Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Contrast in Lifestyles

I’ve begun this post about five times over the last four days but have given up each time. I think it’s because lifestyles are intangible and hard to describe, at least for me. I mean, with a few exceptions I do everything in Chiclayo that I did in Wisconsin and vice versa, but I do them differently, if that makes sense.

Let me start with the weather. Whatever we’re planning to do today, tomorrow or next week will not be affected by the weather. It doesn’t rain here, and the temperature difference between summer and winter (both essentially meaningless terms) doesn’t vary that much. In the winter the sun may shine a little less and you may want to wear long sleeves at night, but that’s about it.

We shop differently here than in Wisconsin, especially where food is concerned. With Peruvians “fresh of the moment” is the guiding principle, so grocery shopping is done daily in the morning, typically buying only what you will eat that day. Bread is purchased at one favorite location, vegetables at another and meat/poultry at a third. Freezers are used for ice cubes. Refrigerators hold ketchup, mustard, mayo and butter. And beer.

Shopping for medicinal items at the pharmacy (Botica) is similar. If a Peruvian has a headache, they buy one aspirin. The logic is they only have one headache so they don’t need five hundred aspirins, and why tie up what little money they have in aspirin? The same holds true for anything from cough drops to prescription pills. The process to purchase is also different. To purchase that one aspirin you need to see the pharmacist, who will fill out a form containing your needs. You take that form to the cashier (caja) who will take your money and stamp the form. You then take the form to a third person who will give you your items. This procedure holds true in many small businesses of all types. Of course it’s a completely different story if you’re shopping at the modern Real Plaza Mall, with its upscale shops, Plaza Vea supermarket, multiplex cinema, and food court containing among others KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

The time you shop is also governed by local culture. Many businesses open at 10:00am; close at 2:00pm; reopen at 4:00 and close at 9:00pm. Others will have a completely different schedule, and none of them are consistent. With restaurants it’s always a crap shoot as to whether they’ll be open or not.

As mentioned in a previous post, the method of transportation during your travels is also different, as are the sights you will see and the sounds you will hear while conducting your business.

The most apparent difference concerning social activities is the time they begin and end. Parties for most occasions don’t get going until after 10:00pm. Food is typically served shortly before midnight when the dancing begins. Parties normally finish at 3:00 – 4:00am.

These are just a few of the small differences that, taken in total constitute for me a different lifestyle. There are dozens if not hundreds more I haven’t mentioned but will probably discuss somewhere along the line.



  1. Tom,

    I'm really enjoying your blog. Shannon K sent your page to my dad and he sent it to me. My wife is from Lima and we are currently living in Milwaukee. Its nice to learn about other cities besides Lima...I've been to Peru 5 times and Lima is all I know. Your insights so far are entertaining to read and they really remind me of Peru. You write very well. I look forward to more posts.

    -Adam Stoltenberg

  2. Welcome Adam, and thanks for the kind comments. I hope you will continue to find this blog informative.


  3. Is a good description. I know that hispanics like fresh bread two or thre times a day. But a city like Chiclayo has also supermarkets and a big traditional central market with many "juguerías", tastes and smells. Take care with robers if you go to a central market. And you have fresh fish if you like fish, any time.