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A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Peru

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Life in Peru

The country offers a rich heritage, from folk festivals and culinary delights to astounding landscapes. Thus expats living in Peru are usually very happy to call this Andean country home.

Country Profile

With more than 31 million inhabitants, the country is well on its way to becoming one of the largest in South America. Expats planning on living in Peru will belong to the numerous other people with multiethnic backgrounds. The population is made up of 45% Mestizos, 37% Amerindians, 20% European residents, and 3% black, Chinese, or Japanese Peruvians. The main language spoken by people in Peru is Spanish, with many smaller villages still fluent in a native dialect of Quechua. Most residents of Peru are Roman Catholic, while a small percentage (around 13%) are Protestants.

Peru’s government is a presidential representative democratic republic with a multi-party system. In short, this means Peruvian citizens elect a president and prime minister, both of which are to fulfill a five-year term. Voting is compulsory for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 70. The current president is Ollanta Humala; Pedro Cateriano Bellido is the prime minister.

It Varies: Geography and Climate

On an area of roughly 1.28 million square kilometers (496,255 square miles) you will find a very diverse ecosystem, encompassing mountain ranges, beaches, and rainforests. Expats living in Peru will be able to see such natural wonders as Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in Latin America, the Alpamayo Peak, considered being one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, or the Rock Forest of Huayllay in the meseta of Bombon.

Peru’s climate is extremely diverse because of its spread out and varied geographical layout. There are three main climes in Peru: the coastal climate is very subtropical, and expatriates in Peru’s coastal region will be happy to know that it sees very little rainfall! The Andes region in Peru has the characteristic of cool and rainy summers and very dry winters, while people inhabiting Peru’s eastern lowlands are exposed to the typical equatorial climate of very hot and generally rainy weather. It is important to note that due to Peru’s high altitudes in the Andean region, expats with respiratory complications should consider their move carefully.

Rich History, Rich Culture

The Peruvian culture is very intertwined with its Inca history. In fact, Peru features a combination of Hispanic and Amerindian culture. Most people planning on or already living in Peru will be familiar with the name Machu Picchu. This ancient Inca ruin, built in the 15th century, is considered to be the symbol of Inca civilization. It has been crowned one of the Seven Wonders of the World, as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city of Cuzco, where Machu Picchu is located, is now a tourist magnet, which is very helpful to the Peruvian economy.

Expats in Peru who are interested in folklore and traditions are happy to have such a wide cultural repertoire at their fingertips. Peruvians are very proud of their cultural heritage and also enjoy sharing it with others. Monthly festivals are the norm, and Andean music can be heard throughout the streets, especially in the smaller cities and villages. Due to Peru’s geographical diversity, different types of traditions fueled by the influence of the respective environment are able to coexist peacefully, highlighting Peru’s fascinating culture.

Peru’s Cuisine, Cities and Education

There is no traditional Peruvian cuisine per se. Again, due to the nation’s vastly diverse terrain, typical dishes will vary by region. Yet, there are certain foods native to Peru. For example, the potato, corn, and certain grains (e.g. quinoa), are part of the staple foods in every Peruvian’s kitchen. As Peru borders the Pacific Ocean, it has a very seafood-based cuisine. Typical Peruvian dishes which are spread out throughout the whole country are cevicheempanadas, and lomo saltado, and Peru’s national drink pisco sour is quite tasty, too!

One of the benefits of living in Peru is the availability of incredibly fresh produce, which is offered for sale at open-air markets on most weekdays. For those with more refined taste buds, Peru’s haute cuisine and fusion cuisine is also becoming rapidly popular amongst gourmet cooks around the world.

Lima: The City of Kings

Lima is the capital and largest city in Peru. Considered to be the best combination of modernity and tradition, this city of more than 10 million people is a cultural and historic highlight. With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, it also attracts many expats looking for a warmer home.

Lima is the industrial and financial capital of Peru, resulting in many expats being sent there on assignments. As is often the case in large cities, there is a strong divide between the rich and the poor. However, one can live comfortably in one of Lima’s beautiful neighborhoods, such as, for example, the famous Miraflores.

Trujillo: The Capital of Peruvian Culture

Trujillo is the second largest city in Peru, and due to its coastal location the temperatures lie between 15°C and 25°C all year round. It’s also considered Peru’s cultural hotspot: many examples of colonial and religious architecture can be found throughout the city center, as well as a lively arts community. Trujillo sponsors many national and international cultural events, such as the annual Trujillo Marinera Festival.

There is more to explore in the area around Trujillo, since two major sites of the pre-Columbian monuments are close to the city: Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the ancient world and the temples of the Sun and Moon, the largest adobe pyramid in Peru. In case you’re looking for work in Trujillo, the city’s biggest industry is agriculture. Sugarcane, asparagus, and shoes, in particular, are some of the main products of the metropolitan area.

Arequipa: La Ciudad Blanca

Also known as The White City, Arequipa is home to more than 920,000 people, making it the third largest city in Peru after Trujillo. Established in 1540, Arequipa was already then an important economic hub. Located on the southwestern end of Peru, it offers a warm dry climate almost all year round. With the three large volcanoes (the Misti, Pichu Pichu, and Chachani) at its foot, you will always have a gorgeous view. Do not fear the volcanoes, as they have been dormant for quite some time!

Arequipa has many colonial-style buildings, which were built by the Spanish conquistadores out of pearl-colored volcanic rock, giving the city its nickname. Since 2000, Arequipa has joined the ranks of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and its beautiful cityscape attracts many tourists as well as expats.

How It Works: Education in Peru

It is obligatory for children in Peru to attend school from age six until sixteen. Primary school (primaria) is attended between six and eleven, after which schoolchildren attend a secondary school (secundaria) from ages twelve to fourteen. Then it becomes a bit more complicated: based on the child’s interest and grades, he or she can go the academic route and attend a high school (Ciclo Diversificado Científico-Humanista), in which a Bachillerato Academico (equivalent to A-levels or the American high school diploma) will be achieved. As an alternative, students can take a more technical path and receive a Bachillerato Tecnico, after which they can seek a job in a technical field.

Most children attend private schools in Peru, aside from those who are unable to carry the financial burden and thus attend the free public schools. School uniforms are the norm in both public and private schools.

The Alternative: International Schools

Peru has many international schools. This article will briefly look at the most popular ones in Lima and Arequipa.

As the capital, Lima has several renowned international schools, ranging from English and American school systems to French and German institutions. The Franklin D. Roosevelt American School is very popular among American expat families living in Lima, while Colegio Franco Peruano is favored among French expatriates, as it teaches mainly in French. In addition, Lima is home to the oldest educational institution in the New World, namely the San Marcos University, which was founded in 1551.

As Arequipa also attracts many expats, there are also quite a few international schools located within the city walls. Many German expat families find that the Max Uhle Colegio Peruano Alemán offers a good blend of a German- and Spanish-language curriculum, while native English-speaking families tend to send their kids to Prescott.

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Please come and join us for the next gathering of the Lima Writers and Film Discussion Group. We will be watching and then critiquing the classic romantic comedy Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts a
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Come and enjoy a live concert with the best sucess of rock and pop from 80's and 90's (guitar, keyboard and drums) with a great singer by La Tarima Cafe Concert (restaurant and bar too), located at M
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Escape the ordinary and join us in Plural, in the heart of Miraflores. If you're ready to break away from conventional nightlife, Plural is the place to be – dedicated to pure listening pleasure. Enjo

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  • Brandon Le Clerk

    During all my life as an expat (Lima is my fourth home abroad), I have been searching exactly for a networking platform like InterNations.

  • Maria Borges

    InterNations and the Lima Community helped me to learn a lot about Peru and the Peruvian culture -- not to mention Lima's nightlife. ;)

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