Expat Life – Live as a Local or Stay in the Expat Community?

Live like a local or join expat community

After making the decision to move overseas, many people have a hard time making the decision on whether to “go all in” and become one with the locals, or stay with what they know and seek out local expat communities.  Which is better?

It totally depends on what you are comfortable with!  Always remember that YOU have the choice, it is not an “either/or” situation.

If you decide to assimilate into the local culture, you should be prepared to possibly be the only foreigners on the block.  Of course, if you find yourself living in Lima, the capital of Peru, you won’t be such a novelty; provided you stay out of the main “touristic” centers of the city, you are not likely to run into many other foreigners in your daily life.  Are you looking to live with other like-minded people, speaking English and living a life pretty close to how you lived back home?  If so, it certainly will be easy to immerse yourself into the large and welcoming expat community here in Lima and Peru and experience all of that.

Or you could make this your first step.  Life in Peru is easy and relaxed; the weather’s great, the cost of living is low, and your life will take on a new dimension. You will be able to enjoy being retired (or working!) overseas, taking in all of the many of the benefits that life abroad affords, while still in familiar surroundings. You could shop at the Peruvian version of Whole Foods (called Vivanda), meet fellow football/basketball/baseball fans for Superbowl/NBA/World Series games (does basketball have its own equivalent?!) at the sports bars, and never have to look far to find a fellow English-speaker.

Vivanda Supermarket Wholefoods Peru

Interior of Vivanda Supermarket

On the other hand, your experience of life in Peru would be different than if you were to immerse yourself into the local (cosmopolitan) culture of Lima or in a little suburb/provincial village or a small colonial city in the mountains where you’re the only foreigner in town. Settling among the locals means you learn what it’s like to live as a local. You have no choice.  Your Spanish will improve dramatically (if you don’t already know it) and you will find yourself enjoying the local customs and traditions as a “local” rather than as an “outsider looking in”.

Does this sound appealing?  Exciting? Terrifying? That’s the choice you have to make. There’s no right or wrong answer. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself from the start because the position you take on this question sets you on one track or another, and they lead to very different places.  That is not to say that you cannot cross over and mix the two successfully – as with anything, once you become established, it is often hard to change and adjust to what you are accustomed to.

Are you an expat (or have been at some point)?  What path did you take and why?


11 thoughts on “Expat Life – Live as a Local or Stay in the Expat Community?

  1. You ask good questions, and maintain an open mind, recognizing that different people will gravitate in different directions.

    While we have discussed the future option of living overseas again, I must confess we never thought of Lima, Peru, our thoughts being more toward Ecuador, but you give us food for thought.

    Thank you for your recent visit to my blog, and for subscribing.

    • Well, I won’t say anything bad about Ecuador, as it has it’s pluses and minuses. But I do feel that Peru gets overlooked a lot; especially considering how close it is to Ecuador. There are many more things to do and see here in Peru than in Ecuador (might be a bit biased :p), but if you look at prices and way of life, they are pretty much on par. I would even go as far to say that Peru, and especially Lima, might be a bit better in terms of modernity. I guess a big draw is using the dollar in Ecuador as the currency, versus the Peruvian Sol. However, dollars are accepted here.

      Perhaps over the course of this blog I might be able to persuade you to go south of the (Ecuadorian) border and check us out. Would love any and all advice and ideas you have to share on Expat life, etc. 🙂

    • Marjorie, that is very true. But being surrounded by it all makes it easier to adapt and harder to stay truly a “foreigner”. I guess really, there is no true way to not “live as a local” if you are living in a foreign country…no matter how closely tied into the expat community you are. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Pingback: 5 Tips for an Enhanced Expat Experience « Rischmöller Real Estate

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