12 Fun Cultural Differences discovered during my trip to South America

South America

12 Fun Cultural Differences discovered during my trip to South America

With exception of a few port stops on a cruise that I took, I had never been anywhere south of St. Augustine, Florida for any length of time. That is, until earlier this month. I didn’t have any expectations for South America. I knew it would be a different experience; that I would have to struggle to recall my high school level Spanish so that I would be able to converse with anyone that I had to interact with. Luckily, I managed enough broken Spanish coherently enough to make it through my visit. Along the way, I learned some interesting things that will leave a lasting impression upon me about the time that I spent in the beautiful cities of Lima, Peru, Santiago, Chile and the beautiful Easter Island.

  • We took a day trip to Valparaiso, Chile a beautiful port city just an hour and a half outside of Santiago. We were pleasantly surprised to witness a blast from the past. fully operational post-WWII streetcars! Built by the Pullman Standard Company of Massachusetts between 1946 and 1952, these streetcars have the distinction of being the oldest running cars in the world.


  • Bottled water comes either with or without gas; meaning you can buy either the mountain spring version or sparkling, seltzer water. Personally, I hate drinking anything that bubbles or make me belch. Be sure to check the label because they were all stored in the same case on the same shelf.




  • Personal space seems optional at best. I am used to huge chasms between me and the person ahead or behind me in line. So, there was an adjustment. Not every culture has the same perception of personal space as you do.



  • Driving is like being in the middle of the Indy 500. I couldn’t believe how close the drivers are behind one another….I mean inches…remember the personal space thing? However, not once did anyone have an accident. You will hear the car horns blasting continuously, I suppose that is their way of keeping one another in check. Ironically, the craziest driver is usually the safest because he knows to keep moving to maneuver through the chaos. They queue up like ants in a colony each going about their own way, in a straight line, some may veer off course momentarily but eventually finds his way.



  • PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) are quite common. People are not afraid to show the one that they love affection. I thought it was very romantic and not done to draw attention. It was just….real.


  •  Gas or Service Stations have real, live attendants. I found that out when the tour guide had to stop and fill up his van. It reminded me of my childhood when my Dad would pull up to a station and be asked “How much?” and watch them as they walk around to clean his windshield. I smiled at the memories and the fact that gas was about 30 cents a gallon back then.  Hey, wait a minute!



  •    Alleged corruption in Lima government led to the fact that it only has one highway and no underground rail transportation. It is difficult to get around unless you are willing to ride the independently owned and ubiquitous combis. Combis are no joke. Your feet may actually touch terra firma before they drive off. It is very cramped and uncomfortable looking, but it is the only form of transportation for most, so they deal with it.


  •  Inca cola is the most popular soft drink in Peru. Coca-Cola decided to enter the market with a big ad campaign to counter Inca’s popularity and failed miserably. So, they did what every American conglomerate worth their salt would do. They bought out Inca Cola! You will be hard pressed not see ” A Coca-Cola Brand product’ stamped somewhere on most beverages in South America.


  • There’s a lot of infrastructure rebuilding or maintenance, particularly in Santiago where there appears to be more affluence. The buildings are a delightful mix of traditional baroque, Greco-roman influences and starkly modern architecture.


  • Vina del Mar hosts the world’s largest fireworks display in the summer. Certain areas of the river are drained to accommodate the onslaught of thousands of visitors to this city of 300,000 residents.


  • Peru is a desert with little or no rainfall, therefore, the land is barren. Corporations seized the opportunity to provide/sponsor green spaces and maintain them throughout various parts of the country in return for the chance to advertise their company in said landscape.



  • When visiting Easter Island be sure to visit their lone post office before you leave if you want to get your passport stamped. Also, you may want to mail postcards back home so that you can use their official postage stamps and get the Easter Island seal affixed as a cool souvenir that you will enjoy for years to come.





Renee King
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  • Monica
    Posted at 10:58h, 14 June Reply

    Nice post! Love the pics and the inside info. I hope I make it to Easter Island one day. Also want to see Chili so one day, I’m gonna hit you up for all the facts. Looking good, girlie!

    • Renee
      Posted at 14:17h, 14 June Reply

      Monica, I know that you will do it….and yes, please feel free to ask away!!

  • Molly
    Posted at 14:16h, 14 June Reply

    Nice piece Renee with a lot of interesting facts! I tried to re-tweet for you but the form above came up with a technical errors message 🙁 Just letting you know!

    • Renee
      Posted at 14:18h, 14 June Reply

      Thanks, Molly! I’ve been trying to get twitter to fix it….hopefully soon!

  • Michael Figueiredo
    Posted at 16:18h, 14 June Reply

    I love seeing cultural differences when I travel too. It looks like you had an amazing trip! I’m getting even more excited for my upcoming trip to Peru. 🙂

    • Renee
      Posted at 10:06h, 15 June Reply

      I’m excited for you! Have a great time, Mike!

  • Andi
    Posted at 16:28h, 14 June Reply

    LOVE SA!!! I was so unused to the PDA when I 1st met my Argie. I got used to it quickly though 😉

    • Renee
      Posted at 09:00h, 15 June Reply

      Ahem….Andi….aren’t you glad you did?! hehehe

  • Christy
    Posted at 21:31h, 14 June Reply

    I have sparkling water, too! In some countries we’ve gotten quite the shock when we failed to ask for plain water and opened a bottle with fizz. And in Oregon you can’t pump your own gas, so all the stations have attendants. I always forget when I come back to OR and get scolded when I try to pump my own. 😛

    • Renee
      Posted at 09:00h, 15 June Reply

      Wha?? Oregon? I had no idea….I think the mom and pop service stations should all do this to get an edge on the big box stations.

  • Amy Turner
    Posted at 08:32h, 17 June Reply

    It looks like you had an amazing travel and tour. PDAs? ah well, the pleasure of living is to be real, huh?

  • Ayngelina
    Posted at 11:16h, 18 June Reply

    All so true, but you don’t know how many times I bought water only to find out it was “con gas” and I hate the bubbles too.

  • Debbie Beardsley
    Posted at 17:36h, 19 June Reply

    A fun list of cultural differences. I had to laugh at the Coca Cola story and hate it too when I forget to ask for no gas in water!

  • grayspirit
    Posted at 20:26h, 22 June Reply

    Coca Cola is everywhere. One of those things I guess. Glad that Inca Kola is still around even if they were bought out. World is a little less interesting if you travel all that distance and you’re surrounded by coke and marlboro ads.

  • Colleen
    Posted at 01:54h, 23 June Reply

    I cannot get over the picture of those cars trying to drive through the throngs of people. It’s amazing that the pedestrians don’t get hit by a car!

  • Ruth (Tanama Tales)
    Posted at 16:30h, 03 July Reply

    Ohh Renee, you made my day. Some of these points remind me so much of Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries I have visited. Last year, when I visited Mexico I even got tired of witnessing so many PDAs. I mean people were getting really hot in public places.

    I want to know everything about your trip. I haven’t been to Peru or Chile. And going to Easter Island would be a dream come true.

    • Renee
      Posted at 19:36h, 03 July Reply

      Ruth! I know….but that’s what makes it special….seeing things that you don’t necessarily experience everyday like the PDAs!! lol The trip was fantastic….I can’t wait to write more about what we experienced…like getting locked in our hotel room. GAH! Stay tuned!

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