Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash
One of my students and I were talking about the marketing of beer in Peru. He was telling me how drinking a beer here was different from the U.S.
“In the U.S., you come home from work, go to the refrigerator, grab a beer and sit down by yourself in front of the television. In essence , you enjoy the beer by yourself. In Peru, behaving that way would be incredibly rude.”
”Instead, the drinking of a beer is a chance to be with friends or family. Never alone. Drinking the beer is not the important thing, it is being with others.”
I was a little surprised by the feeling behind my student’s statement. I didn’t think it was completely true about American behavior. Then I realized that this is a point that marks a real difference between our two cultures. Moreover, this is a point of tension that I experienced for a time in my daily life here in Peru.
My natural inclination was to go it alone. That is, when confronted by a problem, I was used to solving it myself. This had been my training and, I feel, is a strong message that we receive in the American culture.
In the U.S. ,therefore, we put a lot of value on being independent. We are also concerned with personal space, alone time, protecting our rights, and trying to resolve our problems on our own.
Speaking for myself, I am still often reluctant to ask others for help. But, I’ve had to realize that the ways I was used to in the U.S. don’t work. They don’t work there and they certainly won’t work here.
From what I have observed of the culture here in Peru, the highest value is being together. Doing something alone, without the company and support of others is not the norm. It comes out in different ways. For example, going to the doctor. In the U.S. I always went to the doctor alone. Here almost never.
After living in Peru for some time, I’ve concluded that the Peruvian way is best. I don’t feel alone. I have a back up in a group of people that care about me and will help me when I need it. When I go to the doctor, someone else is there is ask questions and to remind me of the recommendations of the doctor.That is a great comfort. My challenge is to learn to do for others as they do for me. I have a lot of learn, but the effort is worth it.
I think that we Americans have something important to learn from Peruvians.
And that is:
Being alone is not better than being together
One thought on “Alone or Together? A Difference in Cultures”
Peru for me reminds me a lot of China – for a Latin Country that is, for me it is the most ‘Asian’ country in the Americas, its culture and the social mores have a lot of Confucian influences – especially regards filal piety and family – the example of where they buy a bottle of beer and they pass it around to share, I don’t know if that actually happens anywhere else outside of Asia but add the Chifas and the terrible driving (I live in China and the driving is terrible!) and it is like being in an Asian country.
Family dynamics are definitely more East Asian – it is interesting the one place where Korean pop music and fashion trends has took off is Peru but not surprising.