Once you decide Peru is the country that you would like to make your home, albeit for the short term, the next step is weighing up where exactly you would like to live. This decision may be based on work opportunities or relationships and which parts of the country you have already experienced. Lima, being the capital, is generally the most obvious choice and it certainly boasts the largest population of expats. However there is much to be said for thinking outside the box and considering living in one of Peru’s many provinces. The majority of the information available is about living in Lima so here are some things to take into consideration before ruling out life in the country.
Lima versus the rest of Peru
Lima is the most common choice for new-comers to Peru, due to its modernity and the work opportunities available, the same reasons which attract Peruvians from all over the country to move to Lima and compete to survive. Generally foreigners are lucky enough to live in wealthier suburbs such as Miraflores, Barranco and Surco, and have access to modern supermarkets and shopping centres, international cuisine and enough Starbucks to keep the homesickness at bay and to avoid experiencing too much culture shock. Lima however is not Miraflores or Barranco and neither is Peru for that matter and there is a whole country of Peruvians whose experience of Lima, and Peru, is very different. Not stepping outside of these tourist bubbles can mean your experience is limited, protected and not particularly realistic. It can’t be denied that for someone who lives in a small town there is a slight thrill heading into a Wong in Surco, excited by the knowledge that everything needed will be available, from mushrooms and blue cheese to an array of good wines, non-existent pleasures in some provincial areas. Nevertheless, living in a small Peruvian town means that one is well aware that these wealthy, American-like suburbs are not a realistic example of a typical Limeno’s life.
A Rich Cultural Experience
Life in the province offers a rich cultural experience and the opportunity to integrate and participate in the local community. Depending on the location and amount of foreign tourists and residents, it may take some time to be accepted by the locals, however once you become a part of that landscape it can feel something like home. Although the locals may be a little slower at accepting the novelty of foreigner in their town, this curiosity and apprehension can slowly turn into understanding and acceptance once they see you living the same way they do. A particularly fond memory of my Mum’s first trip to Peru was in a tiny town in the Sacred Valley, walking down the road we passed two little girls who started pointing “gringa, gringa!” and enjoying the novelty of feeling like an animal in a zoo, she began to dance down the road and put on a show, much to everyone’s delight.
Crime and Safety
Lima, along with other regional cities in Peru obviously have the highest rates of crime and the everyday personal safety of its citizens and visitors is a serious concern. Small regional towns and areas can offer a respite from this, and it’s one of the few things that local residents of these towns can honestly boast about when they compare their home to Lima. That’s not to say that you won’t ever be robbed; someone may still pinch your clothes off the line and you still need to be conscious of security and lock all cars and houses, however you are much less likely to be held up at knife-point or mugged by a taxi driver, so at the end of the day it’s all relative.
If at the end of the day you decide you stay in the big smoke be sure to make the effort to travel and explore the regional areas in Peru, as the towns as much as the cities are all part of the rich diverse landscape that this beautiful country has to offer.
About the author: Ellie Ryan is an Aussie expat working and living in Peru. She is the Founder of TEFL Zorritos, a TEFL training institute which trains people to become English language teachers and places them in positions in Peru and abroad. This article was originally published on the Living in Peru website.