Family is still the center of Peruvian society. Extended families often live in neighboring houses, and young cousins can be raised together as if they were brothers and sisters, especially in rural areas and small cities and towns. Women travelers over the age of 20 might be asked whether or not they are married or have children.
Many Peruvians seem to not be bothered with high noise levels, a cultural difference that most Western foreigners find grating. Shops will blare merengue, tecnocumbia, and other Latin pop music to the point where conversation becomes impossible but commerce goes on as usual. Radios tend to be turned up at the first sign of morning light, and workmen start hammering at dawn, so sleeping in is often out of the question. Ear plugs can be handy under these circumstances.
Most Peruvians are also used to crowded spaces and don’t mind sitting close to one another on buses and colectivos. While at the bank, they will stand just inches away from one another even though there is plenty of space around. In the highlands, houses tend to be small, often with many family members sleeping in the same room. Women travelers often think that men are pressing in on them, when actually they just have a different sense of space.
Peruvians also have a very different relationship toward time, taking things relaxed and slow without the hectic attitude of Westerners. If you agree to meet somebody at noon, expect to wait at least 15–30 minutes. You will inevitably sit in a restaurant longer than anticipated, waiting for your food, waiting for your bill, and then waiting some more for your change. You are never going to change this, so just sit back, be patient, and smile.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition