The Differences of Life in Lima

Natalie Witschorik is a student at Iowa State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Natalie is currently studying abroad with ISA in Lima, Peru.

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Sunset in Paracas, Peru

Lima is a very unique city, and my daily experiences here are very different from my life back in the U.S. From the bus system to the school system, everything presents itself as a new adventure. I have been living in Lima for nearly three and a half months so far, and I have noticed my fair share of differences from my life back in the U.S. 

1. Homes in Lima don’t have central heat or central air conditioning, which basically means that you can’t escape the weather outside, regardless of the temperature. I underestimated how big of an adjustment this would be, especially during the winter. I really wish I would have packed an extra pair of sweatpants!

2. The bus system. Using public transportation was a major culture shock. I miss knowing when my stop is coming up and not having to yell “BAJA” whenever I need to get off. One thing I do enjoy about taking the bus is shocking my classmates when they ask me how I get to school everyday. I tell them all casually that I take the bus, and their reactions are all the same: “but how do you take the bus?” I know my Spanish isn’t perfect, but I can manage to get on a bus, say what stop I need and get off at the correct location, most of the time.

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This is the bus I take to and from school in Lima

3. I have a two-hour class here with a 10-minute break halfway through. At Iowa State my classes always went straight through until they are done, so I still don’t know what to do with myself with 10 free minutes part way through class! I’m not complaining, but it’s a different way of doing things.

4. I am a reasonably reserved person; I don’t see the need to go all out on my wardrobe or get all dolled up in makeup. In Lima, though, it doesn’t matter because you’ll receive attention just because you look different from a local Peruvian.

5. Here in Peru my pensión has a housekeeper, Sarah, who does a lot of the cooking and cleaning. I am a junior in college, and I have been on my own for three years now. However, it dawned on me the other day that I don’t know how I am going to go back to ISU and survive on my own. I caught myself asking a friend what she does for food when her host mom was out of town, like we didn’t know how to fend for ourselves anymore. Do you think I will have any luck convincing my roommates back in the U.S. to cook and clean for me?

6. Lastly large amounts of public affection are very common, and I am not lying when I tell you it is everywhere! It probably has something to do with the fact that kids live at home with their parents well into their 30’s or until they are married and maybe after that. So teens will just show their affection for one another out on the street, on the bus, in the park, walking down the street and at restaurants. Showing affection in public happens in Iowa or Minnesota but not to this extent.

Because I have seen many differences in Peru, it has opened my eyes to a new culture and a new way of living. I might not change all of my habits to conform into being a true Peruvian, but I am now aware of how they live. I have to admit; I am a little sad that I will soon be leaving my life here behind and heading back to snowy Minnesota.

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