Adjusting to Differences During My Homestay in Peru


Everybody’s different. Every individual culture, religion, and language, of course, is unique. And, yes, sure, we admit casually that different languages and religions and cultures are fascinating and obviously different from our own. But how often are we really, actually exposed to those differences? And I don’t mean Chipotle or even your local Norwegian folk festival. I mean, when are you really picked up out of your own life, with your own family, friends, culture, food, religion, customs, etc. and dropped smack-down in the middle of a different one?

In a homestay.

I have been in my homestay in Lima, Peru for more than three weeks now. In my last post I discussed culture shock. I just now am beginning to adjust to all these myriad differences, after almost a month since my arrival.

Inside and outside the house, I feel as if I’m in a new world. That’s not to say I fell down the rabbit hole and everything is topsy-turvy. It’s more like ending up in Oz. The world continues to obey the laws of physics and other such rules, but my own customs, language, and culture have long been left behind in Kansas (or in California in this case). Some differences are harder than others, and some are admirable. All are fascinating.


My homestay is located in the area of San Juan de Lurigancho in Lima, Peru. This part of the capital is its most populous district and is one of the pueblos jovenes, the newer parts of the city that are still being developed. My homestay does not have a microwave, we wash our clothes by hand, and there is no hot water. Immediately, I realized how much I have become accustomed to such conveniences of daily life, how most people I know have come to expect them, and how many would not ever even consider choosing to live without them, even for a few months as I am.

Another difficult difference of living in a homestay is adjusting to the personal habits and beliefs of your specific family. If you normally live on your own as an adult, you are the one making decisions and setting your own schedule. Suddenly you are at the whims of a new household and its rules about what, where, and when to eat, sleep, clean, etc.

My host family is very strictly Catholic, as are most Peruvian families, and this greatly affects their home and my life in it. Schedules are worked around church and mass, meals are never eaten before prayer, and certain topics are taboo and or at least frowned upon (like my truffula tree tattoo, my liberal belief system, etc.). When I merrily sketched a picture of the Statue of Liberty for the 4th of July and explained its significance, my family told me that they appreciated its beauty but that it was, in fact, a false idol.

However, one difference I have particularly found to my liking here is the inclusion and appreciation of indigenous cultures. I have witnessed more than one parade and dance tribute to the native cultures in Peru, and I have noticed an occasional sign written in Quechua, and many older adults know more than a few words of their ancestors’ native language.

Additionally, at least in the region where I am living, most people get their food fresh every morning from the local market. Vegetables and fruit are brought everyday into town, and chickens are butchered in the same place they are sold to local families to be eaten later that day. Virtually no food in my homestay is processed or even canned, and so I am able to witness and taste the wondrous variety of dishes and flavors of healthy Peruvian food.


With all the differences I am dealing with, I know that I am living like a real Peruvian. I really am experiencing another country as the people who live there do. I walk to the market with my host mom, cook pescado and quinoa, clean the house with my homestay sister, and hang up my clothes to dry on the roof in the company of the dog. I watch dramas in Spanish, buy churros and quail eggs on the street, and pay two soles to have a ride on a “moto-taxi” to the supermarket to buy bread.


For now, I am learning, teaching, and sharing. In two more months, I will be back in California, appreciating my unique experience but knowing that there is no place like home.

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