Peruvians are generally considered to be very warm and friendly to strangers, especially in the coastal areas and larger cities. However, there are some cultural differences in etiquette that can be off-putting for visitors – and some of our manners can strike Peruvians as unusual as well. We hope this guide to Peruvian etiquette will help you avoid any uncomfortable situations.
Personal Space: Peruvians – and Latin Americans in general – tend to have a much smaller ‘personal space’ than North American and Europeans are accustomed to. In other words, when standing near other people in conversation or a crowd, they tend to stand much closer than you may be comfortable with. While this may take some getting used to on your part, it can be considered rude or unfriendly to back away from a person you are in a conversation with.
Being Late: Expats often joke about “Peruvian time”, but it’s true that if you’re invited to a party or out for dinner or drinks, you aren’t really expected until at least 30 minutes after the arranged time – and an hour late isn’t out of the norm.
Gifts for the Host: If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner or a party, apart from showing up fashionably late, it’s considered proper to bring a small gift for the host and hostess. A small box of chocolates or sweets, flowers or a bottle of wine are all appropriate gifts. However, don’t bring any thing that may be considered extravagant or expensive – it can be overwhelming for your host, who may feel they need to reciprocate in kind.
Proper Attire: You may notice in Peru that the people tend to dress a bit more formally than you might be accustomed to. Jeans are becoming more common, but when in doubt it’s always better to use dressier clothes – slacks or pressed khakis for men, dress pants or skirts/dresses for women are nearly always appropriate. T-shirts, shorts and flipflops or sandals are rarely used, and definitely not for parties or going out.
Greetings: It’s considered polite to always greet people properly, even shopkeepers and taxi drivers, no matter how long you’ve been acquainted. A simple ‘buenos dias’ is sufficient, and don’t forget an ‘hasta luego’ when you leave. When being introduced, a handshake is appropriate in most situations, although women may greet each other with a kiss on the cheek – always lean to your left for the kiss to avoid a very awkward situation!
When in doubt about the proper etiquette, as long as you treat people kindly and with respect you can’t go wrong. Even if you make a faux pas, it will most likely be turned into a joke and laughed off (possibly for years to come!) – rarely will anyone be offended if it’s clear that your intentions are good.