Tuesday marked the end of the first full week of my permanent move to Cusco, Peru. I’ve been taking a few notes about things that have caught my attention because they are either experiences unique to Cusco and Peru or situations to which I must adjust if I’m going to settle in to my new expat life comfortably.
Here are some of my thoughts and observations (in no particular order):
- Despite Cusco welcoming over 2 million visitors a year and the use of English is quite common in the major tourist areas, the need to speak Spanish is probably my highest priority. Unless I want to spend all my time in the tourist areas, eating at expensive tourist restaurants, and shopping only at expensive tourist stores then I need to improve my Spanish. That is why I have started lessons at Mundo Antiguo Spanish School this week. (More on that later.)
- Watch out for dogs! I’ve never seen a city with so many dogs running all over. On my first full day I was bitten by a large dog I passed on the sidewalk near my apartment. Thank goodness the bite was on my heel and the thick part of my shoe. When I got home I was relieved to see that the bite hadn’t even broken the skin so I assume it was a territorial display rather than a serious attack. Still, with all the dogs in every neighborhood roaming freely, I’m much more cautious around them.
- Patience is a required virtue here. It is perhaps the most important virtue. Things move at a different pace. Understanding and accepting this part of the culture is a key part of adapting to life here.
- Customer service is not the same as in the U.S. I’ve found that it’s not common for people to come up to you and ask if you need help finding anything. The good thing is that I’ve always gotten all the friendly help I need if I approach an employee first. And everyone’s patience with my Spanish is a huge plus!
- Watch out for dogs! I’ve had to deal with territorial and sometimes very aggressive dogs almost every day. Fortunately, I’ve learned that staying on the opposite side of the road and not giving any eye contact pretty much works every time in avoiding
- Modern technology is truly wonderful thing. Being able to text back and forth with your friends is a major benefit for someone who has left almost all of his friends thousands of miles away. Even in remote villages up and down the Amazon River, there’s a pretty good chance that you;ll have cell phone service.
- There’s nothing wrong with comfort food every once in awhile as long as it doesn’t become an obsession. I’ll admit I’ve been to KFC more than once, but I also eat at home more and frequent local restaurants with cheap and filling meals far more often.
- There is a cultural rudeness at times here that drives me crazy. People seem to have no concern for anyone else in the street. I’ve had people almost push me into the street in front of moving cars because they wouldn’t share the tiny sidewalk. When taking photos, you can almost always count on someone else stepping directly in front of you to take their pwn photos. Groups will take up the entire sidewalk and walk very slow despite knowing they are stopping everyone behind them. Of course, this doesn’t apply to most, but these kind of acts happen dozens of times a day.
- Watch out for dogs!