An Etiquette Guide For North Americans Volunteering In Peru

When volunteering abroad in Peru as a North American, it’s important to be mindful of local customs and etiquette to show respect and foster positive interactions. Here are some tips on how to be polite in Peru:



Start conversations with a warm greeting such as “Buenos días” (Good morning), “Buenas tardes” (Good afternoon), or “Buenas noches” (Good evening). Handshakes are common for introductions, but close friends may greet with a hug or cheek kiss. For a list of common Spanish phrases you may need while you are volunteering in Peru, click here.

Use “usted”

When speaking to someone you don’t know well or who is older or in a position of authority, address them using the formal “usted” instead of the informal “tú.”


Polite language

Use polite expressions like “por favor” (please), “gracias” (thank you), and “de nada” (you’re welcome) in your interactions. These words go a long way in showing respect and appreciation.


While Peruvian culture can be more relaxed with time, it is still important to be punctual for formal appointments and business meetings. However, social gatherings may have more flexible timing.

Respect personal space

Peruvians appreciate personal space, so maintain a comfortable distance when interacting with others, unless you’re already familiar with them.


Dining etiquette

When invited to someone’s home or dining out, wait for the host to start eating before you begin. It’s customary to compliment the food and express gratitude after the meal.

Learn basic Spanish phrases

Attempting to communicate in Spanish, even with basic phrases, shows respect and can help in everyday interactions. Locals will appreciate your efforts.

Dress modestly

In more conservative areas, it’s advisable to dress modestly and respectfully, especially when visiting religious sites.


Be open to cultural differences

Embrace and appreciate the diversity of Peruvian culture. Show curiosity, ask questions, and be open-minded when learning about local traditions, customs, and beliefs.

Follow local customs

Familiarize yourself with local customs, such as removing your shoes when entering someone’s home or covering your shoulders when visiting churches.

By demonstrating respect, humility, and cultural sensitivity, you can enhance your interactions and have a more enjoyable experience as a North American visitor in Peru.

If you are interested in volunteering abroad in Peru, MEDLIFE offers Service Learning Trips to Lima and Cusco that bring a holistic approach to assisting local communities to access healthcare, infrastructure, and education. Visit our website to find out more!


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.