1. Learn and Speak Spanish
Learning a new language is incredibly difficult but having some basics will help you in getting around and breaking the ice with Arequipeños (local residents). We love when foreigners make the effort to speak Spanish.
In Arequipa we are known as the Peruvians who talk as if we are singing a slow song which makes it easier to understand.
You might feel uncomfortable and silly trying out new Spanish words or phrases but remember than when Arequipeños speak to you in English they are getting out of their comfort zone. In a similar fashion, when you practice your Spanish you too will leave your comfort zone.
2. Visit the local market
An Arequipa market is a place where you can experience a huge array of colors, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures which will help you learn more about a country’s culture. Don’t be afraid of the shouting, bartering, and joking that you experience as this is normal and to be expected in Arequipa.
When visiting the market, buy local foods that are grown in Peru and more specifically in Arequipa. Not only is this a more eco-friendly way to eat but you will also have the opportunity to taste different kinds of fruits, vegetables, roots, etc. that you have never seen or tasted before.
Be sure to look for and learn about the various medicinal plants available in the market, many of which are used by Arequipeños to battle diseases.
3. Take a Cooking Class
A Peruvian cooking class is a unique experience! First, you explore the local market to learn about the tremendous variety of Peruvian grown produce. Second, you learn about different cooking techniques to cook your own food. Finally, you can practice your Spanish while connecting with local people.
Peru is a land that has sea breezes and highland winds that are pungent with the fragrance of tropical fruit. Our food reflects Spanish, African and Asian influences. Our gastronomy is recognized worldwide and a huge part of our local festivities.
4. Do Experiential Tourism
Experiential tourism is a unique way to experience travel. It offers you the most genuine glimpse into the life of a local habitant in one of the outlying villages of Arequipa. The Incas were the original people of Peru and left behind a legacy of music, traditions, and colorful costumes. Visit with the residents to experience the lifestyle, ancient customs and culture that remain in practice today.
Experiencing Peru in this manner will provide you with meaningful and authentic experiences while also supporting the local community in a non-invasive and sensitive manner that helps the residents maintain their traditional way of life.
5. Stay with a Local Family
For a most enriching experience, consider living with an Arequipeños family. Our past experiences help us to consider and understand your personal interests allowing us to place you with a local family that is sensitive to your needs.
Living with a local host family will enable you to practice Spanish outside of the classroom as you connect with local Peruvians. Once you step through your family's door you will practice your Spanish in a relaxed and authentic environment.
6. Dine with Locals
Food is an important part of any culture. When you eat and drink with the locals, you actively immerse yourself into our culture through your senses and your tastebuds while building relationships that can last a lifetime.
Ask your local friends for advice to choose a restaurant away from touristy areas or near famous attractions. Look for places offering authentic local food. Be sure to ask the bar and waitstaff for their suggestions, tips and insights about the menu.
For a real treat, visit an Arequipa picanteria, a traditional lunchtime restaurant, where you can sit in a long table with other diners. This is a great way to meet people and practice your Spanish while enjoying typical food.
7. Work or Volunteer Abroad
If you want a richer cultural experience and are staying in Peru for a few weeks or more, consider volunteering and working with a local.
Peruvian Immersion can assist volunteers to find opportunities to work closely with Peruvian healthcare professionals to perform meaningful work to address specific community needs in this needy and underserved area.
As you immerse yourself into a local community, you will work alongside local leaders and make a real impact as you provide healthcare and education; all this while finding beauty in every connection and commonality discovered.