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Understanding Andean Customs

Andean Culture and Customs Explained

Andean Customs Explained

By In Blog @en On 6 June, 2016


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The indigenous Andean culture has many distinct features that are still prevalent today.  Although some aspects have blended with the Spanish culture, there are plenty of Andean ‘peculiarities’ that you will find in the region.  Here are a few of the most common Andean Customs explained!

Andean Customs - Smiling & Friendly People!

    • Greetings – Andeans are a friendly bunch, and will always greet you with a cheerful buenos días or buenas tardes.  It can be considered rude you enter a shop or restaurant without greeting the owner, so play it safe and always greet everyone!
    • Walking slowly – this actually is very common all over South America.  Trying to rush anywhere in towns and cities is practically impossible, so don’t even try.  Stroll along, admire the views and chat leisurely to your friends, and you’ll fit right in.
    • Eating on the go – Food is a priority here, and Andeans love to snack.  You will find kiosks and carts selling all sorts of tasty treats that the locals buy and munch on their way to wherever they were going!  Find our guide to Peruvian street food here!Andean Customs - Street Food
    • Limón in everything – limón is actually lime to you and me, as in Peru you don’t find the big yellow lemons, just the little green limes.  It is an extremely popular condiment, and more often than not you will be served a chunk with your meal to squeeze over your food at will!
    • Eating out – Restaurants are often packed with locals – especially for the bargain lunch menus – because eating out is often just as cheap as cooking!  In evenings the a la carte menu is a little more expensive, so fill up on a menu at lunch to save pennies!
    • Drinks served in bags – From piping hot chicha morada to frozen lollies, plastic bags are often used to serve drinks.  Tied at the top with a straw stuck in, slurp away to your heart’s content.

Andean Customs - Ladies and their Babies & Baggage

  • Carrying babies everywhere – Family is very important to Andean community, as is working.  Working mums combine the two by simply strapping the babies to their backs and carrying on as normal.  It is common to find children in restaurants, as the parents prefer to have them their than pay for expensive child care!
  • Mama / Mamita – don’t be offended if locals appear to call you their mother!  Mama, mami and mamita are all terms of endearment and are used with everyone from friends to strangers.
  • Llamas, donkeys and other animals – it is common to see men & women walking a llama down the street, carrying their goods.  Especially, although not exclusively, in rural areas, where people don’t own cars, the pack animals are still a very important part of everyday life.  You will also find women with baby llamas or lambs posing for pictures – there is a cost for this though!
  • Traditional dress – I love to see the locals in traditional clothing, more noticeable with the women, who wear their layers of skirts with sandals no matter what the weather, their hair tied in braids and a fetching hat.  Hats are very common among men as well, who often wear brightly coloured ponchos with their hats.

Andean Customs - traditional clothing

Some of the main pieces of clothing you will find among Andean women:

K’eperina – a larger rectangular carrying cloth worn over the back and knotted in front. Usually made with bright colours such as striped blue or pink, children and goods are held securely inside, leaving the woman’s hands free for working.

Polleras – colourful skirts made from handwoven wool cloth called bayeta. Women may wear 3 or 4 skirts in a graduated layer effect. On special occasions such as festivals women may wear up to 15 polleras tied around the waist. Often the trim of each skirt is lined with a colourful puyto which is usually handmade. In some areas polleras are also referred to as melkkhay (Quechua)

Monteras – hats vary tremendously throughout the communities in the Andes. Often it is possible to identify the village from which a woman comes from just by the type of hat she wears. Hats are secured with delicately woven sanq’apa straps adorned with white beads.

Andean Customs - Traditional Dresses

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About the Author

Claire

Also known as Tales of a Backpacker, I am travelling solo around South America, eating and drinking my way through the continent and making new friends along the way!

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