My First Taste of Culture Shock

24 Apr


I had never been outside of North America before I went to Peru.

I definitely didn’t get a taste of culture shock during my first week or so there since Lima seemed very metropolitan to me. Other than the language difference, it felt just like a regular, developed city to me (with cheaper prices). Now don’t get me wrong, I really liked Lima. I met some really great people, ate really great Peruvian food, and did some cool activities, like paragliding in Miraflores, checking out some artisan markets, and clubbing in Barranco. It was obviously a lot different than North American culture and lifestyle, but it was nothing compared to what I would come to experience during the four weeks I would be spending in the Nepeña Valley, Peru.

Welcome to Nepeña

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Nepeña. Most people haven’t. It’s a really small district on the northern coast of Peru, about an hour drive from Chimbote.

As I was being driven into Nepeña, I just continued to be more and more shocked. It was in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t any sort of hospital, grocery store, gas station… It was NOTHING like I was expecting. It seemed like a completely different world compared to Lima.

How was I going to live in a place like this for a month?

…we arrived at the house we would be staying in. It was nice enough. Ten times nicer than 90% of the houses there, that’s for sure.

The bottom floor was our home for 4 weeks

There was a place to sleep. A place to eat. But compared to how I was living in Canada, it was such a change. It was SO different.

I felt as if I didn’t have access to much of anything except a bakery, some food stalls here and there, and really, really slow internet.

And then there was the 4:00 a.m. wake up call. Goddamn roosters.

I was in Nepeña for an archaeological dig. I definitely had this romanticized idea of what I thought it would be like. Waking up during the weekdays to dig. Finding artifacts. Going out for nice meals and socializing. Clubbing on weekends.

Other than the digging and discovering of artifacts, it was nothing like this idea I had dreamed about for months before the trip.

This was the “restaurant” where we would be eating, instead of what I had pictured…

This was our “grocery store”…

And then there was the backyard. Filled with roosters and guinea pigs (yes, big, fat guinea pigs which were being bred to eventually be EATEN … by people!). And it wasn’t just our backyard. There were roosters everywhere. And they were loud

But then I started getting used to the roosters. They didn’t wake me up anymore.

And then I started to get to know some people around the town.

I soon started to find a way to access things that I wanted. Whether it be the weekly Sunday market in the next town over to indulge my food cravings. Or finding the fastest internet in town. Or more importantly, learning to speak Spanish because English was not an option with the locals.

I began to appreciate the little things. Like when the bakery FINALLY got more cheese after 2 weeks without any. Or when the phones started working after being broken for a while.

Then I started realizing that I didn’t need to go on the computer all the time. And I didn’t need to have really fancy meals. Cold showers weren’t the end of the world. Ants in the kitchen didn’t freak me out.

The simple life wasn’t so bad after all.

Although it was nothing like I expected, I ended up loving my time in Nepeña.

I was incredibly privileged to know the wonderfully nice people there who welcomed us into their community with open arms.

Although the residents of Nepeña didn’t have access to a lot of things that I have in Canada, they were happy. And that’s really all that matters.

The first week living in Nepeña really freaked me out. I wanted to go back to Lima. I felt like I would never be happy there. It was too different. The culture was too different. After a while, I began to enjoy my time in such an “inaccessible” place and I saw Nepeña as a place of true beauty.

Sunsets really are beautiful anywhere.


2 Responses to “My First Taste of Culture Shock”

  1. Mica April 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Roosters! Damn them. In my neighborhood I got the pack of barking dogs all the time. Glad to see you adjusted and ended up liking it there. Sometimes being taken out of our comfort zones helps to see what you can live without. And its not so bad at all.

    • Kristy May 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      I couldn’t agree with you more!

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