Am I becoming more Peruvian?
And less American?
Does it really matter?
These are questions I have been asking myself recently.
I’ve been in Peru fifteen years now.
After a time, how much, I ask myself, do you adapt to the culture of your new country?
This is not a question of “going native” which implies that you give up everything of your former culture and take up completely the ways of the new culture. I think that is impossible and a bad idea.
Instead, I believe, there is a process of slow and partial change that occurs when you live in another culture for a time.
It is sort of a “pick and choose” process where you add the things that you like about the new culture as you let go of some of the old cultural values that are no longer necessary or relevant.
And I think that this experience is typical of those who successfully transition from one culture to another. You change some things and keep some others.
Looking at myself objectively, which I honestly cannot do, I can see that I have partially adapted to the ways of my adopted country.
For a more expert opinion, however, I decided to ask my wife. So, I put it to her straight out,
“How have I changed in the fifteen years we’ve been in Peru?”
I braced myself for the answer, but the first thing she said was,
“I think you are a better person than you were fifteen years ago.”
That made me feel good, and I had to nod in agreement as she continued, “I believe you are much happier and healthier.”
Both those points are true. I am much healthier because I have changed my life-style, and the result is a trim waste-line along with nice numbers on my physical exams.
I am happier for many reasons.
For one, I have become more flexible and tolerant. I don’t get upset, as before, when I have a problem. I know that there are people who will help me, both family and friends. That makes me feel much safer and less exposed.
Also, I don’t take it personally when someone shows up late for an appointment—I don’t see it as a personal insult as I did in America. In fact, I am much more tolerant of all of the unexpected twists and turns that life can take here in Lima.
Finally, I no longer feel the pressure to be a “success”. Instead, I concentrate on doing my best with my work as a teacher and writer. The result is that I love what I do. Before I came to Peru, I was driven by the desire to move up the ladder, to be a material success. Letting go of that has definitely made my life much better.
My wife said another thing to me.” You are much more realistic about Peru, now. You see the good things and the bad and balance everything out.” That is true. We have had many good and bad experiences here. I’ve learned to enjoy the good and deal with the bad.
And maybe that is the real secret of living well anywhere.