The Physical Side of Culture Shock

It's funny, this moving abroad thing. It comes with all the things you'd expect, like culture shock and learning a foreign language and just finding your way around a new city, but one of the things I think some people tend to forget about is the physical adaptations you go through in a new place.

For example, when you move to a foreign country, your body is introduced to a whole new world of germs. We were fairly illness-free for our first few months here, probably because Jack wasn't in school, but now I can't seem to get healthy. I've had cold after cold. Even John, who's usually very healthy, caught the recent cold that wiped out our whole family. Jack got scarlet fever, which I didn't know still existed (one tends to think of Little Women and The Velveteen Rabbit, back when scarlet fever was a life-threatening illness), and Will and I have both been sick for a month straight. The same thing happened in Russia, so I know this isn't just Lima. But man am I ready to get healthy again!

My skin also had to adapt to a completely different climate here, which meant changing around all the skin products I usually rely on. Even my hair had to get used to new weather, and new water, and of course a new hair stylist.

And then there's the food. I remember my first week here, three different people all told me to prepare myself for the weight gain. The Lima Fifteen, or something. Now don't get me wrong - Peruvian food is great. But in both Russia and Peru, I've lost weight upon arrival. I'm a creature of habit, and finding replacements for the products I eat almost daily (yogurt, bread, the frozen meals at Trader Joe's I sorely miss) takes time. It's been six months and I still haven't found a bread I like. That's not Peru's fault - the selection here is pretty amazing, especially compared to Russia. But most days when I open the fridge, I take a look at the food we have and end up closing it again. I've never been one to skip meals, but here I probably eat two meals a day on average. It's a terrible habit I'm vowing to break in the new year.

A rare workout - carrying Will up a massive hill in Cuzco.

My exercise routine has changed, too. When we moved to Russia in 2012, I worked out five days a week. Most days it was just running on the treadmill and the occasional weight lifting session, but something happened when I got pregnant with Will. I can't exercise while I'm pregnant because of all the contractions I have, and even though I got back into running and trained for a 10-miler after he was born, I fell right back into my lazy ways when we got here. Once I got over my fear of running alone here, I started running a few days a week in the nearby park. But the lack of energy caused by not eating, and all that sickness, has completely derailed me. I'm a sloth. Again, I'm hoping to change all that in the new year. I know John will hold me to it, at least.

So there you have it. A new country, a whole new set of physical changes that I for one never anticipated. If we move anywhere with excellent pastries next, I could be in a lot of trouble.


  1. Hi, sure there is a lot of new things for breakfast, but I'm sure you coul find differents kinds of bread (have you try "el pan de la chola") well anyway is always not easy but don't hesitate to post some questions about it. Have a good day !!

    1. I love el pan de la chola, but unfortunately I'm in Sol de la Molina so it's not easy to get to!

  2. We have noticed that the germs are regional. If you go back to a region of the world that you have already been posted to, it's not so bad. You already have some immunities, I guess.


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