Bolivia is unique. For more than a century it has lacked a coastline, and few of its border regions differ in topography from its neighbors; the traveler passes into Chile and is still on the Altiplano, or enters Peru without losing sight of Lake Titicaca. Yet however capricious and arbitrary its borders may be, they help create a national psyche—if a divided one, with regional as well as national identities.
Bolivians are a mix of idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies: by turns open and inscrutable, generous with foreigners and tough with compatriots, self-abnegating and fiercely proud, stoical, and volatile. But warts are outweighed by virtues, and overall visitors find them good-humored, sociable, and welcoming. Despite their strong regionalism, they have more common interests than reasons to fight.
Bolivia is at a crossroads today. It has to find a way to become part of the modern world without surrendering its individuality, guaranteeing its people’s growth and welfare while ensuring genuine benefits from its enormous natural wealth. It needs at last to cope with the regionalism that resists unification.
Culture Smart! Bolivia has been written for all those who are visiting the country and want to do more than just scratch the surface. The guide offers valuable insight into Bolivian social and business life, and the traditions, values and attitudes that have shaped them. Further advice on how to communicate and how to avoid misunderstandings and cultural faux pas pave the way for a more enjoyable and engaging trip, whatever your reason for travelling!
The ancestral Andean practice of yapa has survived up to the present day. Yapa, a Quechua word, refers to the 'little extra' that sweetens relations between market seller and client. Someone selling fruit juice in the market will offer an extra half-glass once you have drunk the first, thus ensuring your goodwill and further patronage.