Welcome to another in our “Expat Living” interview series, where we interview expats we meet on our travels for an insider’s point of view on what it’s like to live and work as an expat around the world.
Mari is a British expat living in Peru. Originally from North Wales, she moved to Lima in 1966 and is now a Peruvian citizen. She runs a boutique in the trendy neighbourhood of Barranco in the south of Lima specialising in folk art and handicrafts from around Peru and she often judges competitions in the field. She has a wealth of knowledge in the area and is a fascinating person to talk to, which I found out when I sat down in her living room to ask her a few questions.
Why did you choose to immigrate to Peru?
I didn’t really choose it, I suppose it chose me. I married a Peruvian when I was 21, while studying translation and interpreting in Zurich and so I moved to Lima with him and we had three children here. When he died 10 years later, I suppose I didn’t really consider moving back to Britain, as it was just easier to stay put. I think in those days, people didn’t think so much about whether what they were doing was the ‘right thing’ or not, circumstances just conspired to make them so!
How did you end up owning an arts and handicraft shop here in Lima?
When I first arrived here, I taught English and worked as a translator and interpreter. My mother in law, who was of German descent, was fascinated by Peruvian folk art and had a gallery which she also sold from. When she travelled back to Germany to exhibit and sell pieces there, I used to look after her business and so I suppose I sort of inherited it!
What is the most important thing to consider when setting up a business in Peru?
Peru is a very interesting country for investors, as it is expanding a lot economically. However, the paperwork is very complicated and the culture of business is very different. Getting things done can be difficult as time is seen differently here than in Britain, for example. Overall, I would say that there are a lot of business opportunities, but there are lots of challenges too, so be patient!
What are the advantages of settling in Peru for foreigners?
I suppose the main advantage is the cost: you can have a very good quality of life here for much less than it would cost you in Europe or North America. And of course you’ll never be bored. There’s always something happening, even if it’s an earthquake! But it is not a country for the weak. The social security system in Peru is very bad, and you will need your own private insurance, especially if you’re older and coming here to retire.
How would you say Lima, and more specifically Barranco, has changed since you arrived?
Well I bought this house 30 years ago when it was derelict, and Barranco was not at all the fashionable, artistic neighbourhood that it is now. There were no trees on the streets like you see now; we planted those! When I first put a doorbell on the front of the house, it was stolen in about two hours, so it wasn’t such a safe area of the city. Now I’d go anywhere in Barranco alone in the day, and there are only a few areas I would avoid at night due to the drug problem. Overall, it’s changed a lot, and of course there’s a lot more traffic nowadays.
Thanks a lot to Mari for the interview, and for letting us into her home. Artesanias Las Pallas can be found at Calle Cajamarca 212, Barranco, and the website can be found here.