Early Saturday morning, myself and some friends stopped for some breakfast on the way to climbing. I ordered a maca drink and two lomo saltado breakfast sandwiches. Upon finishing my first serving of maca, I kindly asked the señora for a yapa. The friends I was with were surprised when they heard me ask for the yapa. They were surprised that I knew what it was and how to utilize this uniquely Peruvian ‘kultural key’.
This got me thinking. What are other things that are culturally unique to Peru? What are things that are found or understood at deeper levels of integration? What are some kultural keys that make life in Peru as a foreigner more authentic and colorful?
I thought it would be fun to respond to these questions and to reflect on some of the slang, quirks or tricks for living in Peru.
So lets start with the yapa!
For any street side breakfast in Peru, asking for a yapa is crucial. What is it? It’s essentially a second free serving of whatever drink you are consuming (except for fresh squeezed juices). When you are finished with the first, it is totally normal to ask for another, free of charge.
Sometimes when I ask for my yapa, I get a surprised look, a smile or even a laugh. Like, “how did this gringo know what a yapa is?” Sometimes there is no reaction at all. Sometimes I don’t even ask and the person serving the food just fills up my drink a second time. If this were to happen to you while traveling in Peru, and you didn’t know about the yapa, you might just think the person is feeling extra friendly. When in reality, it’s a very generous and culturally embedded aspect of Peruvian life.
Sometimes you can get yapas in the market when you are shopping for vegetables or fruits. However for this, you don’t ever intentionally ask for the yapa. The person selling needs to be feeling generous and top off your kilo of onions with a few extras.
Yapas can be used in comedic contexts also. For example, when someone accidentally over serves and spills food or drink, you can joke about the yapa. Or if someone gives you too much change after buying something, you can joke about the yapa. Essentially anytime there is a little too much of something you can jokingly refer to the yapa.