Monday, September 17, 2012

Reader Request: Think Carefully Before Marrying a Peruvian

Updated 4 October 2015

Got your attention, didn't I? I was thinking about making "Think Carefully Before Getting Married" the title, but since my blog is about Peru, I figured I'd tweak it a bit. I'm not saying that you shouldn't marry a Peruvian, but what I'm saying is that marrying a foreigner can be more difficult than marrying someone from the same country or culture. Also, dating someone is vastly different than marriage. Americans marrying Americans have usually been brought up similarly and can relate to many of the same things. Americans marrying Brits might have some difficulties, but their background is often the same. However, Americans marrying Peruvians often have many difficulties that they encounter. My marriage ended after nearly 8 years. Here's what I had to do to get a divorce in Peru.

Love is blind (deaf, dumb, and stupid) and everyone knows that, but it doesn't stop us from jumping in. Try to learn Spanish. The Rosetta Stone is amazing and you can learn at your own pace. Don't forget to read up on Peruvian culture, it will help you understand more about Peru and its people, including your in-laws.

Online love
With the internet, more and more people are marrying people they met online. While it's good in one way since the focus is getting to know each other mentally rather than physically, I also think it's really romanticised and people get married too quickly.

A bit of help please
I get countless emails from foreigners, mainly from the US and the UK, but other countries as well, such as Canada, Germany, etc, asking me what docs they need to marry their Peruvian sweetheart. I wrote the post how to get married in Peru in order to help people out. I also get lots of emails asking me how to divorce a Peruvian because things didn't go according to plan, they felt like they had been used for visas or money, or cheating occurred.

Pedal to the metal
More often than not these couples have known each other for less than 2 years. Sometimes the foreigner wants to live in Peru and sometimes they ask me about visa info to go back home. More often than not when the foreigner wants to live in Peru, it's "forever".

I'm going to live in Peru forever
I can't help but smile and shake when I see that a foreigner wants to live in Peru forever. It's got nothing to do with Peru itself, but living in a foreign country forever is the hard part to understand. Many times these people have only spent a week or so in Peru on vacation and have never lived outside their own country. They don't speak Spanish and their plan is to teach English. While I myself am an English teacher and blog about it at TEFL Tips, I will admit that it's not easy. Especially in Peru. Older people have a tougher time than younger people. They're leaving their careers, benefits, and decent salaries behind.
  • Jobs: Teaching English doesn't pay that well and there are minimal benefits. You often have split schedules and have to cater to people who don't want to study, yet think that you hold the secret to teaching them English. There are other jobs available, but Peru isn't known for its high salaries. Expats get great packages, but if you're already in Peru when you're hired, you're often given a local contract which means you can kiss those high salaries, benefits, and perks out the door. If you want to work in a Peruvian company you'll probably have to learn Spanish and you're going to need a higher level of Spanish than being able to ask "how much is this?" and "where's the bathroom?"
  • Cost of living: While many people are thinking, "but the cost of living in Peru is so much cheaper," I know that this is partly true. If you want to live like a local then the cost is cheaper, but other things are more expensive. We rent out our apartment in Surco. It's a walk-up on the 4th floor with rattly windows, no heat, no insulation, a minimal kitchen, two baths (but one's outside and doesn't work) and very poorly laid out. While it has 80 m2, it's unfurnished and has no parking space. We rent it for $400. That's a lot of money in Peru where the average salary is about $500 a month. Most English teachers are earning about $10 an hour (if that, which comes out to about $800 a month). Whereas in the US you'd pay about double that ($800), but have a much nicer place. In Peru a higher percentage of your income tends to go towards housing. Transport is cheap in Peru, if you want to take combis. I did for years and they took forever, stopped at green lights, went at red, were driven by maniacs with dirty fingernails, had people crouching down in mini-vans, fighting over fares, bribing police officers, making me angry and stressed out. Many expats drive or take taxis due to this. Electronics are much more expensive in Peru. The good news is that food and household help is pretty cheap. You can live ok in Peru if you don't expect to live like an expat, travel, or save.
  • Other concerns: If you're going to have kids, education is another concern. Public schools are appalling and private education usually starts around $10,000 a year. Some of the better schools run as much as $25,000.

Taking my Peruvian sweetheart back home
Just as you'd have problems living in a foreign country, your spouse-to-be will also run into problems. Many Peruvians miss their families much more than we miss ours. Getting things done can be harder. Peru is a country of flexibility. Laws are grey, not black and white. Emphasis is put on helping people out, doing favours, and bending the rules. Time is another issue as it is rigid abroad whereas in Peru you have "hora Peruana" and "hora Inglesa" and most Peruvians prefer the former.

Hindsight is 20/20
Flexibility seems to be the key in Peru and marriage is no exception. Many Peruvians have parejas rather than spouses and having children out of wedlock seems more excepted, which is odd since Peru is such a Catholic country. Despite this, divorce is also very common. The only legal marriage takes place at city hall; church weddings aren't legal.

Unfortunately, many divorced foreign wives that I know ended up divorcing due to their cheating Peruvian husband. While it may be more accepted in Peru or people turn a blind eye, that's usually the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Think before you leap
I'm not saying that you shouldn't marry a Peruvian. What I am saying is that I think many people get blinded by the fact that they're going to marry a foreigner. They tend to think less and move more quickly than if they were with someone of the same nationality. When really, the opposite should be true. If you're going to marry a foreigner, you need to think twice as hard as you would if you were marrying someone from the same country as you.

I know plenty of happily married Peruvian-foreign couples. I also know plenty of happily divorced (and bitterly divorced) Peruvian-foreign couples. Marriage is a decision that will affect you the rest of your life, so give it some thought and time before you jump in. 




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