Don’t get me wrong, I love Peru and the people that inhabit it. Peruvians have many great qualities but like any culture, they’re bound to have their faults. Time after time again I find myself cringing at a few habits that almost all Peruvians seem to do. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me that finds these things annoying, but I’m pretty sure most people from the westernized part of the world would find irritating. I hate using the word ‘Westerner’, but I think it’s the best option to capture North Americans and Europeans. I’m a fairly laid back person that can survive most annoying things thanks to my little brother, but here’s my list of the top Peruvian habits that are bound to drive you crazy.
1. If One Person Wakes Up, Everyone Wakes Up
Having stayed in several Peruvian households, they all seem to have the same routine and disregard for people who want to continue sleep. I’m not sure what it is but all Peruvians seem to do it, so it’s the norm. To me it seems like a lack of respect for other people, but for them it is not so.
Whoever happens to wake up first will usually put on music, bang around, talk loudly to the next person up and go about their day as if there is no one else trying to sleep in the house. As someone who grew up in a house where everyone was quiet until the last person was awake, this often drives me crazy.
Peruvians also tend to wake up fairly early. So if you are a night owl who likes to sleep in late in a quiet place, then maybe you should avoid a homestay with a Peruvian family.
2. Peruvians Are Late. Always
While I’ve been told this is a Latin American norm, it still drives me crazy. Whenever I arrange a time to meet with anyone, I always have to ask “9:00 real 9:00? Or 9:00 Peruvian time?”.
‘Peruvian time’ means at least 30 minutes later, but really one hour and it can be all the way up to 3 hours. I’ve been to several events that were supposed to start at a certain time and don’t start until 3 hours later.
Maybe Peruvians enjoy waiting? I don’t really get it. As someone who is always on time for anything it frustrates me. I’m becoming more used to it the more I live in Peru. But, even as I get ready 30 minutes later, I still seem to wait around a lot.
3. They Don’t Understand How To Use Garbage Cans
There is garbage all over this country. And I don’t mean just a little bit. If you drive along any road, high way, walk along a beach, you’ll see an over abundance of plastic bags and other litter along the ground.
I don’t think Peruvians are taught the meaning of littering and garbage and the fact that plastic does not biodegrade. Even if there is a garbage can in their line of vision, they will typically just throw their plastic bottle, wrappers or tissue on the ground when they are done with it.
Other than the main Plaza de Armas in most cities, it’s almost impossible to find public garbage cans in Peru. This compounds the littering problem. Most Peruvians when they are taught about garbage and its impact on their environment, they will make more of an effort to properly dispose of their garbage, however, usually only at their convenience.
4. They Dip Their Wet Dirty Spoons Into The Sugar Bowl
Peru is a country that consumes a lot of sugar, almost always the brown raw sugar. Nearly all restaurants in Peru have a sugar bowl on each table. And after people stir their first spoonful of sugar into their cup, they taste the contents with their spoon and go back for a second spoonful.
This means putting their used, dirty and wet spoons right into the communal sugar bowl. Yum.
When you open the sugar bowl you’ll usually see clumps of sugar from the previous users wet spots. Not my favourite.
5. Disregard For Other People’s Space
Taking a bus in Peru generally means you get to listen to at least one other person’s music. Maybe Peruvians don’t understand the concept of headphones, but when there are multiple people playing their music on a bus, it gets irritating.
Often music is blaring from multiple phones or iPods and competing for sound space. Peruvians just want to hear their music and don’t care if other people want to listen to it or not. Go get some headphones!
6. Peruvians Drive Like Maniacs
Getting in a car with any Peruvian can be a scary experience. Getting on one of the longer overnight buses with a Peruvian driver can be terrifying. Rules of the road? They don’t care.
Buses take the long winding roads with blind curves and they usually drive on the wrong side of the road going around these curves at speeds you don’t want to even think about. You are thrown around in your seat back and forth as they go along these crazy roads.
In a city, there is no pedestrian right-of-way. Cars will not stop for you. And in smaller towns, there are no street signs, including stop signs or lights. People just drive however they want.
7. Cold Showers
I’m pretty sure I’ve met the devil and it comes in the form of a cold shower. Living in Cusco the water is not just cold, it’s freezing cold mountain water. It either comes out freezing cold or as ice, well not literally but might as well be. I spent 3 months living with cold showers. Let’s just say I didn’t shower regularly.
Unfortunately most Peruvian households do not come standard with a heating system for the shower and most Peruvians don’t see the point in fishing out money for a hot shower system, which is usually electric or gas.
In the warmer cities and villages cold showers aren’t a problem because the water is warm-ish and it’s hot outside so a cold shower isn’t so bad. But in Cusco when the air temperature is around 10˚C and the water maybe 3˚C, taking a shower is hell.
8. Peruvians Would Rather Not Have Your Business Than Change Your 50 Soles Bill
This might be one of the most frustrating Peruvian habits out there. Being someone from a Westernized country where your business is always welcome not matter how small, I’m confused by this habit.
When you go to any store, no matter the size, and you only have a 50 or 100 soles bill in your wallet you’ll likely get “you don’t have anything smaller?”. Almost every store in Peru hates to give you change. They expect everyone to have exact change all the time.
When you’re travelling in Peru, you usually get charged to take money out of the bank. So, if you’re like me and take out the maximum amount at the ATM, then you’re stuck with only 50 and 100 bills.
Trying to pay with these bills is like pulling out teeth without pain killers. Most stores would rather you take your business elsewhere than find change for you.
I’m trying to give you money! Take the bill dammit!