Karencita de Perú

Uniquely Peruvian Things – Únicamente Las Cosas del Perú

Posted on: May 13, 2010

In contrast to the similarities that I wrote about last time, there are many things that are definitely different here.

Something very interesting  is that you can exchange money on the street.  There are “currency exchangers” all over the place.  They always wear a green vest with a dollar sign on it and you can exchange US dollars for peruvian soles and vice versa.  I am not sure if they exchange other currencies or not as I have not tried it.  They tell me that the rate you can get on the street is better than at the bank.   The current rate is 282 nuevo soles for $100 USD.  I think this rate might actually be a bit better than what you can get at Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange.  It feels a little strange exchanging money on the street, but it is actually quite convenient.

One of the most noticeable differences is that they sell a lot things on the street here… much more than in Vancouver.   On almost every block you can find either a fruit cart, a magazine stand or a little booth where they sell snacks and drinks like water, pop, chips, candy, nuts, chocolate, gum, etc.

There is one other very common type of street vendor here which is the heladero (the ice-cream man or woman).  Unlike in Canada, where the ice-cream man often drives a truck, here they are always on bicycle.  There are two main brands of ice cream… D’onofrio – the yellow one (which is actually made by Nestle) and Lamborgini – the red one.  Apparently, in 2004 Lamborgini made a big push to try to gain a greater market share.  At that time they had only 7% compared to D’onofrio which had 75%.  I am not sure what the statistics are today, but D’onofrio definitely still has a much bigger presence here, not only in the street but also in the supermarket and in restaurants.

If you think that North Americans are the only people that drink a lot of soft drinks you would be wrong.  Gaseosa (pop) is extremely popular here, so much so that it comes in 3 and 3.3 liter bottles!!  Why haven’t the Americans caught onto this??  There is a type of Peruvian pop called Inca Kola which is bright yellow like in the photo.  I think these are just different brands of  the same thing.  This yellow pop tastes just like cream soda.  The other soft drink that is very popular here is Orange Fanta.  Thankfully, they have Coke Zero and Sprite Zero, so I am happy!

After drinking all that pop, it’s necessary to do a bit of exercise.  Last Sunday we went to Independencia to visit Luis’ family.  As we were walking through the parking lot of the local Plaza Vea (another big supermarket chain here) there was a big stage, loud music and a lot of people.  Apparently, they have aerobic dance classes every Sunday right there in the parking lot.  There were a bunch of young guys and girls up on the stage leading the way and encouraging the crowd,.  The most interesting thing is that everyone knows the steps, which look really complicated.  I asked Luis how they know what to do and he said it is because they come every Sunday and practice.  Interestingly, there were an equal number of men dancing as there were woman.  The culture around dancing here seems much different than at home.  Being a good dancer is something a man is very proud of here, not like in Canada where a lot of men think dancing is lame (at least that is my perception of what many Canadian guys think!).

Finally, el Menú Criollo is another common site around Lima.  I have mentioned before that you can get an entire meal including starter, entree, beverage and dessert for 7 or 8 soles (less than $3 CAD).   This is only served at lunch time and the available dishes are usually written on a white or black board.  If you don’t want the starter you can just get the main course for just 6 soles.  So inexpensive, but very tasty!

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