Life in Lima: Car Horns, Fruit Juice and Cat-Calls

Jill Swanson is a student at Arizona State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Jill is currently studying abroad in Lima, Peru on a Fall 1 program.

A typical “combi” in Lima.

Hola amigos! I have been living with a host family in bustling Lima, Peru for a little over a month now. Lima is unlike anything I had ever experienced and drastically different from my life in the States. Lima packs in approximately 8 million residents into 43 districts. I think of Lima as the Peruvian version of NYC, including all the taxis, traffic and honking to boot. I’m still adjusting to new lifestyle and the cultural differences, but I am starting to fall in love with Lima. To get you more acquainted with Peru and Lima I made a list of the quirky and unexpected cultural differences I have noticed thus far:

1)    Always greet and say good-bye to people with a kiss on the cheek (especially people you don’t know).

2)    Public transportation is the method of traveling for the majority of  Limeños (residents of Lima). There is no official website, map or system for traveling via taxis, combis (mini-buses) or buses. To know which bus to take you check the street names written on the sides of the bus or ask the driver if it is traveling to your destination.

3)    Car honking is excessive! During rush hour on a busy road you can’t count to 5 without hearing a car horn.

4)    There are beautiful parks throughout Lima, but you can’t go on the grass. Just admire it from the sidewalk surrounding it.

A peaceful park in my neighborhood

5)    Most houses have high walls or fences surrounding them for additional safety measures. Some even have an electric fence at the top of the wall to ensure nobody will be getting into their house.

6)    Peruvians have a very minimalist lifestyle compared to many Americans. The houses don’t have as many decorations or extra clutter. They buy their food on a daily basis, or for only a few days at a time.

7)    Drinks are served at room temperature unless you ask for ice.

8)    Fruit juice is ubiquitous here! I have delicious fresh squeezed fruit juice every day- also served at room temperature.

Fresh fruit juice is served with every meal

9)    You don’t buy books for your university classes. You can check out the book you need from the library for a day, photocopy select pages that you need from the book, or photocopy the entire book.

10) Utilities are very expensive in Peru so Peruvians are much more conservative about their electricity and water usage.

11) There is no internal heating or air conditioning in buildings or homes.

12) Cat-calling from men is much more acceptable and common in Peru.

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