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How to be a local in Peru

How to be a local in Peru When manners and formality are important in a culture, it matters even more that visitors adopt the host country's etiquette. That's certainly the case in Peru, where the indigenous tribes have built their reputations through their proper treatment of others.

That's not to say they're a stiff bunch, just that they value traditions and aren't so fond of the 'anything goes' approach.

The South American country itself is an awe-inspiring destination which has plenty to attract tourists. The Inca Trail is, of course, its biggest draw, but the Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon and the beautiful city of Arequipa also help to entice over three million visitors a year.

So if Peru is on your bucket list, here's TopDog Insurance team's run down on what cultural aspects you should know about before you go.

Stay formal

The rule in Peru is when in doubt don't be overfamiliar especially to those more senior than you in societal rank or age. The main greeting for strangers and acquaintances is a handshake, and it might take a few meetings before women go in for a hug or kiss. Many Peruvians, especially the indigenous Amerindians, avoid eye contact, especially towards the opposite sex. Also, being a polite and mannerly group, Peruvians go to great pains to avoid the word 'no'. They'll dress it up in a kinder way, so bear that in mind when listening to an answer, and read between the lines accordingly. Generally, it's best not to take short cuts when it comes to manners - all the good-behaviour pointers your parents and teachers gave you should come into play in Peru.

Peruvian time

Peruvians are notoriously late. Somehow, it's not considered rude to keep someone waiting in a café - though chances are they'll be late too. And if you're invited to a local house, it's almost impolite to turn up on time. So take any time you're given with a pinch of salt, don't be annoyed if the person you're meeting is late, and don't stress yourself out to get to an engagement on time - even business meetings don't run to schedule. The main exception is tourist activities, which work on international time - so make sure you don't miss out.

Barter away!

Like the best of the Middle Eastern countries, Peru is a great place for haggling. Don't be afraid to barter for goods and services - everything from taxi rides to tours can all be obtained for less with a little sweet-talk, and often the sellers expect a little friendly haggling. If a seller takes a long time to answer how much an item is, the chances are they're inflating the price and it can be bought for far less. Even if it seems the genuine price, they're likely to accept a small reduction for the quick sale. But stay polite, and don't try to continue bargaining if negotiations become heated.

Avoid hot topics

Because Peruvians don't like conflict, controversial subjects are rarely brought up. While many of us enjoy the odd conversational sparring match, in Peru it's best to stick to safe subjects like mutual interests and our favourite topic, the weather. While religion, politics and divisive current affairs are obvious no-no's, it's also badly received to comment on Peru's drug association. Even passing remarks on the drinking and chewing of cocoa leaves is viewed as derogatory.

Beware of western gestures

While many gestures are universal (everyone will know what signing an imaginary cheque means) others are specific to a country, and in Peru, some will cause offence. For example, calling someone over by curling your finger up is actually a sign of romantic intent and unlikely to be well-received. Also flapping your hand down, as if to say 'never mind', is a bona fide insult to the other person, so avoid that one too.

Wherever your globe-trotting takes you, spending time learning a few of the cultural dos and don'ts before you go and then putting them into practice while you're there is always appreciated by the locals and should make your trip go that little bit smoother. And it's good to know that TopDog Insurance are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day while away.

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