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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!