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.
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?