January 31, 2014, by Guest blog

Becoming Addicted to Peru

When talking about going away to Peru for 5 months, people would remark as if it were another world that was so far away, so challenging and so different to anywhere else.  But I love to explore new places I am unfamiliar with and like to think I am fairly culturally aware. I soon found the Peruvian culture to be the opposite of many things I disliked about our reserved English culture, and found it so easy to accustom to.

The way of being as Peruvians, their personality and characteristics can be summed up as a mixture of four traits which complement each other. Firstly, Peruvians are very laid back, they are not easily stressed which lends itself nicely to their very accepting manner, doesn’t matter if you are fat or wearing strange clothes it is unlike them to judge you. Following suit they are very welcoming, if someone’s niece used to be your Spanish teacher congrats you are part of the family (from experience) and with their openness they always greet each other with a handshake or kiss and will pass time of day with any they meet who they recognise.

As a person who doesn’t like taking from people, especially such friendly people in their own country, it was uncomfortable at times to have so much offered to me with the little I had to offer in return. For an example a particular family who I got to know well said I could visit them anytime I liked and I should visit as soon as possible. My English mind thinking do they really mean it or are they just saying it because they feel they have to? Will they be annoyed if I turn up? Or if I don’t? When I did pop over on future visits they would always drop everything to entertain me. Sat around the dining room table the grandmother would dash off to get coffee/hot chocolate/herbal teas/fruit juices from the kitchen and come back with bowls of cakes, breads, hams, cheeses etc. If they had little bread the ageing grandfather would don his hat and head to the bakery returning promptly with fresh delicious bread. All this for an hour or two’s visit and yet  they never wanted anything in return except  for me to visit again and enjoy their company.

The biggest challenge however was getting used to hora peruana. Referring back to their laid back attitude, ‘Peruvian hour’ is one or two hours after the time specified, and it applies to just about anything. Meeting for lunch? 11.30? 11.25 the Englishman will arrive, 12.00 the Peruvain will get in touch to say they are ‘running late’ they’ll be ’20 minutes’,  12.45 the Peruvian will eventually arrive. The complete incompetence is known by all however and so doesn’t cause complete disaster, most of the time. Of course they see the English as very punctual, and often on setting a time with a Peruvian I would be jokily asked the question ‘¿Hora peruana u hora inglesa?’. Such is the laid back time keeping one man joked with me that if you arrive at the time you were invited to a party, you’ll be lucky if the host is even there! Frustrating as it may sound, and many times it was, it did make life a lot easier and at times was kind of funny.

Posted in Cultural challenges