8 Peruvian Habits That Are Sure To Drive Any Westerner Crazy Peru

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.

Peruvian habits

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.

Peruvians are late

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.

Peruvian litter

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.

Peruvian switchback road

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.

Peruvian Cold Shower

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.

Peru 50 and 100 bills

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!


Pin Peruvian Habits To Drive you Crazy

  • http://www.travelwithgeorgie.com Georgie

    yea, garbage is the worst! What I found was that in many places they didn’t even have garbage cans. So I would wakk around the city with a the garbage until I would find it or get tired. And the music, yes! 😀 and 50 soles bills! Especially if you use combi, I think they would kill me if I didn’t have change. I always made sure I had some change with me and if I didn’t have, I went to buy something… I was always better prepared than some of the peruvians, haha

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    I hate to break it to you, but most countries in South and Central America are this way. The garbage, the driving, the lack of personal space. It’s a different way of life.

    • http://malsaway.com Mallory Aliaga

      Yes I’m sure they are almost identical all over South and Central America, andprobably Asia and Africa. I didn’t want to make generalizations about countries I haven’t visited yet.

  • Gemma

    They do drive like maniacs. A chica was knocked over on our bike ride because a taxi driver MOUNTED the pavement. It was terrifying. Our guide used to say ‘Quechuan time not gringo time’ implying we were the ones always late!

  • globetotting.com

    Some of these sound very familiar to me living in Mexico! Given that I’m almost always late I’ve adapted well to Mexican time and even my driving can go head to head with the locals. Fortunately, however, I do have a water heater and warm showers!

  • Bobbi Gould

    What a great post! I had no idea their customs were so different. Cold showers, garbage, and waking when everyone else wakes? NO THANKS! Though I must admit, I’m always running behind so the late thing would be right up my alley. LOL Thanks for the cultural education. Also just learned that it’s much easier to log-in to Disqus from laptop and not phone. :)

  • http://adventureinyou.com/ adventureinyou

    So funny because this sounds so much like the Philippines!!! I HATE the Filipino time mentality (I’m from the Philippines!) and the driving here is pretty ridiculous as well.

  • Kimberly Erin

    AHAHA I am with Buddy the Monkey down there….It doesnt matter where you go you are going to find….more Garbage than in Canada, cold showers, and crazy drivers….and the lack of change thing…just gets worse (see….Argentina) BUT there are way more GREAT things that make up for it!!

    also…I guess I have been living in SA too long because I am guilty of the sugar bowl 0.0

    • http://malsaway.com Mallory Aliaga

      Yes, I am aware that not only Peru you will find some or all of these. I’m guilty of adopting these habits too

  • Veronika Tomanová

    Noo, I can’t deal with people who are late and think it’s normal…I have already wasted hours, maybe even days waiting. Btw, I would’t also get used to the cold shower!

  • Jennifer @ Made all the Differ

    I hate the late culture in some parts of the world. I am one of those people who if you are more than about 15 mins late, I am leaving you. I hate wasting time waiting on people. Some of this stuff isn’t a Peru issue though. Trash happen everywhere as well as crazy drivers.

  • http://carpediemourway.com Lindsay | Carpe Diem OUR Way

    Ahhhhh lots of these things would drive me batty! I hate things that don’t start on time, or when dinner is late or people or late! And the not wanting to give change would really bother me too! This is a great post for anyone traveling to Peru!

  • Laura Lynch

    Yes, it’s a different way to life in Peru. You have to embrace the cold showers and the having to fill the toilet with a bucket of water to get it to flush issues or you might go crazy. Ha.

  • hannah

    hahaha this made me laugh! I agree with you some Peruvian habits can be annoying!