Speaking like a Local

At Pariwana hostels, you can impress other guests and the staff by learning a bit of the local Peruvian slang. Just like in every country and region, the local variants of language tend to differ from their immediate neighbors, and even more from their more distant ones. Peru is no exception to the rule that language is taken and shaped into however the natural tendencies of the locals have seen fit.

That being said, we might skip individual city slang and instead give you some good pointers on how to speak Peruvian slang that will work all over the country. This means, also, that Lima’s tongue is pretty recognizable. Traveling around, your experience with the chance encounters with locals will greatly improve in terms of how you’re received.

To begin with “slang” is called “jerga”. This is important to know when the Peruvians are laughing and slapping you on the back, proud that a foreigner has taken the time to learn to speak local.

Peruvians are particularly fond of diminutives. On regular nouns that tack on “ito” or “ita”. Sometimes, Peruvians turn words around to read backward, not unlike the French “verlant”. So, if you hear a word you don’t understand while on your adventure, ask yourself whether there’s a diminutive, or say the word backward to see if it yields a word you know!

Now, as for the specifics of slang words, there are a few ultra-important ones that you’ll here everywhere. Peruvians blurt out “a su madre!” when they want to express surprise. Oftentimes they’ll omit “madre” altogether.

To say “cool”, Peruvians say “chevere” or “bacan” with the stress on the first “e” and the second “a”. You might enjoy using this when asking where to catch a bus, which, by the way, is called a “combi”. If you are working in the country, you’ll call your work “chamba.”

“Chaufa” is Chinese rice, but sometimes instead of “ciao” for goodbye, the Peruvians just say “chaufita!” To buy your food you’ll have to use money. 50 cent pieces are called “china.” One sol is called a “luca.”

“Pata” means a guy, and will mean your friend if you say “mi pata.” Out in the cold you’ll wear a “chompa”. “Pituco” means rich snob. These are all important words to learn. Also, hopefully you won’t have a run-in with them, but police are called “tombo.” Perhaps they’ll have come to bust your party, or “tono,” but that’s unlikely to happen!

There are a lot of other terms, of course, but you backpackers should go out there in the street to figure them out for yourself!