A funny and critical take on the peculiar customs one experiences living in Peru.
Venturing yourself into this big city of Kings called Lima could be quite an unusual and exciting journey. As I said before, after living in the States for so many years one finds himself noticing some peculiar occurrences. Just going into a little convenience store and trying to buy bottled water, one gets asked so many questions. I noticed all customers have to ask for the price of the item, even if they see the marked price in front of them or if they buy the same item every day, and this seems to be the norm for shopping in general. Once they have told you the price you will get asked the following questions
all of the time especially for water: Cold or room temperature, with or without gas, what brand name would you like?
I still don’t get the idea of drinking room temperature water. The thought here in Peru is that you could get sick with the flu even in summer time. I find this hilarious that anything cold will get you sick and I understand this being the reason for so many questions. Also when you do finally get to the part of paying with a 10 soles bill, you will get asked: Don’t you have anything smaller? Don’t you have any change? I’m thinking if I had anything smaller I would definitely pay with coins. Then comes the part where they become experts on counterfeit money as they check and double check your bill. They lift up the bill and check it through the light, they will try to scratch it with their finger nail to see if the ink will come off, and even sometimes pass their tongue through the bill.
As they shake their heads with disapproval you will get asked “don’t you have another bill?” So one is thinking…I just got the bill from the teller machine and as you are getting ready to voice that out, they will tell you that even the bank tellers will spit out counterfeit money. So after this long process of buying a bottle of water you are just feeling exhausted from it all. But this seems to be such a recurrent custom for the locals that it doesn’t seem to bother them. Going to the supermarket may save you all of those questions as you wait in the express line for a long while, but you will still get asked if you have a bonus card or if you would like a receipt or an invoice. And sometimes one thinks, I just want my change and get on my way and enjoy my cold bottled water. Not used to being asked so many questions to buy one little item. I guess it is just a matter of going with the flow, trying to turn something that may seem annoying into an amusing and entertaining experience.
So if you are either staying in Lima for a while or have decided to reside here, be prepared to order exactly what you want and most importantly, try to always carry change with you and if possible pay with the exact amount. By doing this, you will avoid unnecessary delays and may be able to quench your thirst without much trouble. And also something very important, if you pay with a dollar bill or any other foreign currency you definitely won’t get any change back. Come to think of it, it is much better now than it was before; people drink a lot more water. I remember in my days my parents would only drink boiled water with that horrible after taste, now we have a variety of choices. Welcome to the city of Kings.