Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Traditions in Peru

Don't expect snow for Christmas in Peru! It'll be a green Christmas here. That doesn't stop Peruvians from drinking hot chocolate and eating paneton even though it's summer time. If you want to make traditional Peruvian hot chocolate, you'll have to use solid chocolate and add spices like cinnamon and cloves.

Some people may attend mass around 10pm on Christmas Eve, which is called Noche Buena. The main event happens on Christmas Eve at midnight when the family gathers around the table and has a feast, often with homemade tamales.

Gifts are traditionally given to children, but that doesn't stop the whole family from celebrating. If you're in the Andean, gifts aren't exchanged until January 6th, which is the Epiphany and they're brought by the Three Wise Men, not Santa Claus. Christmas trees are fake and can range from gaudy to normal. You'll certainly see it all in Peru!

Want to learn more about Christmas traditions in Peru? Check out these links!


Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 Peru Inspired Gift Guide

If you're looking for Peru inspired gifts, you've come to the right place! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Food and Drinks
There's no denying that Peruvian cooking has a kick to it. If someone you know is looking to add some spice to their life, why not get them some aji amarillo? It won't put their mouth on fire, but it will definitely add spice to a dish. 

For the cook in your life, get them a Peruvian cookbook. They have tons of great recipes like ceviche, lomo saltado, aji de gallina, papa rellena, and much more.

If someone you know loves trying different alcoholic drinks from around the would, they should definitely try Pisco Sour. If they like taking shots, there are a number of Peruvian shot glasses to choose from. And despite what the Chileans may say, Pisco is Peruvian. If you want to buy a unique non-alcoholic drink for someone, try Inca Kola. It's what Coca Cola is to the USA and what Irn Bru is to Scotland. 

Wool socks are a game changer. Once you try them out you won't go back to cotton socks. They can last for years, are much better for your feet than cotton since they're anti-fungal, and many of them can be tossed in the dryer. Alpaca is superior to wool since it is softer, warmer, and has no lanolin which means it's hypoallergenic. Alpaca socks aren't as cheap as cotton socks, but you're paying for quality. Considering how much use you'll get out of them, they are a relatively inexpensive gift, so buy a pair or two for yourself as well.

Alpaca sweaters are warm and have gorgeous designs. They're super soft and people love wearing them. Traditional Peruvian hats, such as the chullo, will keep your loved ones warm through the cold winter months. Don't forget a warm shawl or even a poncho that they can wrap around themselves to protect them from windy days.

Alpaca can be used for more than clothing. It also makes great blankets and throws. It's great for cozying up on the couch and drinking hot cocoa, from a Peruvian mug, of course.

If you know someone who could benefit from the gift of music, let the relaxing sounds of traditional Peruvian music take away the holiday stress. For the musician in your life, let them make their own music, you can get them a pan flute, rain stick, or if they're more adventurous, the cajon.

There are a number of good books about Peruvian history. The book Peru: An Ancient Andean Civilization provides a great intro to Peru. You've got to read New York Times Best Seller: Turn Right at Machu Picchu. Finally, The Last Day of the Incas is an epic story. For the person in your life who loves coffee table books, Peru from the Andes to the Amazon is a great photographic journey around Peru.

More Gifts
If you're looking for more ideas, here are other Peru inspired gift guides I've written.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Visa Fees for Latin America

If you're in Peru chances are you're going to want to travel to other countries nearby. Keep in mind that you'll probably end up paying visa / entry fees. Here's some info on what those are.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

101 Reasons to be Proud of Peru

Published in 2008, this book is a compilation of over 2500 reader responses to the question, "what makes you proud of Peru?"

Created by the team at Living in Peru this book is available in a PDF version or in print. You can find more info about how this project got started in this article or at 101Peru. It's available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese.

You should also learn more about Peruvian culture if you're going to be spending time in Peru. Learning about culture and customs can help you a lot.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Reader Request: Think Carefully Before Marrying a Peruvian

Updated 4 October 2017

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 pretty well in Peru. You will have to budget if you want to save or travel. If you're in Lima, here are a bunch of tips written by expats to help you out.
  • 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. 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Basic Overview of US Expatriate Tax Requirements

The following is a guest post by I.J. Zemelman, EA. Tax Operations Director at Taxes for Expats              
Bottom Line:  File Your Taxes Every Year
As a US expatriate working overseas you must file your US federal taxes annually just as you would if you were living in the United States.  Why?  Because your total world income determines your tax liability – not simply the income you receive in the states.  As an American expatriate, though, you have more tax saving options than those with a stateside residence such as housing and subsistence allowance, income exclusions, foreign tax credits, and more.  Savvy taxpayers who’ve taken the time to research additional deductions and savings opportunities or who work with a tax professional may have access to even more options.  Let’s refer back to the bottom line, though:  If you don’t file your taxes you don’t qualify for such deductions and exclusions. There are lots of tax guides out there designed to help you.

How to qualify for FEIE (Foreign Earned Income Exclusion)?
In order to qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on Form 2225 or Form 2555-EZ you only have to be a resident of another country and file your taxes in said country.  Married couples who both live overseas may file jointly.

A number of taxpayers are unclear as to what income qualifies for exclusion, and the answer is simple:  Only income earned as an employee or contractor.  Any monetary gain from dividends, interest, rental income, and other types of investment returns are not excludable from your US tax liability.  The last update to the amount US expats were able to claim as exclusion is $92,900 for 2011 and $95,100 for 2012.

Another definition it’s important to take a look at is exactly what constitutes foreign.  For IRS taxation purposes, foreign income is viewed as any income received outside of the United States or any US Territory, which include American Samoa, Guam, Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Republic of Marshall Islands.

Before you can claim FEIE there are certain additional requirements you must meet; you will be required to have lived in a foreign country for a full year, or at least a minimum of 330 days out of a 12 month period.

Information on Foreign Tax Credits?
Tax treaties with the United States ensure that you will be not taxed twice by 2 countries for the same income.  In order to ensure you receive your foreign tax credits you must file Form 1116 if you are an individual and Form 1118 if you are a corporation.  If you still owe anything to the United States after having applied your credits, the total amount you owe should be very low.

While tax treaties are great for saving international taxpayers money, there are a few important rules and exceptions of which you should be aware:
  • Travelling Restrictions:  Some treaties become ineffective if the taxpayer travelled to a country with restrictions such as Cuba.  It is important for you to check with the State Department before travelling.
  • Tax Home:  If you are involved in a civil unrest you may qualify for an exception which allows you to claim your overseas residence as a tax home.
Note: There are a variety of other rules included in international tax treaties such as those regarding the IRS auditing process.  Filing any return begins the 3 year backtracking period to which an IRS agent can perform an audit – including international returns or returns with no taxable income.

Keep in mind that it will not behoove you to try to give false information to the IRS, as quite a few countries including Barbados, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Jamaica, México, Trinidad, and many more have active information exchange agreements in place with the US.

If you are living overseas and you are self-employed you will be subject to all US income and SE taxes just as you would if you were living stateside.  It is important to be aware that foreign income credits CANNOT be used to decrease your SE tax liability. 

You will be protected, however, along the lines of Medicare and Social Security contributions.  The US has what is known as Totalization Agreements with multiple countries which prevent a taxpayer from having to pay into 2 social insurance systems.

Timing is Critical
American expats who are known to be working overseas or who can prove their income originated overseas will be automatically granted a filing extension to June 15th instead of April 15th.  Both military members and civilians working on overseas assignments qualify for this automatic extension. See our complete list of US Tax Deadlines for expats for more information.

Expats are also able to request a further extension and not be required to file taxes until October 15th.  This extension, however, is only for filing.  If you are an American expatriate and you owe taxes which aren’t paid by June 15th you will most likely be subject to penalties and interest.  If you are unable to pay before October you may be able to minimize your penalties by filing Form 2210.

The article is merely an overview of an overwhelming amount of US expat tax information. For additional help, please contact the experts at Taxes for Expats today or read more about taxes at these tax guides.
I.J. Zemelman, EA is the founder of Taxes for Expats
She may be reached at: +1-646-397-2887
Email: questions@taxesforexpats.com


Friday, August 10, 2012

What If I Can't Afford to Pay My US Expat Taxes?

The following is a guest post by I.J. Zemelman, EA. Tax Operations Director at Taxes for Expats                                 
If you are in a position in which you owe an excessive amount to the IRS from your US expat tax return there are a number of options that may be able to help.  Expat tax filing requirements are some of the most confusing of all, and quite a few expatriates encounter a tax burden from such confusion that seems insurmountable. There are lots of tax guides out there designed to help you.

Most of these situations stem from an expatriate’s lack of knowledge of reporting obligations, available exclusions and deductions, or a failure to file US expat taxes altogether.  Despite the circumstances which have led you to a precarious situation with your tax liability, the IRS understands of the difficulties expats face in filing their taxes, and there are a number of tax payment assistance options available to ensure that all tax obligations are met without bankrupting the taxpayer.

In this article we will take a look at some of the options available to you and how to take advantage of them.

Monthly Installment Plans

If there is no way for you to pay the entire balance of your tax liability to the IRS upon filing your US expat tax return you may be able to set up a monthly installment plan with the IRS.  The important words to recognize here, though, are ‘no way to pay.’  To the IRS, this does not simply mean that you don’t have cash on hand.  Before requesting an installment plan the IRS will want to see that you have sought out other means of coming up with the cash such as applying for a loan, liquidating your assets, applying for credit cards or lines of credit with high availability, or other means. 

If you have exhausted your possibilities and are unable to pay the IRS you may apply for an installment plan by filling out and submitting Form 9465.  If your proposed installment plan will exceed 120 days you will not be charged a fee for establishing such a plan, but there may be a setup fee if you plan to square away your debt in less time.  Note that the IRS will not accept monthly payments lower than $25.

Delayed US Expat Tax Due Date

Tax deadlines don’t always coincide with the most fruitful time of year for expats.  There are many US expat taxpayers who will have no problem meeting their tax obligations in a matter of a few months but are not in a position to pay at the time of filing.  In this case, the IRS may agree to extend the due date on your liability, but it is not free of contingencies.  In an effort to protect its financial interest the IRS will most likely file a Federal Tax Lien Notice against you until you have satisfied your debt.  If your plan of coming up with the money involves assistance or transactions with a financial institution, this lien may cause a number of problems in the execution of your plans.

While this may be one of the most desirable tax solutions to expats who can’t afford to pay their total tax liability, the IRS prefers it to be the last resort of a taxpayer.  On offer-in-compromise (also referred to as OIC) is an agreement between the IRS and a qualified taxpayer in which the IRS accepts an amount lower than the actual tax liability due.  In order for an OIC to be approved the IRS must be convinced that the taxpayer will not be able to satisfy his/her debt by any means now or in the future with an extended payment arrangement.  In order to ensure this isn’t the first option sought by taxpayers the IRS assesses a $150 fee for the evaluation of any OIC.  If you feel as though you owe the IRS more than you can possibly ever pay, you may apply for an OIC by filling out and submitting OIC Form 433-1.

Assistance with US Expat Taxes
There are a variety of programs for which expat taxpayers may qualify, and it can be quite exhausting reviewing your options and the qualification criteria.  Every taxpayer’s situation is unique, and identifying the most beneficial option isn’t always an easy task.  You can simplify the process by discussing your situation with an expat tax professional that is equipped with both knowledge and experience in determining the best course of action to take.

The most important thing to remember is that you have options.  If you ignore the problem and simply do not pay without communicating with the IRS you will find yourself in a much worse position with large penalties and a potential prison sentence. Be sure to consult tax guides or expat tax accountants who could help you.

I.J. Zemelman, EA is the founder of Taxes for Expats
She may be reached at: +1-646-397-2887
Email: questions@taxesforexpats.com


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Peruvians Must Pay Taxes on Their Worldwide Income

Updated 17 March 2017

The US isn't the only one that taxes its citizens no matter where they are in the world. Americans can get out of taxes provided that they fulfill some requirements and you can read more about this in the Tax Guide for Overseas Americans. If you need help with your taxes, there are plenty of tax guides out there or alternatively look into hiring an accountant who specialises in expat taxes.

Peruvians and foreign residents also have to declare taxes on money they make in other countries. Whether or not you can avoid paying taxes to Peru depends on your situation. See SUNAT for more info. In addition, having paid taxes to your home country does not exempt these funds from being taxed again.

This is the law, however, what is done in practice is different. I don't know anyone who declares their worldwide income to Peru so that they have double taxation. 


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Naturalised Peruvians on the Rise

More and more people are getting Peruvian citizenship. I remember when I got mine a couple years ago, people questioned me about it. My motivates weren't the best, but some of the people had been in Peru for much longer than I had and swore that they'd never get citizenship, but things changed.

When I was in the naturalisation office I had to deal with people who told me I HAD to change my name, yet a male friend of mine didn't. Actually, no man I know has had to change their name, it seems like only women do. In addition, everyone there was there because they were Peruvians born abroad and were trying to get citizenship. This was back in late 2008. My citizenship was confirmed in early 2009.

Once you become Peruvian, you'll have to assimilate to the Peruvian culture, so if you don't know enough about it, I highly recommend studying up on it.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lack of Libraries in Peru Leads to Low Literacy

I didn't miss food so much as I missed libraries when I lived in Peru. I guess I was spoiled to grow up near one of the best libraries in the state. Peruvian libraries just can't hold a candle to US ones. In an early post I wrote about the low literacy rates in Peru and how the government was fighting against illiteracy, but in my opinion, is making some big mistakes.

First off, I used to live across the street from the National Library. One day I decided to go visit and I didn't even get to see one book. Getting into the building is hard enough due to the lack of signs and security guards asking you what you're doing (Um, trying to get books?). So I went into a massive hall and went to the desk and asked to go in. Nope, I was refused entry. (Remind me again WHY I pay taxes if I can't even use the library). They said that I needed two reference letters and a letter from my university saying I was studying. There were fees, but since I was technically a student, I was exempt. I couldn't believe it! Sometimes Peruvian culture really ticks me off.

To make things worse, I later found out that you couldn't even TAKE the books out of the library. Kind of defeats the point of a LENDING library, doesn't it? Needless to say, I left, extremely pissed off, yet completely understanding why so many Peruvians are illiterate.

So I decided to go to Britanico and ICPNA and buy a membership to their libraries. I never actually used the Britanico one, but I did use the ICPNA one: I wasn't impressed.

You could borrow 2 (TWO: whoop-dee-doo) books and they had to be returned in prestine condition. I was slapped with a 30 soles fine and banned for two months when one of the pages bent on a 40 year old book. Seriously? I'd hate to think of the poor kids who check out kids' books. To make things worse, I had joined so I could research for my thesis and none of the books I needed could be checked out. Of course there was no copy machine either; you had to request copies: max of 10 and it took 2 days to get them. Again: seriously?! Oh, and you had to check your bags, they were so afraid you'd steal something.

And don't get me started on the toilets there. No soap and no TP was the norm. I went to complain once, it was a Saturday morning. I was told that the kids from the children's classes must have used up all the soap and TP for the day. They weren't allowed to use more than the quota for the day. Once again: seriously?! That's gross. Peru's not exactly a clean country, I can't believe they don't care about all the germs that would get on their precious 40 year old books.

Britanico's library is supposed to be nicer. I know it's bigger since I had a tour. Though I lived farther away. I guess there's always a next time!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

For Better or For Worse: Peruvian Education

My husband has recently told me he wants our daughter to study in Peru for 3 to 5 years. I nearly fell off my chair when he said that. Before he said if we had kids, he wanted them to go to Peru for 6 months to experience the culture. 6 months in one thing, 5 years is another. I have issues with Peruvian culture and schooling is one of them.

Image source
Now, I'm not saying that I want our daughter to study in the US either.

However, education in Peru is a bit of a nightmare. Private schools are ok-ish, though high grades are handed out like candy. I was told to change Bs to As, since my students were in therapy and a B would "undo everything the therapist had done".  When I refused to change the grades, the homeroom teacher changed them for me. Nice.

Public education in is horrid, especially after the results came out a couple years ago saying the average teacher in the public schools knew just as much as a fifth grader did. The way they care for schools is atrocious. Graffiti, overgrow school yards with weeds, rotting buildings, broken windows, and unhinged gates are just a couple of examples that I saw at the school on Benavides: in Miraflores to boot!

Alan gave 25 schools money to fix things and there were banners proclaiming all this. Though if you took into account the amount he gave and the number of schools, it came out to about $3000 per school. Not much, even in Peru.

Hopefully things will change, though it's going to take a while. One thing I know for sure, is that students who study at home are a heck of a lot smarter than those who go to school. No matter where that school is located.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Poll Results: What Will Ollanta Do?

35 people voted in the poll
60% (21 votes) thought that he would go back on his word (that's  Peruvian culture for ya!)
25% (9 votes) thought that he would keep his promises
14% (5 votes) choose other.

Image source
Be sure to vote in the poll for 2012: How long are you planning on staying in Peru?


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Surprisingly Pleasant Experience at the Peruvian Embassy

In order to cancel my POA (power of attorney) I had to get documentation from the Peruvian embassy here in Seoul. The embassy is more like a small office in a building near the major shopping area where Japanese come for the weekend. No security guards, metal detectors, no appointment, and you can use your cell phone inside.

I'd been twice before and I had come today because they had made a small mistake which neither they nor I caught. I was told that I had to pay for 4 pages to be printed and stamped and that would run me about $40. I paid, not too happy with the fact that I should have read the info more carefully the first time.

Then I sat down and waited and waited and waited. One of the things about Peruvian culture that ticks me off is the waiting around.

The head of consular affairs came over, apologised, gave me 5 key chains as souvenirs, and said the embassy would cover half the cost, since it was kind of their mistake as well. That was nice and it made the fact that I had to travel 3 hours round trip a bit more bearable.


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