Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 09/06/15
Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. We have lived in other places in WHA, EAP, and NEA.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
5.5 hours to Miami or FLL direct, easy, daily flights (but most are red-eye).
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are several housing locations and types for the US Embassy community:
- La Molina is 20 to 45 minutes from the embassy depending on traffic, east of the embassy, in the hills, so you get sunshine and warmer days in the winter, all houses, more suburban.
- Camacho/Surco, within walking-distance of the embassy/American School (Colegio Roosevelt or FDR) is under 2 miles from the embassy in a busy area that's quite congested with apartments, houses, and townhouses.
- Miraflores/San Isidro is 25 to 60 minutes west of the embassy, depending on traffic, and is on the ocean with very urban living, lots of nightlife, restaurants, shops, and malls, You don't need a car on weekends. It is mostly apartments, with some houses.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fresh produce and crude items are extremely cheap here. I can walk away from a local supermarket (Plaza Vea) with two shopping bags filled with fruits and vegetables and spend $4. You can also buy tons of imported food items, mostly from the US, which are much more expensive but often worth it.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are thousands of restaurants in Lima. Peru is a fresh-eating culture. Peruvians are into fresh, local, homemade, organic, low-chemical, natural foods. There are tons of organic markets sprinkled all over the city, many within walking distance of where most expats live in La Molina, San Borja, Miraflores, and San Isidro. Peruvians understand food allergies---all you need to do is explain to the waiter the allergy, and they will make sure your food is free of that product (whether it's gluten, dairy, shellfish, or other items)---but being able to explain your food restrictions in Spanish is a must here.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Despite what other folks have said, there are mosquitoes in Lima, and windows don't have netting on them. But the problem is not that bad. Ants are a problem in kitchens. Bring non-toxic ant killer.
1. What English-language religious services are available locally?
None that I am aware of.
2. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need to be fairly comfortable in Spanish here.
3. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Despite what someone previously wrote, there are Peruvian laws protecting the rights of the disabled. Most noticeable is the law that elderly, small children (under 3 years of age), pregnant women, and disabled folks are all allowed priority queuing anywhere in the country---although they must self-identify as such. For example, there are special check-out queues for these categories in supermarkets here. Disabled parking spots are usually readily available and are rarely abused. Sidewalks in San Isidro are wide, clean, and have ramps. The same cannot be said for sidewalks in Camacho & La Molina (where they are non-existent) or in Miraflores (the sidewalks are narrower and dirtier in Miraflores than in San Isidro). If there was a wheelchair-bound person or someone with a mobility issue coming to Lima, I would recommend living in San Isidro, but in a one-storey house due to frequent-enough electricity and elevator outages that would make someone housebound in a multi-storey apartment building. Most buildings in Lima have wheelchair/pram ramps.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Lima is a critical crime threat post. You need to be security-conscious all of the time. Recently, there was an armed robbery on my street. There have been a many armed robberies on the Malecon, the oceanfront boardwalk in Miraflores. You need to be aware of your surroundings. That said, many Peruvians have said joggers wearing nothing but workout clothes (and probably no Iphone) will never be mugged. Here it's about opportunity crime, not idealism or terrorism or kidnapping.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
E coli is rampant in Peru, and several people have suffered long-term from this illness. There really is no treatment for this--just rest (for months). The US Navy maintains a tropical-disease research laboratory and will test US Embassy personnel for free, so the test results are rock-solid reliable. Medical care is not great here, so the 15% differential is well-justified. Doctors have been known not to show up for medical appointments. Altitude sickness is a major issue in visiting tourist locations outside of Peru. Only some are within driving distance, others are flights away. Take precautions prior to visiting high-altitude places, and when feeling weak, light-headed, or ill, do not be embarrassed to request oxygen. Stay only in hotels that have oxygen by request.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality in the city is moderate. Because Lima is overpopulated, there are too many vehicles on the roads. And because it does not rain here, the air quality is not great. Lima grew too quickly in the 1980s and 90s when campesinos fled from the provinces to escape terrorism, and the city's infrastructure was unable to keep up. Moreover, due to being on a seismic zone, there is no subway system and there are very few tunnels, meaning very few freeways in the city. So traffic is really awful here in Lima---which adds to the moderate (to poor) air quality. The good news is that the days of the two terrorist organizations crippling the population are totally over. Although Sendero Luminoso still operates in the jungle areas beyond Cusco, it has been wiped out of the major cities and tourist locations in Peru, and its numbers are now probably under 200 total.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It never rains here in Lima. If you will miss the rain, don't come here. Weather is mild all year long, between high 50's in the dead of winter to low 80's in the hottest part of summer. It is generally overcast almost all year long in the coastal part of Lima (San Isidro & Miraflores). You can go a week without seeing a ray of sunshine on the coast.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several international (English-based) schools in Lima where most expats send their children. Colegio Roosevelt is where the bulk of the embassy children go. It is a massive school with 1500 children in EC through 12th grade, and there is an IB program. There are a number of other options in both San Isidro and La Molina. There are also several Christian schools taught in English, and a Jewish day-school in San Isidro, where the language of instruction is Spanish/Hebrew. If you are attached to the US Embassy, the CLO is very helpful at providing school information.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Colegio Roosevelt has a solid special-needs program, mostly for children with mild learning disabilities and ADHD. Roosevelt also has an ESL program.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Preschools appear to be readily available throughout Lima and are not too expensive. Many are bilingual or Spanish-only, providing an excellent opportunity for your child to gain Spanish fluency quickly.
1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a good city for families, singles, and couples, since there is a lot going on all of the time.
2. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Officially, the Peruvian government does not recognize same-sex marriages or relationships. Additionally, the Peruvian Government is not moving towards recognizing same-sex diplomats---either Peruvian or foreign. There is one out gay Peruvian legislator, and though thousands have signed a petition to legalize same-sex unions, there is no political will to do so. I do not know one single out LGBT person in all of Peru (local, expat, or diplomat)--quite a different story from other places I have lived. There is an LGBT NGO operating in Lima (MHOL); I am not sure how active they are. There is very little in the media about the LGBT community in Peru. Local police in Lince (close to San Isidro) recently shut down a gay bar for alleged health code violations. And in 2013 a Peruvian gay teen was tortured and murdered. I would recommend (if you are LGBT and are considering a posting to Lima) that you do some independent research before coming here. Try posting on the Facebook page "Living in Lima - Expat Support," and reaching out to your employing agency's HR office to ask questions.
3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
For gender, yes. There is real machismo here. Women are often disregarded, ignored, and expected to be the sole caretaker of the children. Frequently, when asking directions in taxis, women are ignored). And even in dealing with the American School (as an example) in the school registration information, all mothers of students have their employment automatically defaulted to "housewife. There's no "stay-at-home father" optio). If a man and a woman of similar ages walk into a meeting, the assumption will be that the man is in charge. We have seen no religious discrimination. We know Jews & Muslims (visibly religious and secular), Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans, and other denominations. Although the Muslim community is extremely tiny, we have heard no complaints about prejudice, discrimination, or other problems. It's a relief and a pleasure living here and being a religious minority. You can walk down the street here wearing a hijab or kippah or sikh turban (all rare sightings, but it does happen) and no one says anything or glances sideways.
Outside of the United States, Lima is the most multicultural place I have ever lived. There are huge populations of second- and third-generation Japanese and Chinese Peruvians who are extremely well-integrated into Peruvian society. Peruvian skin colors come in all shades, from Afro-Peruvians to Polish-Peruvians, and really everything in between. Peruvians tend not to hyphenate themselves. They identify with just being Peruvian.
4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is mild and nice. It is fairly inexpensive to live here. Lots of restaurants.
Words of Wisdom:
1. If you move here, you can leave behind your: