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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Peru

Possibly as a legacy of the strongly hierarchical pre-Hispanic cultures or European colonialism, self-discipline is strongly advocated among Peruvians. The control of one's emotions and feelings is highly valued among all Peruvians, but especially among men.

Respect for elders, shown through such actions as giving up one's seat for elderly people on buses, also has a strong place among public values. These values of discipline and respect for others are in sharp contrast to a political scene marked with great levels of authoritarianism and widespread corruption.

Youths are also responsible for providing a strong alternative counter-culture to main normative values. This counter-culture is mainly expressed through musical outlets, such as the national adaptation of rock and punk music, and North American tastes in fashion and popular culture. Public expressions of sexuality, including that of homosexual behaviour, is strongly discouraged.

Although some would argue otherwise, Peru could be described as a patriarchal society. Men are preferentially treated in most, if not all, aspects of society. Sons are preferred over daughters, are given more freedom, and are less burdened with household chores and family obligations.

In theory men are expected to marry and provide for their families. There are, however, large numbers of female-run households where the mother has to work and provide for her children. Meanwhile, it is a common social practice for men to have other female lovers and children outside of their initial marriage.

Unlike most urban Peruvians (over two-thirds of the country), the rural populations still maintain strong ties to their extended kin. Many rural populations, even when they have moved to urban centres, recognise their ties to large extended kin groups known as ayllus. Since pre-Hispanic times ayllus have defined land distributions, social obligations and authority figures within each kin group. At present, ayllus still play a powerful part in defining people's roles and obligations in village social structures.

Don't use the word "indio", although it's Spanish. For natives, it sounds like "nigger" since it was used by Spanish conquerors. The politically correct way of speaking is "el indígena" or "la indígena" – although, like "nigger", very close people inside a circle of friends can get away with it. Another word to be careful with is "chola/cholo" or "cholita", meaning indígena. This may be used affectionately among indigenous people – it's a very common appellation for a child, for instance but is offensive coming from an outsider.

Even if you have about 20 "No drugs" T-shirts at home, accept that especially people from the country side chew coca leaves. See it as a part of the culture with social and ritual components. And keep in mind: Coca leaves are not cocaine and they are legal. You can try them to experience the culture. If you don't like to chew them, try a mate de hojas de coca. Also quite effective against altitude sickness.

Officially, most of the Peruvians are Roman Catholic, but especially on the country-side, the ancient pre-Hispanic religiosity is still alive. Respect that when visiting temple ruins or other ritual places and behave as it were a church.

While country often equated with Mexico in the American Media, Peru have little in common with Mexico, apart from Spanish and having native people. It's offensive to compare countries.

Know the locals, not all of the country consists of native people wearing ponchos, just like not every American is a Texan cowboy.





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