4 Ways to Know you are Not in Massachusetts Anymore

Today I was walking home from orientation at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú (PUCP) and thinking about my experience so far, when this blog idea hit. I realized that since arriving in Peru, there are FOUR main areas in which there are STARK differences from what I am accustomed to in the United States. While there are MANY differences between the two countries, these four differences are what I have found most apparent and relevant to my day to day life here.

1.     Driving

On the second day in Lima, I got in the car with my host brother and as soon as we started driving, I was baffled by the experience. The first word that comes to mind to describe the driving here would be hectic. In order to change lanes, one must stick their car’s nose into the lane so that the person behind is forced to let them in. When a car blinks their lights, that means that THEY are going, not that they are letting you go! Similarly, the use of the car horn is practically imperative while driving here. A beep generally means that that car is going and to stay out of the way.

2.     Salutations

This one I was discussing with a Peruvian friend yesterday. Here in Peru, it is customary to greet someone with a kiss on the cheek. Similarly, when people are leaving, you get up and give a kiss on the cheek or a hug to send them off. This is definitely a change that takes some getting used to. In the U.S., we generally avoid physical or intimate contact until we are particularly well acquainted with someone. Here, when you meet a friend for the first time, you would greet them with a kiss on the cheek.

3.     Dancing

To my delight, people in Peru LOVE to dance! Unlike the casual head bob and funny dance moves that are often present at dances or parties in the U.S., as soon as reggaeton, bachata, or salsa music comes on in Lima, people are singing, dancing, and moving their bodies. It has been really fun to start learning the different styles of dance. I can always count on one of my Peruvian guy friends to grab me for a dance. I’m so excited to keep learning! I think the university’s salsa classes are calling my name!

4.     Buses

I’ve never been a big public transportation girl, so navigating the buses in Lima has been an ADVENTURE. Most buses have set routes which you can find on a phone app called TuRuta, or on the side of the buses, but there are very few official stops. Unlike the T in Boston, for example, while you ride the bus, the cobrador (person who collects your money and gets people on and off the bus efficiently) may shout out a few street names as they approach, but you are responsible for telling them when you want to get off the bus. This therefor means that in order to get ON the bus, you must wait along the route and wave your hand as the bus approaches so that it stops to let you on. The buses are often PACKED and it is always an ~experience~.

Month 1: A Day in the Life

During our first month in Lima, the students from Holy Cross took Spanish classes at a Spanish language school in Miraflores, called El Sol. During the afternoons, we had scheduled activities which have been coordinated and planned out by the EdOdyssey team. EdOdyssey is the program through which Holy Cross students do study abroad in Peru.


Here is a rundown of an “average” weekday during my first four weeks in Lima, that I wrote during the last week of Spanish classes:


Before I fall asleep each night, I go to the clock app on my phone and set three alarms: 6:23 AM, 6:30 AM, and 6:40 AM. The next morning, I wake up to the splendid sound of “apertura,” bright and early. I am usually slow to get out of bed, so I must rush to get ready for the day and attempt to be downstairs for breakfast by about 7:06 AM. What I love about breakfast at my host family’s house, is that it is consistent. Every day I have two pieces of bread, a small bowl of scrambled eggs, or occasionally a fried egg or omelet, and either a small bowl of mixed fruit, or a fresh fruit smoothie. My host dad makes the most delicious fruit smoothie. I’m not entirely sure of its ingredients but I think that it usually has strawberries, banana, passionfruit, orange, and pineapple.


Around 7:30, the other Holy Cross student living with my host family, and I walk to the bus stop. Depending on the day, we have to wait anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour for the bus. A common problem is that our bus will drive past but won’t stop because it is already filled to capacity. Similar to the T in Boston during rush hour, the bus we take to school is almost always PACKED. Most days, we have to stand for about two thirds of the ride to school. In total, the ride is usually approximately 50 minutes long. The bus passes by Parque Kennedy, which is the main central location in Miraflores, and usually a lot of people get off there.


Most days, we get to school by 8:30 and simply relax in the entrance room before classes begin at 9 AM. The first two hours of class are grammar. This has been very helpful because it is a quick, yet in-depth review of relevant and often-times difficult grammar concepts. After two hours, we have a 20 minutes break, and then classes resume for another two hours. These last two hours are “conversation”. For all four weeks that I have been at El Sol, I have had Jose as my teacher. He is the absolute best and not only helps with my Spanish, but also teaches the class about cultural aspects of Lima and so much more! There hasn’t been a single day this month in which I haven’t laughed during his class.


After classes, all the Holy Cross students eat the lunches which our host families have sent with us. Each day it is always a surprise to see what our host mom sent that day.


Around 1:30 PM, our awesome program coordinator, Patty, comes to El Sol to collect the Holy Cross students so we can go do whatever activity or small excursion is planned for the afternoon. These activities range from watching Peruvian movies, to going to museums, to visiting different areas in Lima.


On most days, we finish up the activity and make our way to Parque Kennedy. From there, I take the bus home. The bus ride home costs 1.5 soles and is usually less busy than on the way to school, making it is easier to get a seat. Each day I get off the bus near the fire station, and I always find it funny when the cobrador says “baja bomberos!” This phrase means that someone is getting off the bus at the fire station. A cobrador is the person who collects your money for the bus and who makes sure people get on and off of the bus.


Once I get home, I normally rest for a little while and then walk to the gym. The gym has become one of my favorite parts of the day. I always feel so accomplished when I finish a nice workout. The gym that I have a membership to is quite large and has lots of different machines and classes which I can utilize daily. After the gym, I walk home, take a shower, and have dinner. For dinner, we have various different meals, but there is always bread and butter. My host mom also always brings out hot water so I can make tea. I have truly become a tea girl down here. The main reason I drink so much tea is that I am constantly cold, due to it currently being winter here in Lima.


Once we have eaten dinner and washed our dishes, we go upstairs to our rooms. Before bed, I complete any homework I have due the next day. Luckily, the teachers at El Sol are muy chéveres and only assign a little bit of homework each night.


And to conclude, here is a fun fact about my daily routine this past month: My three favorite Peruvians that I see each day are Jose (my Spanish teacher), Pablo (my trainer friend at the gym), and the casino guard who always says “buenas noches” to me as I walk home from the gym.