-Where were you born?
I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, though I have lived across the world in many lands. I "grew up" in New England, attending high school and college in New Hampshire, graduate school in Massachusetts, and lived there for many years.
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I am living here with my Peruvian family.
-How long have you been living in Peru?
Since September 2007
-What is your age?
I am 50.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Peru?
I met my wife via the Internet. I came here to visit for a couple weeks, and tried unsuccessfully to get her a US visa. I decided to sell all my things and move to Peru.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?
As a US-citizen, I acquired a 90-day tourist visa on entry. Today, the rules have changed -- the same tourist visa is available for 183 days, but one needs to ask for that length of time on entry or they could be given a visa for a shorter stay. I can now legally work here as I have acquired a Carne Extranjeria (resident permit) by marriage.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Medical insurance is easily purchased here (though may not be affordable on a tourist visa, depending on the carrier) and before the trip as long as it can be mailed for signature before leaving the home country. Some US medical insurances are invalid abroad, though emergency medical procedures are usually covered. With a Carne Extranjeria (resident permit), local medical insurance coverage is easily purchased and affordable.
-How do you make your in Peru? Do you have any type of income generated?
I have done quite a variety of things to earn a living, such as English language writing and editing, business and science consulting, and teaching English. I have used local job sites (such as LivingInPeru and El Comercio), international job sites (like Devex, DevNetJobs, Odesk, and Elance, as well as the Latin American version of CareerBuilder, called Bumeran), and networked through my expat community association (American & Canadian Association of Peru) and the Rotarians.
The truth here is that most Peruvian and US companies here only want to pay local salaries. One may be doing the same job that they can earn $45-70K annually in the US for $1200-2400/month at best. To make more than this, it is necessary to work for a foreign firm, have very specialized skills, and/or work two or more jobs.
-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.
I continue to try to speak Castillano, the version of Spanish spoken in this region of Latin America. It is crucial to be able to at least communicate in this local language to some degree. Lima is not a truly international city for the expat dweller in the sense that many others are. There are many local people who understand some bit of English and some others (French, Portuguese, German), but this is not at all to be relied upon. There are significant Japanese and Chinese communities here.
It is important to familiarize oneself with local customs. I've erred, unthinkingly, often by looking directly into the eyes of or talking excessively to women unknown to me (because this is perfectly natural in my home culture), but then have had to deal with some unpleasant consequences (accused of being flirtatious).
-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.
I miss family and international friends significantly, and have found that many with whom I was close in person, are not so generous with their time when it comes to Internet-based communications. For recreation, I ride my bicycle, play tennis, go to the beach, fly kites, go hiking, and visit exotic places. I have also tried paragliding, swimming with sea lions, sand boarding, dune buggying, and offroad biking. Its all here. One just has to get out and do it.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
When I arrived with the 90-day tourist visa, I needed to leave the country for a week to reinstate my visa every three months, so I visited Ecuador and Chile twice for a week of vacation. When I came in the last time, I arrived on the 183-day tourist visa, but have subsequently acquired a Carne Extranjeria (resident permit) by marriage which gives me the same rights as Peruvian citizens to enjoy employment. My continued efforts to find a longterm professional relationship with an employer have paid off, but only after many short term obligations. Now the struggle is trying to save funds to do more than just survive.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I rent an apartment for $400/month. The apartment has 4 bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, and 2 baths. It is possible to find apartments for $200-300/month if one is willing to live with fewer bedrooms. It is also possible to pay considerably more, like $800-1200/month to live in a penthouse suite with ocean view and 24/hr security.
-What is the cost of living in Peru?
For a family of 4 (3 plus live-in maid), our monthly cost is about $2300. This is based on $400 rent, $200/week for food, $200 for live-in maid, $150 for local private high school (not international school @ $16K/yr), $150 utilities (lights/cable/water/maintenance), $300 communications (5 cellphones/Internet accesses), and $300 miscellaneous.
I have heard of families doing a little better than this by cutting on food costs, but our experience (as of mid-2009) is that the local street markets are not much better than the full-blown Metro supermarkets. Thus, unless one is surviving on a sizeable monthly salary, it is difficult to survive. Many young, professional Peruvians live with their parents until age 30 or better, and in most young families, both adults work to earn a living.
Six months after having lived here on a Carne Extranjeria, one is considered a tax resident, so in addition to filing taxes in US, I must also file and pay taxes to Peru. The first $7K is exempt, the next $27K is at 11%, followed by $54K at 21%, should one be so lucky. In any case, if you are a US citizen, you probably won't pay taxes to US on most of that, and can live like a Queen!
-What do you think about the Peruvians?
I think most local people are exceptionally kind, fair, polite, and responsible hosts. Taxi drivers invariably try to rip off a foreigner, but if one knows this from the outset, remains resolute, calm and patient, within 3-4 cars they are going to be speaking to a driver who will ask them for the negotiated fare they planned to pay from the start. My neighbors and neighborhood vendors with whom I have built relationships have been pleasant, cheery, for the most part, and resourceful, when needed.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Peru?
Positives: Wonderful, beautiful, and kind people, exceptional food, fascinating multi-cultural places to enjoy and learn about, great nightlife, expansive beaches, good transport to get anywhere, good surf and wind, pleasant climate, varying ecoregions and physical geography, rich and interesting history.
Negatives: In Lima, excessive noise, traffic, pollution, and people; very cloudy in winter. Outside of Lima, negatives include lack of reliable transportation, communication, and access to medical care. Overall negatives must include rampant and significant corruption at all levels of society.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Peru?
Come with as little as one can as most items wanted and needed are readily available already. Some exceptions might include specialized auto parts and important non-generic medications. Prescription meds are available without prescriptions -- one just walks in and ask for whatever they need. I have lived in several countries for multiple year stays and from my experience it may take a little longer than usual to get over one's culture shock here -- during that time, one must remain calm knowing that it is their problem and not that of their host's. Learn the language as much as possible to increase understanding and enjoyment. Make efforts to connect with the local expat community online or in person. I've found the significant missionary community in Peru to be warm, experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful people.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Peru?
Potential and new Peruvian expats would be wise to look at these four websites at a minimum:
- ElComercio.Com.Pe (classified ads)