There are many cultural differences between Peru and the US. There are a few that really stand out to me; ones that I had a hard time with when I first moved here, but now, don't really bother me at all.
1. The finger wave - When people say no here, they wag their finger back and forth like a 50's school teacher scolding a naughty child. You'll see someone doing it to a taxi they don't want or really to anyone. I thought it was the most condescending thing I had ever seen when I first moved here. It drove me crazy. I felt like the upper class Peruvians were belittling the lower class when I first saw it; then I saw that many Peruvians, of all classes did it. Well, it only took me about a year to get over that one... Now you'll see me waving my finger at my students to keep them in check.
2. The noise - We lived in an apartment on the 16th and 17th floors of a high rise our first year here. We loved the apartment, but sometimes the noise was horrendous (especially for Mr. Lightsleeper, John). There was a hospital next door, and there would be car alarms going off constantly. What maybe was worse, was that our apartment overlooked a tennis club. Often times, on Saturday or Sunday, there would been a kid's birthday party with a lady with a Madonna headset, squealing in "squeaky-baby Spanish" for about 4 hours. It was always mid- afternoon when I wanted to take a nap too. It was simply awful. For Christmas and New Years, fireworks abound from almost all houses. Many of my students don't have an "inside voice". I know what makes South Americans special is their boisterous personas and their loud affection. I am definitely more numb to the loudness of Peru (especially Lima), though some days it still gets on my nerves.
3. The blatant public nose-picking - Yup. Need. I. Say. More.? Really! It's everywhere. Finely dressed business men, put-together women waiting in their SUV at the stoplight. Not a faux-pois here!
4. The lack of personal space - I'll be in line and feel the breath on the back of my neck. You will have someone right behind, even right next to you in line for anything... which leads me to #5 - the "line".
5. Organized lines - Lines don't really exist here, well they do, if they are roped off or are otherwise very evident. As I think about it now, I guess it's more the first come, first serve theory doesn't really exist. I can't tell you the amount of times I'm waiting at say a table at the Saturday produce market (Bioferia) when a woman will come up and start barking her order over me. I then shoot a glare, but it really doesn't phase them. If I'm really annoyed, I'll say something, but most of the time, I just sigh and wait. I think that waiting your turn makes sense, but maybe it just is a cultural thing.
6. Peruvian time - This doesn't really bother me. It's just SO different. There are two aspects of this - one being being somewhere exactly on time doesn't really happen and two, that many things open much later than my normal schedule.
So to preface this, I HATE being late. In college, I would rather miss a whole class then walk in late and disrupt class. I used to set my clocks all ten to twenty minutes early. I would always show up fifteen minutes early. If I didn't know where I was going the first time, I'd sometimes do a "test run" (I know, a bit neurotic, I know).
Here, that means that I am maybe two hours earlier than anyone else! Seriously! If there is a large ex-pat group function, then maybe not so much, but otherwise, I feel like a big idiot and John is wondering why I rushed him out of the house so early. Our first year here, we went to a New Year's party at a club. We arrived at 11:00 pm and were the ONLY ones there for at least 30-45 minutes. And I thought we were going to miss everything. This is mind-blowing to me! If someone is coming to our house to fix or deliver something (with the exception to the 3o-minute or less pizza delivery), it could very well be hours after they say they'll be here - this is when it's wonderful to have a maid at the house!
The second part of "Peruvian time" is how late things open. There isn't a true siesta time when things close here as there is in other Latin American countries, but stores open late - 10:00 or 11:00 am and that is just a guideline. Yesterday, Ripley, a major department store, was opening at 11:00, their doors finally opened at 11:15. When you're out running errands and trying to be productive in the morning, it can be quite frustrating. And when you've been up since 5:30 am, it feels like 2:00 pm when you can finally get anything done. Many (though there are a few good ones that open earlier) restaurants open at 8:00 pm. When John and I have a date night, we'll go out for a drink first so we don't get unmotivated before our dinner plans at 8. Often times, we don't even make a reservation because this time is "gringo time" and most times we go out to eat, they'll be no one else in the restaurant for at least the first hour we are there. Many times we leave just as the place starts to get busy, around 10:30 pm. I used to feel awkward walking into an empty restaurant, but we get excellent service, it's not too loud, and it's not like John and I are really into the "scene of being seen".
There are others, but these are the ones that really stand out to me. Others may come out in future Peru posts, but this entry is already long enough. That being said, we truly love Peru and it's been a magical place for us the past three and a half years and we're really going to miss it!