Alayna Knarian is a student at Grand Valley State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Cusco, Peru.
The beginning of my semester-long adventure in Peru was pretty intimidating; a different language, different meals, and different traditions all led to a little bit of culture shock. Now that I’m over a month into my program, though, I’ve gotten used to some of the things I originally found strange.
After learning to live like the local Cusceneans, we took a quick weekend trip to Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, where we snapped this picture in the Plaza de Armas.
1 – The sight of someone being served a guinea pig no longer scares you.
When I looked up traditional Peruvian cuisine before my trip, one of my most shocking revelations was that cuy – or guinea pig – is a common dish in the Andean region, and it’s often served whole – bones, eyes, and all. Although I told everyone who said “You’re going to try that, right?” that I would absolutely never even consider it, I have become accustomed to seeing it at traditional Peruvian restaurants, and I even tried a bite of it at our welcome dinner.
2 – Being on time is the least of your worries.
The locals in Cusco believe in “La Hora Peruana;” that is, if an event is at seven, they probably get ready to leave their house at six thirty, but then they stick around to chat with someone until seven and don’t end up getting to their event until seven thirty. Back home, this would be considered rude, but here, everyone is so friendly that they never cut off conversations just to make it somewhere on time.
3 – You’ve successfully directed your taxi driver to your desired destination.
None of the taxi drivers I’ve met in Peru know the names of streets. So when we hail a taxi, we don’t say an address, we say the name of a nearby landmark. We mention notable businesses like the local mall or a bank, direct drivers to specific areas like the main square, and sometimes, we just tell our driver to “turn at the big screen.”
4 – You don’t think that putting corn in your lemonade is weird.
I’ve had some pretty unique drinks in Peru – Inca Kola, at least ten different types of tea, and possibly the best hot chocolate on the planet, to name a few. One of the most notable beverages I’ve tried here has been chicha morada, which is lemonade with purple corn. While it seems like an unusual combination, it’s pretty common in Peru.
5 – You know better than to question Pachamana.
In the United States, you don’t mess with Texas; in Peru, you don’t mess with Pachamama. Pachamama is the Peruvian’s “mother earth,” and she’s pretty important and respected. Although the majority of Peru is Catholic, Pachamama is still commonly admired as an important and impressive part of many Peruvian’s faith.
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