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Etiquette in Peru

South Americans are generally polite, and Peruvians are no exception. Greetings are particularly important here, and you should always greet people in a proper manner-it is considered rude if you don't. If you're a woman, kiss both women and men on the right check when greeting them; men should also kiss women on the right cheek and shake hands with other men. If you meet a group of people or go to a party, you must greet each person individually both on arrival and when leaving.

When entering restaurants, a store, or even browsing goods at an outdoor market, it's expected to greet the staff with a buenos dias ("good morning"), buenas tardes ("good afternoon") or buenas noches ("goodnight"), depending on the time of day, and to say gracias ("thank you") when you leave.

If you speak Spanish, use the formal usted version, unless the person you are talking to is a close friend.

Note that punctuality in Peru, as in many Latin American countries, is not strictly enforced, and people will generally turn up late to any engagement or meeting, so don't be surprised if you're kept waiting.

How to Dress

Peruvians are generally better dressed than most North Americans and Europeans. So if you are wearing old, tattered travel clothes and flip flops, you will invariably get some stares. That said, Peruvians are patient with the ways of the traveler and will treat you respectfully regardless of how raggedy your outfit—as long as you aren't trying to get into a nice restaurant, bar or club dressed like a bum.

In the Andes, people tend to cover up a lot more than on the coast: partially because it is much colder and partially because the culture tends to be a bit more conservative. You will rarely see an Andino wearing shorts off the fútbol field, and flip flops are an oddity. Men should never go bare-chested in the Andes. Likewise, women should never wear just a sports bra or swimsuit around town. If blending in is important to you: wear pants more often than shorts, don't wear flip flops; and when going out at night, men should wear collared shirts and women should wear clean, stylish clothes—pants are fine. On the coast, these rules are much more relaxed.

Food Manners

Table manners are generally more relaxed in Peru, so you needn't worry too much about them. Tables at casual, crowded restaurants are often shared, so don't be surprised. When you get up to leave or join someone's table, it is appropriate to say "buen provecho"—bon appétit.

Etiquette when visiting someone’s home

If visiting someone's home for a party or meal, it is polite to bring a small gift such as a cake for dessert or a bottle of wine. Bigger gifts can be overwhelming and the host may feel like he or she needs to give you something in return, so stick with something small. Peruvians are generous by nature and will want to feel one ahead in gift exchanges, so try not to overwhelm your host with expensive presents.

When eating a meal at somebody's home, make every effort to eat whatever is given to you and to finish everything on your plate-your host make take offence if you don't.

If you are staying with your host for an extended period of time, offer to help out with groceries and bring fresh flowers. A memento from your hometown like a photo, post card or small book will be appreciated. Also remember that, unless you are staying with a well-off family, your visit will probably be something of a financial strain. You can make it less so by taking short showers and minimizing electricity use.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Peru: Peru Border Crossings, Peru-Chile Border Crossings, When To Go, Gay Arequipa, Politics in Peru, Lori Berenson: An American Behind Peruvian Bars, Northern Peruvian Andes - Highlights, Peru Food and Drink , Travel Insurance In Peru and History of Lima.

08 Jun 2012

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