One of the most important parts of settling into a new place, whether it be for the short or long term, is meeting people and making friends. If it’s a foreign country you’re trying to find your feet in then trying to learn the local language is also a top priority. So let’s take a look at some of the best ways of making friends and connections in Peru, and improving your Spanish along the way.
Meetup prides itself as being the world’s largest network of local groups, with 24 million members in 180 countries. Its objective is to facilitate the organizing of local groups and to allow people to participate in groups that already exist. So you can create your own group in your local area or join one of the already existing 9,000 groups.
The mission of Meetup is to reinvigorate and in a way, resurrect the idea of local community by allowing people around the world to self-organize and come together based on shared interests. This mission is based on a belief that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.
So how exactly does it work? Without the necessity of signing up you can browse the existing groups in your area or search for groups according to their topic, such as book clubs or lovers of photography. Each group has a summary of its objective, the number of members it has, who the organizer is and you can even read reviews of the group provided by members. If you are interested in the group then you can contact them directly, which will require you to sign up and become a Meetup member first.
2. Mundo Lingo Language Exchange
Mundo Lingo is similar to Meetup in the sense that it connects people, however their mission is focused on promoting stronger links between locals and foreigners through language exchange activities. Priding themselves on diversity, they welcome people of all ages, nationalities and language levels. The process is simple, the events are free and don’t require prior registration and they’re held in the same place at the same time every week.
Mundo Lingo currently runs what they call “language socials” in 13 cities over 5 continents, and they are continuing to grow. They aim to expand into more cities so that travelers can start meeting locals from the moment they get off the plane.
Mundo Lingo events are fully staffed and upon arrival at the venue you are provided with flags to stick on your chest, indicating which languages you speak, with your native language starting at the top and the other flags in order of ability. During the event the idea is that by standing up you are indicating your willingness and availability to meet new people, and once you’ve met someone you’d like to have a private conversation with, then you sit down together.
For those of you already in Lima, Mundo Lingo holds their language exchange on Wednesdays in Miraflores at El Patagonia (Bolivar 164) from 8 p.m. until close.
3. Useful sites and pages
If you’re looking at staying in Peru for an extended period of time there are some useful websites, such as Expat Peru. Not only does it provide lots of useful information but it also has forums where people can ask for information, post available rental places and other types of classified listings. The How to Peru website is also worth checking out, it offers interesting articles about travel destinations, useful travel-related information and experiences that you can enjoy in Peru.
Facebook is also a good option; there are a number of groups such as Peru for Young Expats, Expatriates in Peru, Living in Lima – Expat Support and Expat Entrepreneurs in Peru. These groups tend to be a little dominated by and more focused on expats living in Lima, however there are members living in other parts of Peru. For those looking to network with other expat entrepreneurs this group has a monthly meet up in Miraflores, generally at the Irish bar Houlihans.
4. Language Exchange with a Local
And last but certainly not least, a wonderful way to improve your Spanish and to get to know locals is through a language exchange. This can be as simple as meeting up with a local and exchanging an hour of language practice with one another. Not only does this help with your language skills but it’s a brilliant way of getting to know someone and finding out about what their life here is like. More often than not you’ll be able to learn much more from each other than just some new words.
Ellie Ryan is an Aussie expat working and living in Peru. She is the Founder of TEFL Zorritos, a TEFL training institute which trains people to become English language teachers and places them in positions in Peru and abroad. She is also the Founder of TEFL Zorritos English Institute, the first ever English institute in the small northern town of Zorritos.