Minimizing Culture Shock in Peru

Minimizing Culture Shock in Peru

So your custom trip to Peru is about to begin! You’re packed and ready to board the plane, and in a few hours you’ll land in what may well seem like a whole new world! We’re here for you with a list of some of the differences you’ll encounter, to help you avoid culture shock. Although part of the fun of traveling is experience new cultures, we figure it may help you feel less like an alien and more on top of things, if you know a bit about what to expect on your Peru vacation.

1- Closer personal space

As a culture, there’s a shorter distance in personal space. Peruvians stand closer, touch more frequently, and in general don’t mind accidentally nudging each other, or you, in passing. In contrast, there’s greater distance and separateness, and more regard for “individual space” among people from western countries. You may feel uncomfortable at first. I became accustomed to the greater intimacy and missed it when I left.

2- Health, Sanitation, and Safety

There are different rules in place in Peru for health and sanitation. For example, due to sensitive plumbing in many buildings, it is normal to be requested to discard toilet paper in a trashcan next to the toilet, rather than flush it. This may seem off-putting to some folks, but one does become accustomed. 

Drink and brush teeth with only boiled and bottled water during your visit Most hotels and tourist restaurants are already savvy. Eat at food stands at your own risk. To avoid nasty organisms, be extra careful about ice and raw fruits and veggies.

Electricity is 220 volt, so remember to check your items so as not to destroy them when plugging into a wall socket in Peru. Transformers can be purchased to avoid ruining your electronics with a powerful surge.

3- Shopping and Transportation

In Peru, there are mom-and-pop shops on every street. This makes shopping for small items relatively convenient. Eggs are sold by the egg, tea bags by the bag, etc. Shops of one type often appear in one location. So, all of the juice ladies are in one section of Mercado San Pedro in Cusco, all of the electricians in one place, etc. Competitors, often loudly touting their goods, create a cacophony trying to attract your business.

Getting around in Peru is relatively easy. Taxis are inexpensive, and buses even cheaper; however, it is wise to get the phone number of a reputable taxi company and use them exclusively. If you plan to hail a taxi on the street, it is recommended to only use officially registered taxis. How to recognize one? Unfortunately, taxi regulations are not universal in Peru and are established by each municipality.  That said, most taxis in Peru are either yellow or white.  Moreover, registered taxis should have a taxi sign fixed on the roof of the car and license plate number painted (or a sticker) on the side of the car.  When you exit a cab ALWAYS REMEMBER to check the seats for your items.

If you choose to have the experience of riding a bus or combi, which costs less than a US dollar, be prepared for the bus caller! This is the person who assists the driver by letting everyone know the route: it’s amazing how many syllables can be fit into a thirty-second spiel. Western safety standards are nowhere in site. Ride at your own risk!

4- Authenticity and Animals!

One of the most charming parts of your Peru trip will be the sight of folks wearing colorful traditional dress, leading alpacas and llamas through the streets. In Cusco, Inca walls, staircases, and cobblestones are a part of the infrastructure that’s traversed on a daily basis. The contrast of the new with the ancient is intriguing and fascinating. (Also, guinea pigs are food.)

5- The chaos is part of the fun.

The lines are not as straight, nor the structures as symmetrical, generally speaking. You might notice that traffic rules are loosely obeyed and yet accidents aren’t as common as you would think. A friendly din, and a loud and boisterous chaos are characteristic of many places on Peru: a quality of vitality and excitement goes along with this seeming disorder. Although it may seem overwhelming at times, there’s an excitement to being part of the noisy and vibrant life in Peru.

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