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Blend in Like a Local in Peru

by OTR Travel
Blend in Like a Local in Peru
Expressions

‘Tu’ and ‘Usted’
– The familiar Tu is used in Peru to refer to people that you know (friends and family) and to refer to people your own age.  When dealing with someone not in a familiar situation who is older than you, you will want to use the more respectful form, Usted. 

Greetings – When greeting someone you don’t know on the street the usual way to greet them is to say simply ‘Buenas’.  This could mean ‘Buenos días’, ‘Buenas tardes’ or ‘Buenas noches’ for the different times of day but in a casual greeting there is no need to differentiate.

Nicknames – Peruvians love giving each other nicknames and these are often not derived directly from their names.  ‘Flaco’ (skinny), ‘broder’ (brother), ‘choche’, ‘compadre’, ‘pata’ are all words used to refer to someone in Lima slang.  Some people may call their waiter ‘choche’, for example, when they don’t know their name but want to come across as familiar or friendly.  They would call a close buddy their ‘patasa’ but use the diminutive, ‘un patita’, to refer to just some guy to whom they have no relationship.

Gringos – As in most of Latin America, ‘gringo’ is the nickname that Peruvians give to foreigners, especially English speaking ones.  Sometimes it is used in a slightly derogatory manner, referring to how clueless a tourist who doesn’t know anything about the country he’s traveling in or doesn’t know the language may seem, other times it is simply used for practical purposes to describe someone who is a gringo.

Slang - Peruvian Spanish has a fairly neutral accent within Latin America but the list of slang words is long.  Keeping up with the constant changes of the in slang words is a challenge but in general, Peruvians are fond of the diminutive ending ‘ito’/’ita’ used to express their approval and the superlative ‘aso/’asa’ used to emphasize things. 
Vamos a tomarnos una chelita. = Let’s go grab a beer.
La comida estubo buenasa. = Dinner was very good.

Words for beer – Beer has a few words to its name: ‘una chela’, ‘una birra’, ‘una helada’, ‘una cerveza’ (a local would typically add ‘ita’ as their endings).

Words for party – Partying being a favorite activity of many Peruvians, this word has a number of appellations in the slang of Lima that have stuck through the years: ‘juerga’, ‘tono’, ‘parranda’, ‘fiesta’.

Culture

Public displays of affection – You should expect to see public displays of affection all over Peru.  Couples kissing openly on the street are seen everywhere, which partially has to do with the fact that many young people don’t have the means to own or rent their own home so have to give up the need for privacy to be intimate.  You will see what we mean if you visit the ‘Parque del Amor’ in Miraflores when In Lima.

Patriotism – Like many Latin Americans, Peruvians are very patriotic. A result of wars throughout the years, many Peruvians distrust Chileans and feel a lack of respect for Spain and the way the Spanish controlled Peru in colonial times. Ecuadorians are sometimes referred to as monkeys (monos).

Football – Despite a lackluster national team, Peruvians are extremely passionate about the sport. You are likely to find football fields in even the most remote villages around Peru, and often you will be invited to join in on the fun! Lima’s great rivalry is between the Universitario team “La U” or Alianza.

Change – As in most developing countries, you will find that people in small shops or taxis never have small change to larger bills.  People prefer and appreciate correct change and sometimes you may even get mean looks if you pull out a 10 or a 20 soles bill to pay for a drink or a short cab ride.  This has to do with the low volume of transactions and revenue that most merchants experience on a daily basis so don’t take it as an attempt to be rude or to take advantage of a tourist.  To avoid hassles we recommend that you always have some small change on you.

Bargaining – You are expected to bargain be it for crafts or a cab fare.  Taxis don’t have meters so before getting into a cab you will need to negotiate on a fare.  Always expect that you are being quoted a price higher than you should pay and just throw out a lower number if you care to bargain, even if you have no idea what a fare from A to B should cost.  You will eventually agree on a mutually agreeable fare.  Even taxis that run on fixed fares, like airport ones, will occasionally quote you a higher fare, expecting that you will negotiate them down to the fixed rate.  Taxi drivers worry that if they give you the fixed rate right away then customers so accustomed to bargaining will want to negotiate them down from that!  In these cases, make sure you know what the fixed rate is supposed to be.

Tipping - 10% tip is customary on food.  Tipping on taxis, however, is not expected.

Socializing - Peruvians are very lively people and love socializing.  Majority Roman Catholic, this society has strong family values ingrained in their culture so to many Peruvians socializing also includes spending time with their families as a regular occurrence, not just for special occasions. 

When out with friends, young people in Lima are midnight owls.  A typical night out will include pre-drinks at someone’s house around 10pm and heading out to clubs closer to midnight and staying out until the wee hours of the morning.  When invited for lunch never show up before 2 or 3pm.  When invited to someone’s house for dinner don’t arrive before 8pm.  Food likely won’t be served before 10pm but drinks and ‘bocaditos’ (hors d’oeuvres) will be plenty until then.  The Peruvian version of the Argentinean ‘asado’ are ‘parrilladas’, which usually start mid-afternoon and go well into the evening, during which time many types of grilled meats including ‘anticuchos’ will likely be served.

Spirituality - Many of Peru’s Andean communities follow non-Christian beliefs and practice healing rituals with herbal medicine. Most towns have a witches market (Mercado de los brujos) where herbs, dried animal parts and utensils can be purchased. Healers (curanderos) are born with a gift and use these ingredients to treat a variety of ailments. Some people will bury a dried llama fetus in the foundation of their home to ensure its strength. Shamanism is also a common practice amongst indigenous communities who believe that a connection exists between the spirit and material worlds (the Shaman being their link). Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic found in the western Amazon, it consumed in a shamanic ceremony.

Distinctly Peruvian

Advertising “à la Nazca lines” - You may notice as you travel through the country that advertising in Peru is done not only on billboards and posters but it has been extended to the hillsides…as in, right on the ground itself.  Scarred onto the ground of endless hills you will see political ads, ads for Inca Kola, food products; you name it.  This is a practice that is reminiscent of the way ancient Peruvians in Nazca used to scar the earth with geoglyphs, the source and intention of which is still a mystery.  At least hundreds of years from now historians will have a better idea of what today’s writings on the ground were meant for!

Pishtaco - Pishtaco, or nakaq, is a tall, white, bearded blond man that instills fear in children and adults throughout the remote Andes. He is believed to be real by locals.  This image has represented different things through history and today it represents characters considered ‘evil’ in real life, such as the military, foreigners, anthropologists and terrorists.  Parents use this image to scare their children not to wander too far.  Don’t be discouraged, then, if you notice children running away from you in utter fear if they think you resemble a pishtaco.

Food and Drink

Peruvians love to eat.  And it’s for a good reason – food in Peru is flavourful, varied and inspired.  You could spend a month-long vacation simply doing a culinary tour of the country.  You will find a lot of seafood and fish, various meat dishes and more starch than your nutritionist probably recommends eating in one sitting.  We recommend you just enjoy the mix of flavors and textures that these dishes have to offer.  They are nutritious and will keep you going for a while.  Here are a couple of things to keep an eye out for:

Ceviche – probably Peru’s most internationally famous dish, the classic variety is made with cubed white fish that is cooked in limes, onions and ‘ají’ (chilies).  This is served with ‘cancha cerrana’, a toasted corn that is typically eaten in the mountains, as well as sweet potato and a piece of corn on the side.
 
Tiradito – an offspring of ceviche, Tiradito is a very similar dish that is made with strips of fish, instead of cubes and no onions.  The delicate fish will melt in your mouth as the flavors explode on every bite.

Lomo Saltado – this is a poor man’s meal that is a must in every traditional Peruvian restaurant’s menu, high end or budget.   Strips of beef meat are stir fried with tomatoes, onions, ‘ají’ and parsley, then finished by tossing with French fries.  This dish is always served with a side of rice.

Ají de Gallina – pulled chicken dressed with a creamy, spicy sauce served with boiled potatoes and rice.

Anticuchos – Peruvian barbeque comes in the form of skewered cow’s heart meat marinated and grilled to a perfectly soft texture.

Papa a la Huancaína – This dish from the northern province of Huancayo is usually served as an appetizer.  A creamy sauce made from ‘queso fresco’ (a type of feta cheese) and ‘ají’ is served over boiled potatoes and corn. 

Corn (‘choclo’) – Peru has countless varieties of corn.  The first thing you will notice is that the size of the kernels is about three times what you get in North America and Europe.  This is no GMO induced growth but rather how corn naturally exists in this part of the world. 

Chicha morada – a drink made from purple (or black) corn.  It is a juice prepared by boiling the purple corn with pineapple and spices, then sweetening it with sugar and lime.  Sometimes other fruits are added. 

Chicha de jora – note that this is not the same as ‘chicha morada’.  This is a very strong alcoholic drink drunk in the mountains and jungle of Peru made by fermenting the maize for several days.

Beer – Peruvians are passionate about their choice in beer as much as they are about the soccer team they support.  A couple of long-standing local brands are Pilsen, Cristal, Cusqueña, and Arequipeña, the last two coming from Cusco and Arequipa.

Inca Kola – most Peruvians consider Inca Kola Peru’s second national drink (after the Pisco sour).  This yellow soda is more popular than any other soft drink sold in the country.  This is a bit of a marketing phenomenon, this being the only country where Coca Cola does not surpass all national brands in popularity.

Chifa - Chinese food in Peru is arguably the best Chinese food around.  It combines the flavours of two world-class cuisines.  The term ‘chifa’ comes from the Chinese word ‘chi fan’, which means ‘eat rice’ which equates to ‘to eat’ in Mandarin Chinese.  You will find ‘chifas’ all over the country, and in high concentration in Lima.  Be sure to try one when you’re there even though it may seem contradictory to have Asian food in Latin America.  You won’t regret it.

Café Pasado - This is your average drip / filter coffee. Those who are used to the language from Spain or Mexico may be confused since this means “yesterday’s coffee” in those areas.

This article is reproduced from http://otr.travel/index.php more cultural tips may be obtained


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