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~.