Lima is the capital of Peru and a popular destination for many tourists and travelers. However, there are as well many expats living in the Peruvian megacity. There are plenty of good reasons to come to that city. But some expats might have doubts when it comes to moving to a city like Lima. Could it be, that you somehow are simply not made for a tumultuous, chaotic, and culturally dull city with a very grey climate? Read in this article more about 5 reasons to better NOT live in Lima.
Approximate reading time: 15 minutes
(Last update: May 15, 2021)
Welcome back! You successfully clicked your way through and came here from the previous article. Or you accessed it by any other means. In any event, you are an expat and curious why it might be a better idea to avoid living in Lima. There are always tons of encouraging articles you want to tell you what you should do, where to move, what to visit, etc. But only a few articles confront the reverse of the medal and show some contra arguments. That’s why you are here – You would like to find out more about possible downsides, disadvantages and reasons to not live in the 5th biggest city of Latin America.
And here I am. I would like to give interested expats some more insights about Lima. Sharing with you first-hand insights from my perspective might help you. Not everything is shiny and perfect in the capital city of Lima. Please continue reading this article and find out more about 5 reasons why to NOT live in Lima.
Please let me know in the comment section if you liked the article and what you think about it. You can also send me an eMail to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask your questions in a bit more private manner. I’ll respond to it as quickly as I can.
The labour situation is awful
It doesn’t matter, how hard you try. It doesn’t matter, how well you are qualified. And it doesn’t matter, how much work experience you already have. In Lima, employees have a very hard time finding a job. Although the country has had for many years increasing prosperity and economic recovery, the job situation isn’t good in Peru, even worse in Lima.
The situation in Lima looks terrible to be honest. Finding available jobs for highly qualified foreigners in Peru’s capital continues to be a tricky matter, as 14.5 percent of people in Lima are currently without official employment per the latest figures from February 2021. Covid and its consequences are affecting you as a foreigner as well. Something to consider BEFORE moving to a city like Lima.
Especially for a foreigner like me, it was very difficult to find a job. Many Peruvians told me the same as what I was describing before in the first paragraph. No matter how hard you try or how good you are, everything works with connections. And of course, a foreigner like you doesn’t have a lot of good connections to a new city he wants to live in. The few who I have tried to help me, but didn’t succeed with their efforts. There are soooooo many companies who are looking for international employees with work experience and who can speak multiple languages, but no one is willing to help with the working visa or sponsor it.
An absurd situation, that I will never be able to understand!
The traffic situation in Lima is terrible
Wherever you want to go in Lima, which neighborhood or part of the city, be advised that it will take ages to arrive and you should start to go on midday when you are expected for dinner. Yes, Lima is a very big city with a lot of habitants as described in the introduction. But the traffic situation is one of the poorest of the world. Lima grows year by year of population and everyone wants to have a car. Streets are because of that more than congested and during the busy times such as morning and evening rush hours, it is terrible to be in need of going to another point of the city.
Did you know Lima has 15 times more taxis than NYC? I know, that it sounds weird, but during my six months in Lima, I didn’t witness any single accident. This is not because of the good and talented driving style of the drivers. All streets are so congested, that there is almost no movement and with a lower speed, cars make fewer accidents. Sounds crazy, because I saw many damaged and scratched cars during my time in Lima, but still didn’t see an accident with my own eyes.
What you can see on the following video is Ovalo Higuereta, one of the main traffic junctions of Lima. I recorded this video from the low angle shot at 5pm – Hence BEFORE the rush hour in the evening after work.
Now you should imagine, that during the real traffic chaos between 6 pm – 8 pm the situation is even worse. Can you imagine that? There is already a traffic rotary with five lanes, but still, it is completely congested. You can see busses as well in the video. They were sometimes so overfilled with passengers, that the rear axle of the vehicle was abrading the street and damaging it.
Generally, people from Lima don’t obey the traffic laws, that’s why you hear almost everywhere in the streets load roaring sirens. Whether police, firefighters, or ambulances are driving to an operation or not, they are abusing their sirens in the hope of having an advantage in the traffic situation. Unfortunately, the drivers don’t grant additional space for the emergency vehicles to drive through. Drivers in Lima use their horns for every possible situation in traffic: For Turn signals, to cross a street, to insult other car drivers, etc. Pure chaos!
The following video is from 2014. So everything you see there is 100% from Lima, but you should regard, that the situation is now four years later worse than in 2014:
The only alternative to rapidly go to another neighborhood is the Metro system they have. Although it is a double rail, there are currently only two lines that connect different parts of the city. I only could find one semi-good map of the metro system of Lima:
Only the pink and violet lines are active, all others are under construction or just a project. Here, it is very easy to say, that the government overslept to react on time to the growth of the city. Because of this omission, it will take many years to solve the problems of the past. but then they still are not ready for the future, because the city will continue to grow and new challenges will appear.
A usual situation at the metro of Lima looks like the following:
All Peruvian craziness in one single video. And this is nothing special, but ‘only’ a scene during a Saturday afternoon.
A real balanced equilibrated and progressed society shines because of one important factor: equal opportunities for everyone. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in a lot of examples I encountered in Peru. On one of my first days in January 2018, I have recognized something, that I didn’t see before in my life.
An exhibited corruption of a governmental institution to its civilians. I was ordering an Uber driver to pick me up and drive me home at night. At the red traffic light, he stopped duly. This can be seen already as something special because no one follows the traffic rules in Lima. Regardless, if it is a pedestrian, biker, or car driver. But he stopped the car as wide as a finger beyond the stop bar. One traffic cop who was lurking across the street at the other side saw this and came to the car.
After a few minutes of discussion and threatening the Uber driver with losing his license for his offense, the police cop ‘offered’ to solve this without an official fine, if the driver would pay him 20 Soles (more or less $6.15). All efforts of the driver to avoid payment because of this ridiculous misdemeanor didn’t help: He had only the option to pay this amount to the corrupt cop or to lose his driver’s license. So he had to swallow the bitter pill and paid the cop more than the recent price for his taxi services to me. I felt very bad for him!
Corruptions exist everywhere in the world. In some countries Peru ranks in the Corruption Perception Index 2016 from Transparency International on rank number 94 of 180 which is pretty bad. Only Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay have in South America a higher corruption than Peru. For a country, that wants to be modern, civilized, and progressive it needs more anti-corruption measures. The Peruvian president needed to resign in March as well because of a corruption-related matter. A very interesting article can be read here.
Lima is the least authentic Peruvian city in Peru
Before I came for the first time to Lima in 2014, I didn’t know anything about the country except Machu Picchu and Lamas. Let’s call that the stereotypical and default gringo knowledge. Machu Picchu and Lamas you will find far outside of Lima. Amongst many other things, that are purely Peruvian and you would generally expect a city like Lima to offer you.
One example is a cultural festivity like carnival. I expected from a religious country something like the cultivation of customs and traditions regarding their catholic festivities. And they do, you will find a lot of customs and traditions with authentic suits, dances, and music – Outside of Lima. What I found in Lima during the carnival was the following situation you can see in the video:
Does that have anything to do with the carnival you were expecting from a catholic continent like Latin America? At least I don’t think so, but I lost a good pair of jeans and a shirt in this colorful mayhem.
This is not the only moment when I was missing a distinctive Peruvian spirit in Lima. The same happened during Easter weekend. Or Whitsuntide. Or even the national holiday. Everywhere else the Peruvians in other cities are celebrating these special occasions with their style. In Lima, they do not celebrate it at all.
I’m not sure, why this is the case. Maybe Lima is regarding its population too hybrid of all Peruvian origins to be distinctive? The same happens when you mix all colors: At the end, you will have a hue of grey. Like Lima La Gris.
And making a perfect transition, grey is the typical color of Lima as it will be introduced to you in my last of the five reasons.
Lima la gris
Although it is a coastal city AND located in the desert, the most of the year the weather is really shitty. From May to September, the climate changes for the whole metropolitan area of Lima from good to bad. During the winter months, the whole city will be shrouded in a grey and depressive mood. Dark rainy clouds are coming from the seaside and cover the whole sky. There won’t be any sunlight or a light blue sky for up to five months. ‘Lima la gris’ is nothing more than a nickname for the city that means ‘Lima the grey (one)’.
As a Northern European citizen, I am used to facing hard and relentless winters with a lot of cold and snow. Although you might freeze a lot during the European winter months, you never get depressive, because you see at least sunshine or a blue sky for some hours of the day. And falling snow gives you as well some rare opportunities, like building a snowman or a snowball fight or pissing the name of your girlfriend in the white mass.
Fortunately, it doesn’t get really cold, maybe around 10 – 15 °C (50 – 60 °F). Still, a normal day in Lima during the winter months looks like the following:
Not the happiest place to be. Lima is because of its climate a very challenging place for expats to live. If you are very sensitive to hot temperatures or have allergic reactions or chronic respiratory ailments, you should reconsider moving away from the hot/cold/grey/polluted/congested capital city of Peru. Maybe other cities in Peru or Latin America will suit you better.
That’s all, folks! No more Lima for me. I am heading to another destination. Where? Stay updated and subscribe to my newsletter to never miss an update and be always informed about my latest articles!
I hope, that I could give you support for your decision to live in Lima La Gris. By giving several pros and cons from the insider’s perspective, you should now have a better imagination about the Peruvian megacity.
Did you read the first article about the many good arguments for expat life in Lima? In case you didn’t, please click on the article below to gather some additional information about 5 reasons to live in Lima from the expat’s perspective.
5 reasons to live in Lima (April 2021 Update)
Lima! Capital of Peru! Why should you live in Lima? Read the information of an insider who lived for more than one year the expat life in Lima.
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