Many people know that the Latinos live with their parents until they are a bit older (~35 or until they get married) and it’s normal to have grandparents or uncles and aunts living in the same house. It’s quite different when comparing it to Finland, where most of the people leave home when they are 18-19 years old. For example, I myself left home when I was 17 to study in another city. And when our parents/grandparents get old, we might put them in care homes, where someone else will look after them.
Living in Peru really helped me to understand the difference between these two cultures. It made me understand how individualistic Finnish people are. For example, when I told people in Peru about the care homes, people asked me if I didn’t love my family and how could I do something like that because to them it sounded so cruel. Whereas, in Finland, I don’t think my mum would even want to live with me when she gets old as she wouldn’t want to bother me and she would want to have her own space as well. And this definitely doesn’t mean that I love her any less.
I know there are many aspects that are influencing this, like religion, but I think one even bigger influencer is the support from the government. In Peru, people cannot move away from their parents’ place when they start their studies as it would be financially impossible, whereas in Finland the education is free and the government gives us money to pay our rent and some other living costs like food. How crazy is that? Of course, because of these schemes, we have better opportunities to leave our homes earlier. But is this a good thing?
The dark side
Recently I have a read a lot of stories about young people who are lonely. They just don’t have any friends or other social networks. We have the same problem with elderly people. It is common that elderly people don’t have people to interact with, due to their families living too far away or their busy work and life schedules. Or like many grandmothers, whos friends might have passed away it can get quite lonely. This is a huge problem for us and it creates depression and a predisposition for other mental illnesses. This problem doesn’t exist in Latin America (or at least not on the same scale). They have large social networks and always someone from the family around to talk to and to share joys and sorrows, which is quite amazing.
Moving away from your parents does make you more independent, you learn to take responsibility for your own actions, you learn how to cook, to do laundry and take care of your own finances. Whereas I noticed that this is something that Peruvians learn a bit later (depending on their background of course). I worked with students where most of them had a maid at home, which is common in Peru as it’s not expensive to have one. Sometimes the maid came around a few times a week, sometimes she lived with the family. They normally cooked, did laundry and cleaned the house. This probably allowed the kids to be kids for longer, which is a good thing, but it didn’t encourage them to be independent.
People are more social in Peru, it’s normal to talk to a stranger in the park or someone on the streets. At least to wish good morning or good afternoon. I already miss that… Now when I am walking the streets, I just want to greet people, but I know people would think I am crazy. I also have this need to give everyone kisses on the cheek. I used to hate them when I first moved to Peru, but I learned to love them and I thought it was a great way to break the ice when meeting new people and when leaving it was a warm and personal way to say goodbye. Now when I am just waving from the corned and saying goodbye, I do miss that human touch and the love I got from my Peruvian friends!
Both of these ways have their pros and cons and I am grateful that I have had an opportunity to experience them both. It’s also important to understand that there are no right or wrong ways to interact, raise your children or treat your elderly. There are just different ways to do them and we can always learn from each other and respect the differences we have.
* These are all my own observations and they are not based on any researched data