First of all my apologies for this lengthy post but to give you some background, I came to Peru from the UK to try to start a new life with a Peruvian girl here in Lima. Our story is quite complicated...we met online years ago and initially we were just friends. In time our feelings for each other grew, reaching a crescendo this year, at which point i decided to come in June for 2 weeks to see if those feelings translated into something real. They did and we got on great....we fell in love properly. After that, I returned to the UK and resolved to return again 3 months later for a longer stay. I asked my employer for a 6-month sabbatical and they kindly obliged. I did this to maintain a safety blanket in case things didn't work out. Before I left I was hopeful of securing some work with the UN through a contact I have in the UK, who recognises my expertise in a niche field of sustainable development.
Now, I have been here for 3 months and things have not turned out as expected. The initial hopes and dreams have soured somewhat for a number of reasons. I love my gf dearly but I just can't adjust to Lima. I'm jobless and frankly I see little to no opportunities to rectify this. No offence to the many English teacher expats but teaching is not my profession and frankly the pay is abysmal here. I'm led to believe that with my non-existent experience, lack of work visa, and irrevelant qualifications, I'd be lumbered with working illegally for some $500 a month. This won't even cover my rent here and debts from the UK, which amount to $650 in total. I rent a humble abode in Barranco for $350 (everything included) and I shopped around quite extensively to find the best deal I could. My debts include credit card repayments and paying off my career development loan, which I took out to do a masters 3 years ago. Basically, I'm haemorrhaging money and my savings are disappearing fast. Peru is much more expensive than I expected....some things being extortionate, such as toiletries. My job in the UK is excellent, paying some $48,000 a year and I'm feeling really reluctant to give that up when I see nothing but destitution and struggle if I stay. I would never be able to do anything here other than subsist, at least in the medium-term.....I wouldn't even be able to ever go home and visit my friends and family, who I miss a lot.
My days are spent alone, friendless, waiting for my gf to finish work....and she works a lot. I feel useless, lethargic, lonely, and stressed. I'm dreadfully frustrated by my Spanish, which just doesn't seem to improve no matter how hard I try (i even force myself to listen to 2 hours of the Spanish CNN channel everyday!). Reading and writing I understand almost everything.....and my mastery of the grammar is pretty complete. However, I just cannot decipher the words during speech and it leaves me utterly despondent because I can't communicate and express myself....and it hinders my employment prospects. I did a month of advanced classes at ICPNA but the teaching was below par to say the least. The issue is that if ppl make a real effort to speak slowly and clearly my comprehension is almost perfect, even for complex concepts.....problem is that ppl are unwilling to oblige even after repeated prompting. On the street I have no chance and my understanding is often 0%.....i find the accent so fast, garbled, and poorly articulated. I actually get wound up by Spanish....I find the sound abrasive to the ears. It's probably a bit of bitterness because I think my language skills are just weak generally...and things are improving, albeit slowly.
I haven't seen any of Peru and I really don't rate Lima at all. It's a sprawling urban wasteland with homogenous, dull buildings. Most vexing is its atrocious transport infrastructure, which is an absolute shambles, and regularly has me audibly cursing. The fabled 'kindness' of the people here is lost on me as most of the time I'm amazed by the ignorance I observe, such as zero respect in queues, the perennial disdain of anyone serving in a shop, the stupidity and rudeness of ppl in the street, and so on. Of course this is a sweeping generalisation as many ppl here are indeed very kind, such as my gf's family and her close circle of friends, who are very amiable. Other observations are that the wages are poor, working conditions are savage (especially for Peruvians -including my gf), corruption is rife, meetings and other engagements are rarely honoured, and so on.
The other thing I've fought with constantly is the cultural dissonance between my gf and I. I'm used to having total independence and never relying on anybody (I left home at 18), whilst ppl here have a very unhealty dependence on their families (at least in my opinion, though I recognise that familial cohabitation is necessitated by the atrocious salaries here). I'm really laid back in my normal life but here so much is expected of me emotionally, that I'm often left feeling utter dismay. One minute everything's great, my gf loves me more than anything, and I'm perfect....the next it's like I'm some abhorent, heartless man who never considers her feelings....even if I won't embrace something seemingly small, like dancing. I'm crucified for criticising anything here, such as the ludicrous bus system but I guess any patriotic person would be defensive when their country is being picked apart. I should probably be more economical with the truth and keep my opinions to myself wherever they highlight Peru's defects.
The crux of the matter is that there's an expectation that I should just give up on my life in the UK and effectively be willing to bankrupt myself in the name of love but I can't help but feel that people here are innately unrealistic and hopelessly optimistic about things. I'm the one that's made all the sacrifices, spent thousands of pounds and is on the verge of making a life changing decision that will prove ruinous to my finances and career aspirations and yet I'm the one that's made to feel guilty and bad for even considering my own feelings about all of it. I understand there's an understandable fear that I'll go back to Britain but I believe that my concerns are justified and warrant some empathy.
The visa situation is such in the UK that unless she studies a univeristy course, she won't be able to go, which is incredibly frustrating and upsetting....this is of course unless we're married but even then it would take ages to sort out and I have neither the time or the money for that wait (nor do i think it's responsible for us to get married when we've only been together a short time). I've offered to help with every aspect of a university/scholarship app and i would certainly help my gf financially to make it a reality, without hesitation....but to do that I need to be earning British pounds and if i don't return to my job at the end of my sabbatical I'll have nothing to go back to and no fiscal resources to speak of (negative capital in fact). In spite of promising to pursue the masters idea I do feel there is some procrastination on her part, although I understand that she fears her visa getting rejected at the end of the process (apparently it has happened to her friends already). Regrettably, I am left questioning her conviction even though she says she'll follow me anywhere (that said I know it is very difficult for Peruvians to travel to Europe, with the harsh visa restrictions we impose alongside the vast disparities in dispoable income that hinder their ability to bring such desires to fruition). I do believe that people here have problems understanding the true value of money because they are shielded from the real world somewhat by their family ties. I know it sounds like I'm painting a bad picture of my relationship and that pains me because the majority of the time everything is amazing!...she's great fun, beautiful, witty, intelligent, and generous...in effect, the girl i love.....but then there are the extreme reactions and mood swings that worry me a great deal. I think more than anything it's the pressure of our specific circumstances, coupled to very polarised cultural differences, which at times seem insurmountable.
I guess the purpose of this elaborate rant is to see if ever expats have had a hard time here. Most of the stories on here are about triumph but I really want to know that I'm not alone in feeling slightly despaired here....
Thanks for reading
Last edited by Britinperu2
on Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:45 am, edited 3 times in total.