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Peru is situated in the west of South America and borders Brazil, Colombia and Chile among others. Peruvian culture is an old one with a rich heritage that harks back to the mighty Incas. This old culture is infused with elements of Spanish culture that were acquired when the European power colonized Peru. Because of this heritage, Peruvians are proud of their culture and it is important for a visitor to understand the dos and don’ts in this lovely country. Here then are some of the important etiquette tips that you should know when you visit Peru.
Unless specified, you can dress pretty much to suit the activity that you are undertaking in Peru. Most tourists hiking the Peruvian trails will be in hiking boots and cargo pants and this is alright. Because Peruvians have a lot of respect for their religious institutions, it might be advisable to dress a little more formally when visiting churches or monasteries. Certainly when visiting such places, avoid outfits like peekaboo thongs and low-rise pants. There are restaurants as well that will specify a certain dress code. Please ask when making reservations if the restaurant in question has a dress code.
If you strike up a conversation about drugs in Peru, do remember that chewing coca leaves (or making coca tea) has been a tradition in Peru for centuries and you might cause offence if you do not choose your words carefully. Remember to refer to Amerindians as indigenas which is not offensive at all to them. Foreigners will often be referred to as gringos or gringas and you should not take offence as this is not meant in a derogatory way at all.
If you take a walk in most cities in Peru, you might have little shoeshine boys or girls asking you for money. The best way to handle this is to get them to earn the money by shining your shoes. This way, you reinforce the fact that they are not begging but working for the money. If you cannot do this, then politely and firmly decline their requests with a ‘No, gracias’ which is usually enough to stop them.
Questions About Your Family
You might find yourself being asked questions about your marital status or kids. This is fine and is not meant to be rude as family is important to many Peruvians. If the conversation becomes about money, (in other words, how rich you are), remember to reference the fact that the cost of living in the US is much higher than that in Peru so you might actually have far less buying power than they may think you have. Avoid bragging about money, demeaning your hosts or public display of wealth.
When you visit markets in Peru, it is alright to bargain although you must use tact when doing so. As a visitor, your ability to purchase items in Peru is fairly strong and beyond getting a good deal, avoid pushing too hard. This is because some of the margins that these street traders make are not as high as you might imagine.
When not sure, be sensitive to what is happening around you to get an idea of how to act in certain settings. For example, if you are in a location that the locals seem to treat with deference, it might be a good idea to also do the same.
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