateful to be living and working again in the US.


  14. b
    April 19th, 2012 @ 19:54


    Read your comments about the clothes and don’t understand why you don’t use a seamstress. SHould be much cheaper than the US & better made. You can probably either show someone a picture of what you want made and/or buy basic patterns that can be adapted, pick fabrics and have fun

  15. Kelly
    April 20th, 2012 @ 07:37

    Hi b – You know, a couple of people have suggested that since I wrote this, and I have actually had a couple of pairs of pants made using my favorite pair of jeans as a pattern. It’s true that that is an option not necessarily available in the US.

  16. Expat Mom
    April 19th, 2012 @ 20:03

    Sounds similar to Guatemala in many ways! There are always good and bad things about every country.
    Btw, the yogurt starter I use a little plain yogurt from the store.
    Expat Mom´s last blog post ..On a Fermentation Kick

  17. Julie
    May 6th, 2012 @ 16:09

    Hi Kelly,

    Your articles on Peru and USA have been very helpful for me. I live in Orange County, CA and I’m planning to live in Peru for a year to learn Spanish. My boyfriend (who is from Lima) tends to sugar-coat life in Peru, and I was needing a more realistic depiction of what I’m in for. I’m sure that when I go to Lima I’ll keep my own diary/account of the pros and cons. But either way, any new experience is going to be a good one for me. One thing I also wanted to know more about is the sense of security/safety of Lima, as I am used to feeling very safe in the OC (yes, I’m spoiled). I also wanted to know if there are good job opportunities for Americans in Lima (I’m a MFT for children here in the US, and volunteering/working in a similar setting would be desired).

  18. Samantha Bangayan
    May 8th, 2012 @ 12:10

    Great list, Kelly! I’m totally nodding my head at the lack of variety of food. You would hate Huancayo because we only have one mall. =P

    As for Chinese food without the “Peruvian flavor,” you should go for dim sum! In Barrio Chino, there are two good ones: Salon Capon and Wa Lok (also in Miraflores). But you have to know to ask for the dim dum menu. =P It taste entirely Chinese to me! =)
    Samantha Bangayan´s last blog post ..Marriage in Peru: The Easy Way

  19. Rajeev Gonsalves
    August 10th, 2012 @ 04:01

    I’m an Indian living in Bangalore :-) and love your blog. My friends designed the logo and website for this Peruvian restaurant in New York. Perhaps you could feature it for those of your readers in the US who might like to sample Peruvian cuisine before heading out to Peru!

  20. Kelly
    August 10th, 2012 @ 11:36

    I’ll certainly check them out – thanks for the link. :)

  21. Marilyn Rittmeyer
    August 14th, 2012 @ 07:56

    I live in a northwest suburb of Chicago. You all know what kind of crime is in some neighborhoods in Chicago. Today’s Chicago Tribune headline article is about how some families are not allowing their children to leave their houses in these neighborhoods. What kind of crime is in Peru? Are there neighborhoods you have to stay out of like there are in Chicago? Do you have to be careful about crimes like pickpocketing or car break-ins? Just curious! I’m going to a dinner at my church this evening, to hear from our church’s (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod)Peruvian missionaries. Often I think countries like Peru should be sending the U.S. missionaries, since U.S. culture is screwed up in many ways. We Americans could use some redirection from missionaries too!

  22. Kelly
    August 14th, 2012 @ 16:26

    If you ask 10 different expats here in Peru about crime or how dangerous it is, you’ll get 10 different answers! I can only tell you what I see and from my experience. I live in Miraflores, which is considered a middle-to-upper class district. I feel very safe here and in fact, have never had a problem in 8 years of living in Lima. That’s including the 4 years we lived in Surquillo, which is a much poorer district, usually considered unsafe.

    The biggest problems as far as individual crime are muggings and pickpockets. Cars left on the street may very well have parts stolen off of them, or be broken into.

    I’ve never been concerned about my kids being outside of the house; they take city buses to school and get around just fine on their own. My youngest is 13 now, and has been riding the bus alone for about 3 years. I think that Peruvians in general go out of their way to look out for kids and the elderly.

    However – my husband has been mugged twice, and the lady that lives upstairs from me was mugged about a block from our home. While I am in no way blaming the victim for the crime, in all three cases, the victim did put themselves in a vulnerable position, out late at night, alone. In my husband’s case, he was in a part of town called “Little Chicago” because it’s known to have a high crime rate. (sorry! :))

    Gun violence and other violent crimes are not – IN MY EXPERIENCE – as rampant as they are in the US. Although we are hearing about more gun violence recently, the vast majority is confined to drug trafficking gangs. If you don’t hang out with that crowd, you’re pretty safe. SEx crimes are in the news a lot, but I can’t think of any offhand that wasn’t perpetrated by a person already known to the victim. Muggers have gotten bolder in the last few years and sometimes use knives or guns, but I believe that still to be an anomaly rather than the rule.

  23. pedro
    January 20th, 2013 @ 13:22

    hello, kelly always read your blog, could you give me an example of “cultural diversity” and because it attracts, I am Peruvian and I do not understand since I’ve never lived in another country. Give me an example if, to better understand

  24. Kelly
    January 20th, 2013 @ 16:51

    Cultural diversity is just a way of saying that there are a lot of different cultures mixed together. For example, in Lima – You’ve got Peruvians living here who came from the coast, the sierra and the selva; you’ve got Italian influence, Spanish influence, Chinese influence, Japanese influence… all those different cultures mixed together in the city give it more cultural diversity than say Paucartambo.

  25. ed
    January 20th, 2013 @ 17:59

    hello, kelly, you say that I am very ignorant, but I do not care as long to learn, and now my question is this: we all know that USA has also cultural diversity, such as Peru, to find differences, A is more advanced than the other ? or are equal, in any case, what they can learn from one another?

  26. Kelly
    January 20th, 2013 @ 18:58

    That’s a question that whole books could be written on and would take far more time to answer than I have at the moment :) I would say that the US is much more culturally diverse than Peru. As far as advanced – who knows? It rides on your definition of advanced.

  27. ed
    January 20th, 2013 @ 20:36

    U.S. currently unclear whether, even if we see a timeline com think if more peru as drag from very far behind. regards

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    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.

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