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Traditions

Well, the name of this page is "The Peru-Texas Connection." You have already been introduced to a quick look of history, geography and other subjects. Now I am going to describe some similarities and dissimilarities, between the Peruvian culture and the Texan culture. I think that after living over 30 years in Texas and adopted it as my state, and particularly Houston as my new hometown, I have the knowledge to talk about this.

However, it is not my intention to comment on which one is good and the other bad. It would be a mistake to make comparisons. All that I want is to examine and describe with the only purpose that this may help somebody to better understand both of these cultures. Whether a Peruvian goes to Texas or a Texan goes to Peru, this person is going to be exposed to one of these two cultures. The more that you know about it the easier for you to understand the other culture, and to accept it.

Greetings/Salutes:

Peruvians are very affectionate people. They shake hands any time they meet somebody. It does not matter whom they salute, either is a man or woman, they always shake hands. If they are saluting a member of their family or just between close friends, males kiss females.

Texans are different, although I would say that there are some variations depending on their background; however shaking hands is not very common. Usually a "Hi" is all you can expect when you meet somebody. Men usually do not shake hands with women unless the woman takes the first step.

If you are in Peru and you do not shake hands when you meet somebody you easily may be offending that person. That is not the case in Texas. So if you are a Peruvian or Latin American do not be offended if you meet somebody in Texas and they just say "Hi" to you. I recognize that it took me a while to understand this side of the American culture. I still do not think my father could understand it at all. In several occasions I remember that I could read his eyes of disbelief that most Texans do not shake hands. However, I would say that there is always an exception to this rule. During all the years I have been living in Texas, I met some people that always extended their hands to shake mine, and say hello.

Standing in line:

I do not know about other Latin American countries but at least I can talk about Peruvians. They usually do not like to stand in line. They do not have much respect for other people that came before them. They just want to be the first. However I would say that during the last years I saw mayor changes. They respect lines and no more pushing or shoving as in the past.

Texas is much different in this. People here respect lines, respect other people's rights. However I would say that Texans are more liberal that people living in the north. I remember in one occasion when I was waiting in line in a Bank in Detroit I was distracted for a while and I did not move along the line; however nobody tried to get my attention. Everybody behind was waiting for me to move. If this happen in Texas probably somebody would have called my attention. If you were in Peru, almost everybody would run over you.

Driving:

This is another hot issue. Are you a Texan and planning to drive a car in Lima?. If that is the case, I recommend first to take a trip to Miami, Florida. Get in the Miami streets or Florida highways some kind of training. Miami still has plenty Latin Americans drivers that keep unchanged their native driving habits. At least two days of training will make your driving in Lima or Buenos Aires (Argentina) less traumatic. Limeños, as the residents in Lima are called, are the worse drivers in the whole world. I am sorry if Argentineans claim that this is unfair.

First of all, traffic lights in Lima are too expensive so they have intersections with streets almost coming in all directions, and all the intersection traffic is handled just by traffic police officers. Well, this is not too bad but, you need additional eyes to see the whole picture and understand what is happening. However the real disasters are the intersections with traffic lights or stop signs. Who says that green light is to pass, and red to stop?. Well, at least that was the first thing my 5 years old child learned when he went to a day care center. That was here in Texas and not in Lima. Over there if you stop in a red light when there are not vehicles crossing the green light, the other drivers may think you are an idiot. If you have another car behind you, it is more likely the driver will be blowing the horn to you as you have committed a crime.

Drivers also do not respect the pavement striping. You may see very often another car trying to squeeze in the same lane with your vehicle. You better look both side mirrors or better through both door windows to check if you do not have an unexpected lane companion.

Unless you want to lose your sanity stay away for those round plazas that have five or more streets merging into the round plaza. I myself forgot that I am not a Peruvian driver anymore, and some years ago I ended up driving through one of these plazas. My spouse almost had a heart attack. Finally I went through unscathed after one hour of driving barely 500 feet. I cannot say that traffic was bumper to bumper; that would be a joke. Since I was merging into the round (circle) plaza, I had vehicles ranging from small ones to the famous combis (small buses), circling my father's Toyota as close as inches away from the car in four directions. I had to move my car inches away at a time to avoid other vehicles may move into that gap. If I gave up an inch I would be sitting there forever. There were moments that if I decided to get out of the car, that would have been impossible since I had vehicles blocking the car doors.

For a guy like me that traveled Peruvian roads for years from North to South, from the coast to the jungle crossing the Andes at almost 5000 meters (16,000 feet) this was a horrible experience. Just imagine how bad it would be for some inexperience driver. The good news that some of the traffic on these places have already been fixed with an underpass.



Jobs:

There is a lot of difference regarding jobs among Peruvians and Texans. Since the standard of living in Texas is much higher than Peru, plus the jobs opportunities are greater in Texas, the way people stick to their jobs in these two places is totally different. You may go to a business in Peru many times and it is very likely that you see the same people years after years. In some way employee loyalty in Peru is higher. But that is not the case in Texas or USA, where employee turnover is very high. You go to a business over there, and then you come back in two or three weeks and you probably wonít see the same people.

Texans and Americans move from job to job and from city to city. Mostly money is the main issue. Some companies in Texas or USA created employee loyalty, when they gave their employees good benefits. These employees stayed years after years with that company; but not anymore. These days large corporations are merging and in many cases they take away inmediate all those fringe benefits; consequently employee loyalty in America is declining.
In Peru however loyalty is most a necessity since job opportunities are very limited.

So who is most reliable worker.? I guess because of the conditions Peruvians may be more reliable workers. If they loose their jobs it would be harder for them to get a new one, than what it takes for a Texan to get one.
However once you have a job in Peru, job stability was higher than in Texas, because of labor laws that protected the employees against being layoff without a good reason. This changed during the government of Fujimori who is now in exile for another reason. When an employee was hired in Peru, it was virtually for lifetime because labor regulations protected him against unreasonable layoffs. The only way to fire somebody was after proving that the employee services were not needed any more because that position had been eliminated.
Besides employers in Peru have to provide one month of vacation for each year of service; not matter how long he has worked with that company. In addition the employee is entitled to another month for every year he or she worked as severance pay.

In Texas is different. Unless you work for a large company who has retirement and vacation plans, it is most likely that the employee get nothing if he or she is layoff. If their services are not needed any more a pink slip is all what they may receive.
However major companies in USA provide sick leave, as well state and federal employers. In Peru that is almost unknown. If the employee gets sick he needs to show up his face at work. In USA unfortunately some employees abuse the sick leave benefit taking it as an additional vacation or time off. So again who are more reliable? Do Texans come to work every day? Definitively no everybody since they have the sick leave benefit. Even If they donít have the sick leave benefit, they still can afford to miss work because of higher salaries. On the other hand Peruvians canít afford to miss work. That would be a serious matter for them at least for two reasons; first as I said they canít afford it, and second because employees that get paid by weekly they earn an additional day for perfect attendance. This day is called dominical (Sunday payment). It the employee miss a day to work, he actually ends up loosing two pay days.

Texans as all Americans work 40 hours a week. Peruvians work 48 hours a week. Consequently they work from Monday to Saturday. They have very short weekends.
So what happens when a Peruvian or a Latin American moves to Texas?, usually they work very hard, because they know how difficult was to get a job where they came from. On the other hand some Texans are sort of spoiled, because they are used to change jobs very frequently since better jobs opportunities are found in Texas.

Holidays:

Peru, Texas and USA have different holidays. In Peru a holiday is established by the government and everybody has to abide it, with the exemption that some holidays are paid and others not. In USA there are Federal, State and City Holidays.

Among the most important holidays in Peru are:

New Year, Labor day (May 1), Battle of May 2, Independence day (July 27,28 and 29), Christmas day.

In Texas and USA: New year, Martin Luther King Jr. (January 18), Confederates Heroes (January 19)(Texas), San Jacinto Day (Texas), Independence Day (Fourth of July), Labor day (September 1), Veterans day (November 11), Thanksgiving day (November 26), Memorial day (May 25), Christmas day.

Names:

Peruvians, Spanish and Latin Americans use name, middle name, and two last names. The first last name is after the father and the second after the mother. Texans and Americans, have name, middle name and just one last name. So Americans in that way simplify things. Even the middle name in USA is not used, actually only the initials are required. That is not the situation in Peru where you need the whole thing, name, middle name, and the two last names spelled out on any identification (ID).

On the early days when Latin Americans emigrated to USA, they changed or simplified the names like American natives, however now it is a trend to keep using the full name like my own case. But to get this accomplished we need to add the hyphen (-) between the two last names. I used to write my whole name without the hyphen, but then automatically some people dropped my first last name because they thought that it was my middle name. However not everybody here is educated ln this subject to understand this situation. In consequence I ended up with different variations of my name. I just decided to let me call whatever is easy for them.

Americans that travel to Peru or other Latin American country may face this dilemma when dealing with the authorities. Over there they donít understand why a person is going to have only first name, middle initials and last name. So an American may be asked to produce another last name. So what are the advantages or disadvantages.? American surnames are better because they save paper, ink and less characters in the computer fields of any database. On the other hand Hispanic surnames are longer and take more computer bits. My surname most of the time gets chopped off because it wonít fit many times in the computer fields. One big disadvantage of the American surnames are the mistakes that are committed when looking for one person. Actually they may need to track many persons virtually with the same names. I heard of stories of people that get in trouble just because of identity mix-up.

To wrap up the subject I will say that Americans love their short names as Hispanics love the long names.

ID's (Identification documents):

I still remember when I went to get my Driver's License in Alvin, Texas many years ago. What a nice surprise it was. I walked into the DPS office and asked what do I need to get this license? Immediately the clerk handed to me an application and instructed me to fill it up. When I finished and handed it back to the clerk, I asked when I could come back. She replied to me; you can take the written test right now. So I did it. I was told to sit and wait for the test to be graded. It took it some minutes. Then again I was called and told, that I have approved the test. The clerk said now you need to take the driving test. Again I asked when should I come back? The clerk said, wait ten minutes until the officer comes back from another test. So I waited and then the officer came back, handed some documents to the clerk, picked up my papers and called my name. We walked to the my car and we went out to the streets for the driving test. We came back to the office, and he insatructed to me to talk to the clerk. I talked to the clerk and I was told that I passed everything. She took my picture, paid my fees and she handed to me a temporary license. I was told that in one month I will get in the mail the permanent Driverís License. I was flabbergasted. A total of about almost two hours. I couldnít believe.

Now hypothetically we are in Peru. You have to fill it out an application; back in my days it used to be on special paper called ďpapel timbradoĒ; which meant you have to pay for the application first. You filled it out, then you had to stay in line probably hours, turn the application (solicitud) in, pay additional fees, get your pictures taken, all of this in different windows and buildings with additional lines. Then they give you an appointment for your physical test which could be in three or four weeks at a different location. Then you went for the physical test, during another day, with another line. You were shuffled from one doctor to another doctor, and additional lines. If you passed the test, you have to go back to the office you bought the application and request dates for the written, and driving test. All this in the best cases takes months or who knows.
I used the example of the Driverís license (Brevete) but that is in general. The good news that Peru has improved a little bit the system but it is not good yet. The Texan system and I am sure to say in general the American system is simplest, fastest, and straightforward; but to do the same thing in Peru is a Greek odyssey. Bureaucracy is still terrible in Peru. For everything you request or apply it takes days, go to different offices, several lengthy lines and many times kickbacks you have to pay or you have to pray to God to get what you need.

Wallets:

If you check somebodyís wallet in Texas, you probably find inside; driverís license , cash, credit cards, photos, business cards, a book of mail stamps, credit cards slips, some notes and misc. However if you look inside a wallet from somebody in Peru you may find; Voting registration (Libreta Electoral now called DNI) with picture on it, Military ID (Libreta Militar), Tax ID (Libreta Tributaria, finally I guess not needed any more), driverís license, private club ID, car registration, few or none credit cards, cash (amount depending of the holder), also photos, business cards, and no mail stamps.

So you can see the difference. If you are a Peruvian citizen and you do not have your Voting Registration card (DNI) current, you are nobody. You canít cash a check (actually for this transaction you needed in addition your Tax ID also current), and when I left Peru back on the 70ís you also needed the Military ID. The irony of the Voting Registration was that voting in Peru is mandatory, and not like in USA which is up to the individual. However, in Peru it is mandatory, but how often you actually can vote, depends on which is in the government steering wheel. If it is a dictatorship like it was when I left, (they were twelve years I guess.) I almost forgot how to vote. Good news is that Peru has had a democracy since then. However you still need to carry this document to conduct business, even if it shows only a seal that you voted only a decade back. I used to take a good look at it and I felt nostalgia, of how beautiful was to vote. I remember I made good friends just standing in the voting line, I talked to them, I ate lunch together.Unlike in USA this takes minutes.

The Tax ID, is to prove that you paid your taxes also, and the Military ID, to prove that you didnít dodge the draft.

In Texas and USA the Driverís License is all you need for your day to day operations. With the driverís license you conduct bank transactions, and everything.

So going back to other contents of the wallet; Americans are a Credit Card society , Peruvians are mostly a Cash society. Lately credit cards in Peru are becoming more popular, but still not like USA, in which you can pay almost everything with them, but eventually will catch up with USA.
If you are in Peru and driving a car you do need to carry the car registration at all times with you. By the way I forgot where I put it mine in Texas; where you donít need it; only in case you want to sell your car.
Few people in Texas carry a private club card with them. Private clubs in USA are few. If they exist, it is only for people from the upper class. Why do you need to belong to a club anyhow in Texas? I can play tennis in my subdivision, or go swimming. If I want to play soccer, football, baseball I just go to any city or county park and I have plenty fields to choose. I can also go to any public school, since I pay my school taxes I have the right to use also those facilities. But what about Peru? They don't have too much choices. Public parks are limited and virtually don't exist, so they have to play in the streets. Children and grown ups play soccer dribbling players or oncoming vehicles. Even in some neighborhoods the streets are blocked.
To play tennis, or go swimming?; almost impossible unless you become a member of a private club. But you need to be kind of rich to belong to one of those clubs, in which you have to pay high entrance fees, plus monthly fees and have two or three people that recommend your admission.

Another item that you will not find in a wallet in Peru are mail stamps. Post Office service in Peru is not the best. In Texas or USA you can buy a book of domestic stamps, now they even come glueless so they wont get sticky. Just peel it off, stick on your bill envelope, take some steps to your mail box, put it in, raise the red flag, and then your postman will do the rest of the work. This is nice. Not matter if the Post Office raises the cost of the domestic stamp. still it is a good deal. I have been paying my bills almost 25 years through the post office and not a single time failed. Some Americans complain about the Post Office, because they take things for granted and their ignorance of how it is in other places, make them spoiled.

In Peru the Post Office delivers the mail fairly well, but you donít find post offices everywhere, you canít buy stamps everywhere, and you canít drop your mail in your mail box because they donít exist. Payment to utility companies and other business are done personally at their offices, which are crowded with the famous Peruvian lines you have to wait on. The good news that lately most banks accept utility payments as long they are on time.

To wrap it up if you are planning to visit Peru, I have good news for you, because you are probably a foreigner. All that you need is your passport. If you donít want to carry the passport at all times, which I recommend; since you may need it only when you charge something to a credit card, try to carry with you, the driverís license. This worked for my as an ID even they may not understand the language. The picture and your signature will be enough. But bear in mind this is because you are dealing with merchants that have a much different attitude that government authorities. These later ones are hardheaded and the most stubborn people you may find in the planet called earth.

Seniority:

This is another interesting subject, and very different between these two cultures. Peruvians like all Latin Americans have a profound respect for the hierarchy or seniority. When a young person address to an elder, he always uses the term Sir (Señor )or (Don)) or Gentleman (Caballero). It is totally unacceptable to call the elder person only by his name. The difference in age is a rank. There are even very conservative families in which children never address parents by their names.
There is a difference between the English and the Spanish languages, regarding the second pronoun ďyouĒ. Spanish has ďTuĒ and ďUstedĒ. ďTuĒ is used when talking to your peers, and ďUstedĒ when talking to parents, elder relatives, bosses and so on. This way to address other person is used even for people of the same hierarchy when they are not acquainted.

Contrary, in Texas and USA hierarchies virtually donít exist. It is common for people to address anyone by their names.
I donít know how long it takes for a Peruvian to get adjusted to this , but I can say from my own experience that it took me a while to get used to this. I had to deal with bosses that were older than me and from Hispanic origin, and I never could call them just by their names. I felt that it was disrespectful. For an English speaking person to learn the difference between ďTuĒ and ďUstedĒ when learning the Spanish is a little difficult, but I guess with a little practice they can master it.



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Updated on 01/09/2006


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