From Grenada to the UK to Peru: Pelican Tales
I'm Danielle, 30 years old, and from the small island of Grenada in the Caribbean. After 12 years living in the UK (Manchester and London), I now call Lima, Peru home.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I first moved away from home to the UK to study. I went to the University of Manchester and then lived in London working in the charity and NGO sector. I've always wanted to travel to South America, but didn't know how to make it happen. Then out of the blue my finance's company offered him a transfer to Lima, so we decided to make the move for a new adventure.
2. How do you make a living?
It took a while to figure out what I'd do. I spent a few months doing intensive Spanish lessons and then volunteering for CARE Peru, an NGO that do brilliant work for marginalised communities here in Peru. But with limited Spanish, it was hard to see how I could use my skills and professional experience. I eventually got a job at a luxury travel company based in Lima, doing digital content in English! It's great because I basically get to blog and produce social media content about travel! I also do freelance copywriting and travel writing in my spare time and keep a personal blog at pelicantales.com
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I don't know how I would survive without WhatsApp and Skype. The first few months I felt like a crazy person constantly in search of free Wifi. I talk to my parents and brother in Grenada several times a week, and also speak regularly with friends and family in Grenada, the UK and elsewhere. My best friend lives in Australia and works shifts as a doctor, so its a constant battle to align schedules and time zones, but we're pretty good at keeping in touch!
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Peru?
The amazing Peruvian food. Lima is known as the gastronomic capital of South America, and it really is outstanding. The food is so diverse because of Peru's very distinct ecosystems - ocean, coast, desert, highlands and jungle, all with amazing diverse produce. And the influences also come from much further afield - Peru's cuisine is a fusion of the many peoples that have settled here and European, Asian, and African flavours have all been assimilated. So for chefs there are so many influences and a Pandora's box of ingredients to be inspired by.
I'm going to have to pick two separate things. Secondly, being an expat in Peru is great because of its location and how well connected it is to the rest of South America. I've only been here 11 months and have travelled all over Peru, and further afield to Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. I definitely have the travel bug, and can't wait to jet off on the next adventure.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Peru?
The language barrier. My time volunteering at CARE was actually really hard for me. I had so many ideas from past experience that I wanted to share, but found it very frustrating not being able to communicate in a professional environment. The same goes for social situations. If we're in a crowded bar or other group situation where people aren't taking to me one-on-one, its really difficult to understand. It's pretty much guaranteed that the jokes will go straight over my head. But I'm working on it. I do an exchange twice a week with a colleague, Giovanna, where we go for a nice long walk and talk English for half an hour and Spanish for half an hour. It often doesn't feel like it, but I know I'm slowly getting better.
6. What do you miss most?
Miss from where? I will also miss the beach in Grenada and my family there. Yes, Peru has some nice beaches, and we've enjoyed a few nice trips to the coast, but nothing will ever compare to a Caribbean beach! Yes I'm biased.
From London, I miss the convenience, reliability and availability of everything I could want, pretty much 24/7. But those aren't the important things in life, so its good to learn to live without them.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It's quite tough starting a fresh and moving to a new city where you literally don't know a single person. I found Facebook groups and online forums with expats and went to a few events. I also met other expats at my Spanish school which was great, as they were also brand new and in need of new friends. One of my best friends here was through Spanish school. I also discovered 'Mundo Lingo' which is a great event that takes place in cities around the world where people come together to learn language. I've met Peruvians and expats there.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I love comparing superstitions in different countries. Peruvians wear yellow underwear on New Years Eve for good luck! Even stranger, some will walk around with a suitcase at midnight on New Years Eve, which is meant to signify that you will travel in the new year! We then went to Buenos Aires for New Years Eve (yellow under wear in tow) to find that the tradition there was pink underwear to secure love in the coming year.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Hmmm... can't think of any.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Compared to London, living in Lima is a lot cheaper, particularly rent and transport. Somethings are more expensive like imported items, and salaries tend to be lower as well. Overall, the cheaper cost of living has made a big difference in our quality of life. It means we can save money to travel and see as much South America as we can while we're here.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Pack some valium and a dose of patience. I jest. Kind of. Get your paperwork in order - all degree certificates, passports, birth certificates and other legal documents should be apostilled before you come to Peru and be prepared for mountains of paperwork and a very slow arduous process to get things done.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started it just before moving to Peru. I've always loved writing and thought it would be a fun way of keeping friends and family up to date on what life is like in Peru. Also, I knew I wasn't going to be working right away so it seemed like a great project to keep me occupied at the time!
Danielle's Blog, Pelican Tales
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