Anna: Academic Troll
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Peru, etc.
My name is Anna Virkama, I am Finnish by nationality, and I have now lived a bit more than a year in Peru. I got to know the country first time in 1999, when I also met my Peruvian fiancé. When I came to Peru we were not yet sure whether we will decide to live here or move elsewhere. I used to live in Paris before I came here, and I used to work in the academia, as a researcher. I am a sociologist by training. Currently I am finishing my PhD thesis manuscript and I will have to defend my thesis in Europe (hopefully this year), but it seems very likely that we will stay living in Peru.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Quite soon after my arrival, encouraged by my fiancé. I think when everything is still new and exciting you are more open to notice cultural differences and observe things that with time become banal.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorites are the new series I recently started, called 'Entrepreneuring Expats'. For this series, I interview other expats and in addition to meet nice people, I get great tips from them.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Peru differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Not really, to be honest, I already lived in other countries and here I have my partner and his family for support. (See also my answer to the next question).
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Peru? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think it was easier for me, having already lived and spent longer period in foreign countries and culturally distant places such as Morocco. Also my study background in cultural anthropology gives me theoretical tools for understanding the cultural adaptation process and to this is a great advantage when you need to adjust to a foreign culture.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Funny situations in communication happen quite frequently as I tend to invent new words in Spanish (often inspired by French or Italian). Also, as a Nordic person I am quite eco conscious and Peruvians do not always understand my obsession for recycling and nature friendly products. How many times I have heard “Oh, but you can take a plastic bag, it does not cost anything” -my sustainable fruit and veggie bags have been a great source of fun at our local “casero”! They probably think I'm a bit loca.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Peru?
- If you do not speak Spanish already, start learning it.
- Start networking already before arrival, it always helps to have some contacts.
- Remember that Peru is still a developing country with some serious problems. Stay aware of safety issues by connecting with your embassy.
How is the expat community in Peru? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have connected with like-minded people through my hobbies, such as yoga and running. At the moment I think I have more Peruvian friends, but many of them have lived abroad themselves.
How would you summarize your expat life in Peru in a single, catchy sentence?
“Never a dull moment in Big Lemon”