You may not even notice it at first but if you spend any time at all in Peru, you will find that Peruvians take their lunchtime very seriously. Even in the capital city of Lima, that can sometimes seem similar in culture not to mention stress of urban centers in the U.S. and elsewhere, work comes to a grinding halt at about 1:00 in the afternoon.
Peruvians don’t take siestas in the afternoon as is done in some parts of the world. They do, however, tend to stop everything to have lunch with friends and families. This is something that is good to keep in mind, not just in terms of understanding the culture.
Traffic can get worse at lunch time as people are trying to get to the restaurants of their choice. Many shops may be closed or have less people working at that time. Offices tend to close completely, often between 1 and 3, so this should be kept in mind if you need to make appointments or stop by an agency to pay for a tour.
Lunchtime in Lima, Peru
When planning a lunchtime visit to one of the top restaurants in Lima, you may also need to make reservations or, at the very least, show up early. Arriving after 1:00pm will pretty much mean waiting to be seated.
Coming from the U.S., it can be a bit weird at first when working in Peru and not only being encouraged to take an actual lunch break but kicked out the door by your boss. Eating at one’s desk isn’t tolerated.
What at first can be irritating when there is work to be done gradually becomes a welcome part of your day. Bit by bit, you begin to understand the benefit in taking an actual break in the middle of the day and appreciating the flavor of the food that you’re eating. You find that you feel more energized to finish out the workday.
It’s also a convenient way to enjoy visiting with people. Even in modern Lima, people tend to be closer to their families than is often the case in the U.S. While that can feel like an imposition on your independence at first, it does start to grow on you.
The reality is, bonds between friends and family are deepened by sharing experiences. When you make a point to share mealtimes on a regular basis together, it helps you to feel more connected. Breaking up the workday in this way also helps you to feel like you’re working to live not living to work.
If you go out for lunch in Peru, especially if you are in a non-tourist restaurant, take a look around you. Everywhere you will see groups of Peruvians together, truly taking their time to enjoy their food and their company. Not only is stopping to eat lunch mandatory, so is appreciating the food. Keep your ears at the ready and you will lose count of the times you hear the phrase “Que rico!” uttered.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost 5 years, working as a travel consultant as well as writing for Fodors Travel Guide. This article was written on behalf of Aracari Travel, providers of custom luxury itineraries all over Peru.