24 July 2017

Jessica Federle - Expat in Lima, Peru

Jessica Federle - Expat in Lima, Peru

We’ve had the chance to talk to Jessica Federle, 28, an American expat who has moved to Peru with her husband. Mrs. Federle who has been living there for two years, now works as an editor. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I’m originally from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky, a sort of hybrid Southern–Northern city in the USA that feels like a small town but is technically suburbia. We’ve got a population of about 16,000 people.


Q: What made you move out of the US?

A: I’ve been globe hopping for a while now. My Peruvian husband and I actually met in England while earning our graduate degrees. We adventured around Europe, we spent some time in Florida, and finally, we opted to explore his hometown of Lima, Peru. We both wanted to enjoy the low cost of living, and I was excited to see where he’d grown up.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I’m currently living in Lima, Peru, though I do tend to keep one foot in the United States to visit my family. My husband, who was born and raised in Lima, knew all that Peru had to offer: He was one heck of a salesman! Low cost of living, extraordinary history, welcoming people, world-renowned food, and ocean? It wasn’t hard for him to sell Lima to me.


Q: How long have you been living in Peru?

A: I’ve lived in Barranco (a small area within Lima, Peru) for about two years cumulative now.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: My husband and I live in Lima with a spoiled little fluff monster of a dog named Pulga (Spanish for “flea”). My dad and sisters live in Kentucky. Pulga travels back and forth about once or twice a year to visit Kentucky, however, and she has adjusted well to life as a nomad.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Missing my sisters is the worst of it; we’re very close, so not getting hollered at for stealing their clothes is even something I miss terribly. Fortunately, we’re all as connected as possible through WhatsApp and Facebook. I don’t think a day goes by without at least a handful of texts, and we try to Skype regularly too.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I’ve heard reviews that Limeñians are a bit gruff, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. They live in a city of about 8.5 million people, so they’re understandably cautious about getting scammed, but they’re always happy to give directions. The locals may not exactly be bubbly, but in my experience, they’ve always been alert and respectful and, I’ve found, very patient and kind about my poor Spanish.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Peru? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I was lucky enough to be welcomed into my husband’s social network. Through high school and college, he has a lot of local friends, all of whom are wonderful company and naturally curious about the world and other cultures. Joining the local gym in Barranco and walking Pulga has also helped me connect more with Barranco locals. In this artsy Bohemian hipster district, turns out the locals love yoga and dogs too: go figure.


Q: How does the cost of living in Peru compare to your home?

A: I won’t lie: After Europe and a brief stint in Miami, Florida, we were seriously attracted to the low, low, low cost of living in Peru.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: About $1.50 will get you a great cup of coffee.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: $4-5 will get you fed.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: $10-20 can be a feast in Barranco, though at a fancier restaurant in San Isidro (the nicest area in Lima) could run up to about $25 or $30.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: About $25 is plenty for a good bottle of wine.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Peru?

A: I went with Scotia Bank based on local recommendations. When you visit the bank, come prepared to wait. There will be a separate line for elderly and those with children, and any qualifying individuals will get to cut to the front, even if there’s a mile line out the door, and even if there’s only one person behind the desk (which is often the case). Paperwork is likely to be only in Spanish, and unfortunately, you’ll usually need some kind of Peruvian ID, either a DNI (for residents of Peru like me) or a foreign residence card. If your Spanish is shaky, read a bit about your bank’s process online first.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Bureaucracy is not Peru’s strong point. Government buildings are usually quite old and take a drive to get to. Expect multiple and confusing lines, long wait times, and limited to no English. This is coming from somebody married to a Peruvian, so I was aiming for residency. In government buildings, you may need to be more assertive about asking for help; don’t expect to be gently shepherded through the offices. That said, despite being overworked and underpaid, the workers have generally been patient with me and helpful if I make it clear that I’m confused. Just go with time, patience, and maybe a few granola bars.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Peru is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I’ve been very impressed with healthcare in Peru. I’ve found it lacks the sparkle and shine of the crisp clinics and chirpy nurses we’ve got in the States, but it’s perfect for basic needs. While I’d still probably go back to the United States if I needed some bizarre surgery, I feel very safe and well cared for in Peru. Of the range of basic maladies I’ve had, we’ve been able to quickly access medical care, and the service has been efficient.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or Peru? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: My husband and I have kept health insurance in both the United States and Peru. Our coverage in Peru is more substantial, and it covers an annual physical and basic doctor visits. Our coverage in the States is more about “just in case” catastrophic scenarios that will hopefully never arise.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Peru? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Since my husband works with property and is a local, he came over first to get us set up. Thankfully, that meant we didn’t have to move any big furniture. The packing of basics was left to me: Our trickiest “luggage” so far has been a large, framed poster and our dog. Bringing the poster was a colossal pain; the airlines were totally unprepared to handle the odd package, and even though it was flat and lightweight, we were charged a few hundred dollars for it. The best airlines for travelling with our dog have been Spirit and Frontier. 


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: I’m really sort of an introvert by nature, and since my graduate degree is in English, and I work as an editor, I really value being able to speak fluidly and clearly. Going out to parties and meeting people while stumbling about in my second language went totally against my nature. I’d say it honestly has taken a full year and a half for me to start feeling truly at home in Peru. That said, the struggle has been profoundly worthwhile: I’m a stronger, more developed, more open-minded and wiser person than I was when I arrived.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Peru?

A: On the negative side, traffic is wretched, and as a result, shopping is really hard too. You’d be surprised what a blow that can be to your independence. At home in the States, if I want a yoga mat, for example, I drive myself over to Target and I’d have one in 15 minutes. In Peru, I don’t dare drive; traffic is chaotic and respects few rules. Since there’s very limited online shopping available, I’m at least two taxis and 15 min away from the nearest shopping malls. That said, we do have Uber now. And Lima, for all of its faults, is absolutely worth the irritation and inconvenience. This country is packed with attractions: jungle, ocean, desert, and all the cultures and histories and foods those different areas have to offer, feed into Lima. Thanks to this diversity, I wake up Oceanside every morning with a thousand possibilities for adventure.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Visit places just a little off the beaten path. Tortugas is a tiny little beach getaway tucked into a calm cove. Don’t expect hot water; do expect the kind of moody ocean mysticism you can’t often find any more on commercialized Caribbean beaches. Truquillo offers a similar experience but on an even more private scale. Caral is a stunning set of ruins in terms of its historical significance; go experience this find before it’s roped off and boxed up. Mala, still mostly farmland, offers fresh air, beautiful views of the mountains, and choruses of birdsong every morning. Typical tourists may not have time for places like these, but expats and long-term travellers really have access to something special.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: When I first got to Peru, I was dead set on returning to the States as soon as we had the money to do it. Into my second year now, though, I’m so much more comfortable here. Our tentative plan now is to stay in Peru for another year or two (or maybe four, given the current *ahem* political situation) and then move back to the United States.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Just accept the hellish traffic. It’s as much a part of Lima as Spanish and ceviche. Take some yoga and integrate it mentally as part of the Lima experience. Find the courage to join a local club or class; the locals are naturally curious and kind, and having folks to say hello to when you pop outside makes a world of difference (especially if you’re from somewhere small town-ish). Shrug off the inevitable Spanish flubs and keep trying! And for goodness sake, eat. Try everything. Pulpo de olivo looks like purple goo over tentacles, and now I crave it madly whenever I’m in the States.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Peru?

A: The tourism industry in Peru is, from my perspective, at least, doing an amazing job. The official Peru brand website (peru.info/en-us/) is thorough, easy to navigate, and just plain colourful and fun to explore. I also enjoy Nomadic Matt’s blog; although it’s not specifically about Peru, there’s some good information there, and it’s really helpful if you’re looking to travel around South America.


Continue reading:

Lyle Walker - Expat in Peru