The Top 11 Things I Learned about Peru in Two Weeks
I just spent two weeks in Lima; here is what I learned about Peru:
It has strong tourism
Peru is no longer off the beaten path; major destinations such as Machu Picchu have become mainstream now and are required itineraries for everyone before retirement.
There's long-term stability
Peru is a country where people invest long-term (or at least mid-term), meaning infrastructure, real estate and other businesses are ready to invest for the foreseeable future.
The country is stable and safe enough to attract investment. It is not Chile, but it's way ahead of Colombia.
Is this Colombia's future?
Peru and Colombia share much of the same roots, though Peru has been spared the incredible cartel-fueled crime wave that Colombia went through until 20 years ago. I found Peru to be very similar to Colombia - just without those lost decades of crime.
Spanish is required
Once you venture off the tourist trail just a bit, Spanish is required. There are very few English speakers in town; I must have met less than a dozen in two weeks.
Peruvians are a friendly bunch
Peruvians strike me as friendly bunch; I never saw anyone being abrasive or rude. I think you can spend years here and even taxi drivers will never be rude(aside from annoyingly honking at you). There are basically no scams run on you here.
I felt Peruvians are rather distant, though - not necessarily in a bad way, but there is a noticeable distance.
Rules are followed
Somewhat surprising is that Peruvians are good at following rules and adhering to strong 'family values'. The church is a major influence in public thinking - much more so than in Colombia.
It is similar to what you experience in Mexico - just without the love that Mexicans have for America.
I'm American too
Almost anywhere in the world, we refer to the United States of America as 'America' and that tells people where we are from. Peruvians will stubbornly reply that they are American too.This also explains a bit why English has made so few inroads into Peru so far.
Where is the horizon?
Peruvians are NOT polyglots and anything that goes on outside Colombia, Peru or Spain simply never registers on the radar here. There is enough culture, food and language to actually be happy in isolation here, but Peruvians do not expect tourists or expat residents to follow the exact same lifestyle. You are left alone at most times.
It's a foodie place (but expect to pay for it)
I had decent 3-course $3 lunches in Peru, but most food you will be eating here is more like $10 per portion. This is equivalent to what you pay in San Francisco for fresh food in one of the city's favorite non-restaurant eateries.
Peru has the beginnings of ethnic cuisine, but Peruvian dishes is what this place is great for. There is a good amount of variety (can you ever eat too much ceviche though?) but it can get tiring after some time. I still prefer the US or Thailand for food.
Style and design is important
Besides being a middle-income country, Peruvians havehad time to make their neighborhoods very beautiful (Lima residents especially; despite being in a desert location, there are trees, plants and flowers everywhere).
There are enough parks to spend months discovering them all and you will not run out of 'aha moments'.
Lima is a jewel of urban living
There are very few cities in the world that can compete with the living quality in Lima. Hang out at the beach, eat excellent food, enjoy the superb weather and never meet a rude person in weeks. And all this on a budget. It does not get much better than that.