1. The people. Every country has beautiful areas of nature, but Peru's real treasure is its people. I know that Peruvians can be hard to understand for gringos and Europeans (in fact, most Latin Americans are hard for them to understand), but I really like the humility and unassuming attitudes of most peruanos.
2. The food. Who doesn't like Peruvian cuisine? It is awesome, though I am going to commit a great sacrilege here and say that I like Mexican ceviche a little more. May it is just because I am more used to it, or the taste of the chile serrano or cilantro (yes, I know South Americans say culantro).
3. The weather. I think the weather here is great; I would much rather deal with fog and some light gloom than put up with the steamy heat of the jungle or the incredibly hot, sunny days in the chaco of Paraguay and Argentina.
4. Taxis are cheap here compared to other major cities such as Santiago and Buenos Aires, and that suits me fine, because whenever I make a trip across town, I go by taxi. I'm at a stage in my life where there are two truths: a. a stiff drink for me is undiluted orange juice; and b. I no longer wish to be jostled on buses and combis.
5. For me, it is easier to find products from the U.S. than in Santiago, Buenos Aires or Asunción. Those items here are pricey, but at least they are available.
6. Housing in Lima is considerably less expensive than in Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile, but unfortunately costlier than in Asunción.
7. The mostly live-and-let-live attitudes of the people, and the fact that you never hear comments such as, "I'm a fracking redneck and I'll kick your goat-smelling assets" or words to that effect. Violence for its own sake is particularly high in the U.S. and I have a real problem with that.
Sorry, I am probably going to step on some toes here. I do not mean to offend anyone, but I am going to criticize one institution heavily.
1. The stranglehold that the Catholic Church and its evil minion Cipriani have on public opinion here in Peru. For crying out loud. Cipriani is every bit as vicious as Pope Benedict, aka Nazinger.
2. Crime. I am not so worried about petty crime, because it exists everywhere, but what does concern me are the armed robberies on the street and those committed with the help of taxistas. Having said that, the situation is worse elsewhere. Crimes of this sort have been rampant for decades in places such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico DF, Caracas, Guatemala City, San Salvador, San Jose, and Mexican border towns such as Tijuana, Cd. Juárez and Matamoros.
3. Apagones. Electricity power outages happen a bit more frequently than I would like. So far in 2011 where I live, there have been 4 or 5 apagones. I would like to see that reduced to two per year.
4. Bureaucracy. It is a problem throughout Latin America, and I know it irritates gringos. I roll my eyes sometimes, but after 23+ years living "south of the border," I have grown accustomed to it. I will say that there are an easy-to-understand reasons for the bureaucracy (as a former poster said, in a store you select an item to buy and receive a ticket; you then go to the cashier to pay; you then go to another person to take delivery of the item): a. It affords additional levels of control. When one person handles all the operations, such as a cashier, it is much easier for merchandise to be smuggled out of the store unpaid. I am not referring to supermarkets, because there is only one area of cashiers, and that area is constantly supervised. I mean stores with many different departments. With the current system, Maria in electronics writes you up a ticket for a new printer; you go to the cashier Esmeralda to pay for it. She gives you a receipt. Then you head over to pick up your item from Heriberto, who stamps delivered and gives you the goodies. That way, if there is a conspiracy to steal merchandise, then 3 different employees in three different areas of the store have to be in on it. It also creates a paper trail for the accountants to follow; b. having that much bureaucracy provides jobs for 3 people instead of 1, and those 3 people still earn less money combined than one person would in Disneyland; and c. it requires less training and less direct supervision. If one person has to do everything, then that person will require more training and more autonomy, two things that Latin American managers still tend to shy away from.
5. This is a big one for me: substandard customer service. Admittedly, I am prejudiced since I was a customer service manager for Bell Telephone in the early to mid-1980s and also for an outsourcing company in Central America during part of the last decade, but I am still frequently appalled. Things are getting bad all over, including in the U.S. When I lived in Spain, I was unhappy with service there, and I am unhappy in Latin America. I will say, however, that service in Peru is superior to what you find in Buenos Aires Capital Federal, which is the worst service I have ever experienced. Just today, I wasted half an hour on chat with a company in the U.S. that also operates in Peru. The person in the U.S. told me to call Peru, so I called here. I told the person who answered that I had spent half an hour getting nowhere and had been cut off two times. Her response, "¿En qué le puedo servir?" I repeated myself two more times and got the same response. I then said, "Perhaps I have not adequately explained the reason for my call." She replied, "Así es, Señor. ¿Cuál es el motivo de su llamada?" The worst part: she was not trying to be rude or uncooperative; she simply did not have either the skills or the initiative to take ownership of the problem and address my concerns. Curiously though, she became helpful and positively sycophantic when I mentioned the name of the Company CEO and said that I should probably stop taking up her time and go bother the Florida attorney general instead.
6. Some of the sillier old wives tales, such as drinking diluted fruit juice will make you sick (believe it or not), or drinking beverages with ice will threaten your health, or that air conditioning will make you deathly ill. In all fairness, I have met people in the U.S. who refused to eat anything that had been in a microwave because "the food keeps cooking in your stomach."
7. The assumption by Peruvian friends that if you are a gringo, that means you are a complete innocent who is incapable of evaluating risk, danger and the general character of natives of Peru, who most surely are all out to get you. I usually respond that as someone who has trekked through the vecindades of Tepito (in Mexico City), there is little that frightens or surprises me in Peru. That does not mean I am willing to take my life in my hands as in the days of my youth, but I believe I am capable of deciding for myself whether or not someone is a threat.
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