It has been a rollercoaster of a ride since my wife, Nancy, and I first moved abroad a decade ago.
Our six years in China was kind of a rebound relationship. We loved it while there, became accustomed to living in another country, and learned lots in the process, but knew it wouldn’t last for the long-term.
Moving on to Thailand was yet another growing experience as expats. A great place to retire, but not a lot of security for anyone under 50 without a job or financial independence, especially for those not interested in teaching English. My wife fit that bill to a T.
We decided to look for a place where we could become permanent residents relatively easily, not too hot and not too cold, inexpensive and absent of a huge expat population. Peru seemed to be a good fit.
We have been here a year and a half now and love it. We have learned that it is not a bad thing to move around, from country to country and city to city. It’s the only way to figure out what is a good fit for you.
We spent our first year in the southern metropolis of Arequipa and discovered that it has a lot going for it. The food is amazing, the cost of living is very inexpensive (our living expenses were $1,600 a month including rent, utilities, food, cell phones, internet, TV, and entertainment), and there are copious amounts of blue sky and sunshine, over 300 days a year to be exact. Breathtaking Colca Canyon is only a few hours’ drive away and the Pacific Coast is a short distance to the west. The climate was hard to beat but we really wanted to sample the beach life.
We had visited northern Peru and enjoyed the coastline from the surfing beach of Huanchaco to the white powdery sand of Punta del Sol. It didn’t take long to choose the laidback fishing village of Huanchaco as our next location. We’ve been here about six months now and it feels right. When you find a place that fits, you know it. I think we are probably here for the long-term.
We’ve discovered that it’s a lot easier to meet people in a small town than in a large bustling city. Within a few days of moving here, I was invited to share a beer with a group relaxing outside a small shop. And share is the operative word. One beer (to start), one glass, many people…that’s how it works here. Pass the glass. Kind of the alcoholic version of communal eating in China, where everybody at the table shares several dishes. But there you at least have your own plate.
No more chopsticks (China), no more eating everything with a spoon (Thailand). Knives are back in the picture again. Not a lot of difference from Canada or the U.S. when it comes to table etiquette. But I must say we still find ourselves leaving the fork behind many times…a spoon works much better for most things.
One custom we do notice here is the hand-shaking, pleasant greetings, and introductions that occur in almost every situation. It doesn’t matter if it is the water delivery guy, the immigration officer, the cable TV repairman, or the next-door neighbor. Everybody shakes your hand on meeting and parting…for everything.
And respect for the elderly is high on the list in Peru. Banks, supermarkets, and government offices all have separate lineups for seniors, pregnant women, or people with disabilities. On full buses, teens will jump out of their seats to provide seating for older passengers. Bus drivers will assist the elderly and women with children in getting off the buses, even carrying their bags and depositing them on the sidewalk. It’s nice to see.
I’m not sure if we are accidentally choosing places with incredible food or if every country in the world is similar. But China, Thailand, and now Peru have never ceased to amaze us with their wonderful markets brimming with fresh veggies and fruits at inexpensive prices. And street vendors and restaurants of all price ranges keep us well fed for way less than we would pay in Canada.
So, another country, another set of customs to learn, more great food to sample, and a few hundred archaeological sites to explore. It’s always a learning curve but life abroad has been good. We’re approaching Christmas and we are talking about spending Christmas Day on the beach. There is no snow, it rarely rains, the ocean is five minutes away, daily temperatures are in the 70s F, and we have a spectacular sunset every day all year. We’re happy campers here in Peru.
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