Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The 1-2-3’s of Adapting to Life in Lima

The following is a guest post by Alan LaRue. He is the founder of the Expatperu.com website and the Webspanish.com online school. He has lived in Peru since 1995. There are a number of good books about Peruvian history, such as the New York Times Best Seller: Turn Right at Machu Picchu and The Last Day of the Incas.  

The 1-2-3’s of Adapting to Life in Lima
So, you have decided to relocate to Lima, Peru and you are doing your research to smooth your transition. Good for you! This webpage is a great source of information and I was pleased to be asked to contribute a guest post with some advice for newcomers.

I have lived in Lima for more than 20 years now, and over the past two decades I have seen countless foreigners move here, and I see how some adapted much better than others. Based on their experiences - and my own lessons learned – I´d like to offer you a few shortcuts to adapting to life here. After all, the faster you adapt, the faster you can get on with the chore of making a living, raising your kids, or just living the adventure of a new life in an exciting country, all despair of culture shock.

Step One – Do Your Research 
There are three web pages that stand out from the crowd in terms of providing advice for foreigners relocating to Peru. These are The Ultimate Peru List, Expat Peru and Lima Easy. Take some time and read all that these web pages have to offer; they are all based on personal and collective experience, and while some of the information you find might be out-dated, these three webpages are a tremendous resource.

Besides reading these pages, my advice is that you spend some time reading up on Peru´s economy. The best source I have found is the data rich Peru Business and Investment Guide. Follow the link and download the PDF: you will be amazed at how much information is included here. This guide book is chock-full of charts and graphs gleaned from the World Bank, the Central Bank of Peru, the Peruvian statistical agency INEN, and a host of other reputable sources. When you read it you will gain an overview of the Government of Peru, and the country´s geography, demographics, trade agreements, economic sectors, taxation rules, investment laws, visas, and an up-to-date directory of the main government and regulatory agencies.

Then, round off your reading with the well-written “Lima: A Cultural History”, by James Higgins. I have read dozens of books on Peru and this one stands out as one of my favorites! The book includes a brief history of Lima, a description of its modernization and change, an overview of colonial houses and monuments, an explanation of the historical center and nice descriptions of the neighborhoods where foreigners most often settle, such as Surco, San Isidro, Pueblo Libre, Callao and Miraflores.

So in conclusion: Do your research. You will feel more confident upon arrival and you will have developed some criteria to help you conduct your own analysis of your new-found home.

Step Two: Connect With People
Ask any psychologist - or your mother for that matter - and you will be told that one of the best ways to keep up your spirits is to surround yourself with friends. This holds especially true when you move to a new country or city because - besides giving emotional support - friends will give you the basic information and tips you need when settling in. With this in mind, I´d like to recommend a few networks where you can find people who want to get to know you, and who are happy to help.

Do you use Facebook? If so, the two must-joins are Expatriates in Peru and Living in Lima – Expat Support. Both have a large community of people who have already relocated to Peru. If you are an entrepreneur, you can also consider joining Expat Entrepreneurs in Lima. These guys organize regular face-to-face meetings where entrepreneurs share their experience and network. If joining a forum is more your thing, I invite you to join the Expat Peru forum (I am the founder) where you will find an archive of thousands of questions and answers.

Besides virtual communities, there are other groups where expats and Peruvians meet in an English-speaking environment. Visit the Lima Toastmasters Club and hone your public speaking skills over a hot lunch and camaraderie. For the religious minded, check out the Union Church of Lima and the Anglican Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Both are large communities that bring together a wide mix of people from all kinds of backgrounds.

You already know that learning Spanish is a crucial ingredient to your success in Lima, but did you know that you can begin studying Spanish online with a teacher from Lima before you travel? Studying with a teacher from Lima gives you the added benefit of receiving Spanish lessons from someone who also serves as a cultural guide, and who can give you all kinds of practical advice about living in Lima. Allow me to pitch my online Spanish school Web Spanish. Web Spanish is a pioneer in offering private classes online. Opened in 2005, Web Spanish has some of the best Spanish teachers you can hope to find online.

Step Three – Get Your Bearings
One of the best things you can do in your first few weeks in Lima is to treat yourself to a tour of Lima. Clarification: I am not talking about the classic, touristic city tour, but a down-to-earth excursion where you venture into the 4 corners of Lima. Only by doing this can you fully grasp what it means to live in a city of 10 million people, and begin to understand what life if for most of the city´s inhabitants.

 This sounds daunting, but in practice, it is very doable. Taxis are relatively inexpensive here, so ask around and find a reputable driver who can give you an hourly or day rate and explain to him that you want to see Lima up and down, the good and the bad. A full-day tour should cost you around US$60, a small price to pay for such an incredible educational experience. Make sure your driver takes you up to the top of Morro Solar and the Cerro San Cristobal where you can get a bird´s eye view of the city. If you are on a tight budget, you can do the same with using the bus system, but my suggestion here is that you go accompanied by someone who already knows the city well.

Lima is full of museums - some much better than others - but for a newcomer trying to get her bearings, I´d like to recommend three. The first is the Museo de la Gastronomia. There is no other single place where you can get such a good understanding of Lima´s varied and rich cuisine. Then, there is the Cathedral of Lima, which gives you a sense of the important role played by the Catholic Church in Lima´s colonial and republican history. These two museums are within walking distance of one another and can be visited on the same day. Then, go to Miraflores and tour the Huaca Pucclana, a pre-colonial pyramid made of mud bricks with a small site museum. It´s a beautiful location and it will give you a sense of Lima´s pre-colonial history.

I hope this short guide will help you as you relocate. Lima is a fun, exiting city, but not without its challenges. Taking your adaptation process seriously will help you settle in faster and better. Good luck, and enjoy!


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