Talk:Etiquette in Latin America/Unsourced material

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Argentina[edit]

  • In Buenos Aires, friends and acquaintances greet with a kiss on the cheek, even among men. In other parts of Argentina, women and men kiss on the cheek, while men greet each other with a hand shake. Greeting and making farewells to each person individually is important for any occasion in Argentine culture. A handshake is satisfactory if meeting someone for the first time.
  • Avoid talking about Great Britain or the Falkland Islands (las Islas Malvinas). These are sensitive subjects to many Argentines.
  • Although Argentines may be very vocal about politics and religion, it may be considered impolite for a foreigner to criticize them.
  • The Argentine custom of drinking mate comes with its own set of very specific rules, but foreigners will be given lots of leeway here – faux pas are more likely to cause amusement than offense.
  • Tipping is not widespread in Argentina, with a couple of exceptions. In restaurants, the standard tip should be 5%-10% of the bill. It’s normal to round up taxi fares to the nearest peso. The kids who hang around taxi ranks to open and close doors also expect a coin, as do hotel porters and the people who load and unload long-distance bus luggage.
  • Argentinians are rather vehement speakers, and it is not considered impolite to interrupt one another when talking to a friend.


Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay[edit]

  • Sunday is commonly the day Lusophone and River Plate Americans gather in family for lunch or dinner; Brazilians are often lax about it,[a] but when it comes to more traditional middle and upper-class families this is not the case and they will adhere to this just as strictly.
  • It is not considered polite to ask a woman about her age. Guessing can give mixed results.[b]
  • Both Lusophone and River Plate Americans favor direct eye contact over indirect. Maintaining eye contact is viewed as sense of respect and interest in the person who is speaking.[c]
  • Elders should be addressed formally (using usted, in Spanish; or x senhorx,[d] in Portuguese). Every other person should be addressed informally (using vos, or if you still feel troubled about it; or você,[e] in Portuguese), unless it is a business reunion or other enormously formal event. Waiters and retail workers will address you informally; treating them formally is considered impolite.
  • Do not be alarmed or surprised to hear what you might consider to be name-calling or swearing amongst friends. Argentinians might readily use phrases such as el gordo (the fat one) or el negro (the black one) when referring to friends. Similarly, Brazilians might easily be observed calling each other viado,[f] if heterosexual male, bicha,[g] if GBQ male or transmasculine, or piranha,[h] if female/transfeminine.
  • Argentinians, Brazilians and Uruguayans do not switch knives and forks. The rule at least for the right-handed and ambidextrous people is for the knife to remain in the right hand, and the fork do so in the left. To cut meat, hold the meat with your fork in your left hand, and cut the meat with the knife in your right hand through the tines of the fork.
  • It is considered rude to take out your shoes inside another person's house. They might either be left outside (though Japanese-style rules for shoe use are clearly the minority) or not be taken out completely.
  • Resting one's feet on furniture is considered extremely impolite.

Bolivia[edit]

Brazil[edit]

  • Many Brazilians are proud about being held as a more or less especially progressive country in a variety of aspects, and their current President is the first female one. People are more tolerant to gender nonconformity and sexual minorities than some other countries in the region, except if they make part of the especially conservative 30-50% of the population tourists are not so likely to deal with. If you feel something about their attitudes or politeness rules are double standards for the sexes, you can openly talk about it. In Brazil, the word machismo rhymes with racismo and is seen as backwardness and many people find it classy to know about how are the attitudes of people in more developed countries.
  • Beachwear are appropriate only in those environments or swimming pools. If you are walking in a hot coastal city not being a guest to the one that is complaining of your behavior, though, you can just tell people to mind their business and remind them you are not breaking any law (if you are not) and remember them of countries that are not tropical/equatorial, composed of a loosely-clothed (if at all) Indigenous population until just a few centuries ago and have just as valid politeness rules and standards of civilized behavior (by people often more prone to comply with it) that are tolerant with nudism and naturism.
  • Brazil is mostly Catholic and Protestant (evangélicos is the common term for Protestant people on the country, usually referring to Pentecostal churches; Lutherans and Baptists, for example, are generally not counted among them though, for the differences in behavior and attitudes perceived by outsiders), being 64,6% Catholics and 22,3% of Protestants. Often subjects related with these religions, marriage, homosexuality and family can be polemic subjects.[i]
  • Though not mandatory, most restaurants include a 10% tip on the bill. Not giving a tip may be considered rude and stingy. Between 2 to 25 reais is enough is most of the cases, according to your bill. If you come back to the same restaurant, it is usual to ask to be attended by the same waiter, who will offer a personalized service and always expect good tips.
  • Flip-flops are common, especially in the summer and in hot regions. However many places have signs forbidding the wearing of flip-flops on the premises, including bars and formal meetings, even if it is 41 °C.
  • The same rule applies to men without a shirt: it is common to be just in shorts and flip-flops on warm days, at home or at the beach, but many places like bars, shopping malls and even supermarkets do not accept men coming in without shirts. It is considered impolite.
  • Racist jokes, or even light-hearted 'jabs' at the color of someone's skin can be taken very offensively. Racism happens in Brazil, but it is considered incredibly offensive when a foreigner comments about it, even if there was no intention to offend. Jokes about black people made by foreigners are never tolerated. Racism is also a crime according to the Brazilian Constitution.
  • The number 24 is strongly associated with homosexuality in Brazil, especially that of males, among males. In the now illegal jogo do bicho ("animal game", a form of gambling), 24 was the number of the deer, veado, homophonous with the most common homophobic slur in Brazil, viado (from desviado sexual). Giving someone anything with that number (i.e. a jersey) might be badly understood, but playful among close friends.
  • It is considered polite to say thanks after common actions such as someone opening a door, offering or giving something to drink or eat, or when plates are taken from the table, and after most routine actions whenever they are not expected.
  • Men shake hands upon meeting and departing. They may share a hug if they are close friends. The cheek-kiss usually occurs between men and women or among women (that is, not between men, except sometimes between a young boy and his father; people in Rio de Janeiro though are more comfortable with boys and even older males sharing cheek kisses in the case they are stepfather and stepson that never lived together, half-brothers raised by non-shared parents, or second or third degree cousins). The number of times people should kiss, alternating cheeks, varies according to the region, being two or three times, or sometimes just once. Observe and follow according the region, but the most common is one or two kisses on the face. At formal meetings a firm shake of hands is the rule for both men and women. Shaking hands is preferable to an air cheek kiss (or also, having both at the same time).
  • Men always help a woman to put on or take off her coat. The man always walks in the street near the curb, and the woman sits next to windows or façades. It is a sign of protection.[1] Feminism is making some people grow tired of chivalry, though.
  • Personal questions may be asked at an earlier time than what North Americans and Europeans are accustomed to. Nevertheless, questions about finances and personal gains are often considered rude.
  • Brazilians are very curious about foreign cultures and often search for connections. Since they are a very mixed nation, with many nationalities and backgrounds (many Brazilians descend from three or more nationalities/races), xenophobia is quite uncommon. They want to make you feel comfortable and be sure you have a good stay there, in their way of "you're part of this".
  • The concept of personal space is much less stringent than in (say) the United States. Brazilians may stand much closer to each other than Americans normally tolerate. For instance, people greeting each other on a public stairway may almost entirely block the passage of other people, expecting them to simply force their way through or squeeze around. Likewise, in crowds, physically bumping into other people is not only not seen as an offense (as it is in the USA) but is also somewhat expected. This is not always true, though.[j]
  • When offering something, especially food, Brazilians will often repeat the offer several times and with increasing enthusiasm. Offering something only once can be rude. It is not impolite to refuse such offers, and in some cases they may be made just to be polite without really hoping a person will accept.

Chile[edit]

  • The customer of a restaurant must ask for the check for it to be brought.
  • In past generations it was somewhat common for women and young men to greet male and female friends with a kiss on the cheek; however, for many years the trend has been to cheek-kiss only between men and women or among women (that is, not between men). Close male friends more typically greet one another with an abrazo or male hug, which usually does not involve face contact.
  • Chileans tend to stand close to one another while talking or queuing. This is in part because Chileans typically do not recognize European queue etiquette and discipline.
  • Opening the door for a woman or helping her with her luggage, etc., is not considered a flirtatious action.
  • It is common for men to stare at women. (It is considered harmless and meant to flatter.)
  • Women should be prepared to be bombarded with catcalls. (It is considered harmless and meant to flatter.)
  • Both practices to attract the opposite sex are actually inappropriate in a professional setting.
  • When eating in company, you should not put your hands under the table.
  • Tipping bellboys and people who pack things on the supermarket can be considered a must sometimes, thus when not doing so it is recommendable to state you do not have money, but never that you do not want to do so.
  • It is well looked upon to offer your seat to elderly people or pregnant ladies when inside public transport.
  • Chileans, both male and female, tend to use lots of rude words when in confidence. Do not take this as an insult, it's meant to be endearing, but do not try to use those words yourself as it will appear highly humorous to them.
  • When smoking, offer a cigarette to everyone. Chileans have a saying for those who neglect to share: "Did you learn to smoke in jail?"
  • If two or more people are having a conversation and you need to leave or want to leave it is well looked to say disculpe ("excuse [me]") or permiso ("[with] permission").
  • It is usual to greet family members with a kiss on the cheek.
  • It is common for children to be prompted to greet everyone who already has greeted the adult that is with him or her.
  • The term "caballero" is more commonly used than "señor" to politely address or refer to a male in public.
  • Avoid discussion about politics (in regard to a history of democracy with civil unrest) or authoritarian leaders (e.g., Pinochet), or making comments about Chilean backwardness (such as the high crime rate, or the deplorable state of public education and prisons in Chile). Even when Chileans themselves strongly criticize their own country, it would be considered quite insulting for a foreigner to make such comments.

Colombia[edit]

  • Gifts are never opened in public unless the giver insists.
  • Group waves are extremely unacceptable.
  • After finishing dinner, expect to stay for a few hours. Leaving right away might be perceived as that you were there only for a free meal.
  • Avoid discussing the drug trade. This is a delicate subject in Colombia.
  • The elderly are given high respect; men are often referred to as Don and women as Doña, followed by their first names.
  • There is a strong sense of cultural regionalism in Colombian society. Many Colombians (especially but not exclusively the older generation) identify themselves first with their home region, then their nationality. This is particular true in Antioquia and Valle departments. Bogotá, being Colombia's melting pot, might not necessarily reflect such regional identity.
  • Colombians that do not know each other typically begin every issue with small talk, no matter how trivial. "Getting to the point" immediately might be seen as impatient and impolite.
  • Colombians have a great variety of regional accents. If you speak fluent Spanish, do not try to imitate the accents, for it may be viewed unfavorably by some.
  • It is considered improper and slightly immature for adult men to wear shorts (except in recreational areas, such as parks, the beach, or pools).
  • It is not usually acceptable to drop by someone's house without calling.
  • In most areas (i.e. Bogotá) it is common for men to greet women friends by kissing once on the cheek if they are friends. Kissing an unknown woman is considered impolite sometimes (more if you are in a business gathering), especially if she is an elder, but not if it's between younger people.
  • It is considered polite to say thanks after common actions such as someone opening a door, offering or giving something to drink or eat, or when plates are taken from the table, and after most routine actions whenever they are not expected.
  • When referring to someone's height in a conversation, Colombians usually make a distinction between animals and humans in a visual manner by positioning their hand with the palm facing the floor when talking about animals and with the palm facing to the side (like when one is to give a handshake) when talking about humans height.
  • Most Colombian women in urban areas respond gladly to decent male flattering (known as piropo). This is quite different from other countries where such expressions could be seen as sexual advances.
  • People in Bogota and the central region of Colombia and to a lesser degree in some other parts of the country could be sensitive to the use of formal and informal Spanish. For example, in a business meeting it might not be appropriate to use the informal you (tu) instead the formal you is used (usted). See Spanish conjugation.
  • In Bogotá the wearing of sandals or open shoes by women is frowned upon in some exclusive commercial locations.
  • Most formal restaurants include a voluntary tip (a % of the total) in the receipt; however, the customer may choose not to pay it.

Dominican Republic[edit]

  • The Dominican Republic has a history of some strong cultural connections with the USA.
  • Dominicans tend to be direct in social situations, and are not subtle as, nepotism in organizations and workplaces is regarded as a good thing.
  • Entering a household and not greeting the elders or owners of the household is regarded as highly offensive.
  • Avoid discussing Haitian immigration, Dominican emigration and racial identity (most of the population are mixed-race African). Most people will let you know what they want to speak about so just listen. Most Dominicans love to talk about what is happening in the country; they might even battle each other about a certain topic.
  • Salsa, merengue and even reggaetón may seem like "sexy dancing", but there are unspoken rules. It is rude for a man to dance too close to a woman who is not his wife or girlfriend, even if others seem to be doing it. (The same rules apply in Puerto Rico.)
  • Dominicans also expect you to look your best at all times. This is seen especially in the women who take pride in their appearance.
  • When an invitation is issued (such as to go to dinner or to a bar), invitees typically assume that everything will be paid for. The same is true in Mexico and in other parts of Latin America.
  • Dominicans are extremely friendly people. They usually shake hands and give a kiss upon the cheeks when they are introduced to someone or when they come across a known friend.
  • The man is the one supposed to pay during a date.
  • A woman never approaches a man first (usually).
  • Is not considered polite to ask a woman about her age (also common in Puerto Rico and much of North America).
  • When you're eating and someone arrives, the eater says "a buen tiempo" (it means "you're arriving in good time"). It is usually polite to say "buen provecho" (meaning "good eating", also subtly meaning "have a nice meal").
  • Dominicans love to talk, but politeness is supposedly important in conversation.
  • The most popular sport in the country is baseball, so this should be the right choice of conversation.

Mexico[edit]

Dancing and singing is a part of Mexican etiquette and culture. The image depicts a woman dancing the Baile Folklorico in the tradition dress of Jalisco.
  • In many situations, punctuality is less important than it is for people elsewhere. Showing up exactly on schedule for a party or gathering is undesirable. However, punctuality is expected for business matters.
  • Some Mexicans are religious. It is a predominantly Catholic country. Church tours in the country are very solemn. While non-Catholic churches are present, be advised to witness some Catholic practices (crossing oneself) in tours.
  • Positioning yourself so your back is not facing another person is customary in Mexico. If a person's back is facing another person, he or she must excuse himself or herself.
  • When an invitation to go out is issued (e.g. going to dinner) using the words or the phrase "I invite you to...", it is common that invitees typically assume all the expenses will be paid by the inviter.
  • Several kinds of food are eaten with the fingers (tacos, tortas, churros, etc.) Eating them with a fork and knife is viewed as both comical and snobbish. In case of doubt, follow the lead of other diners.
  • In some regions of Mexico leaving an empty plate after dining is rude, whereas in some others is rude to leave it with food. Then again, in some regions it is appropriate to accept a second portion, while in others a rejection is expected; always speak clearly about your eating in order to not get misunderstood.
  • Before starting to eat it is a common courtesy to say/be wished Buen provecho (as in "Bon appetit") when in company of new people. This courtesy is almost never used between long-time friends.
  • Going to the bathroom during any meal is not acceptable but even more so in formal situations.
  • The least a host can offer a visitor is a glass of water. Several other kinds of drinks can be offered. Offering alcoholic drinks is appropriate if meeting in the evening, or if the visitor is a well-known person to the host.
  • Women expect doors to be opened for them by males. This also applies to lighting of cigarettes, turning off mobile phones in dates or appointments, and helping them to their seat. None of these actions are construed as flirtatious but simply as a gentlemanly courteous gesture.
  • Gender specific situations, phrases and behaviors are expected in conservative regions of the country. Many upper-class Mexicans are less chauvinistic and biased towards women in social roles. Machismo (male assertiveness/aggressiveness) versus femininity issues are still present in older age Mexicans in conservative regions.
  • As in the USA, unless service is atrocious, tips should never be below 10% of the bill total as they are commonly a waiter's main means of income; 15% or more is most appropriate.
  • When dealing with someone with an academic degree in a formal situation, it is usual to mention it. For a BA-level, the distinctions are clear (Ingeniero and Licenciado for graduates of Engineering programs or for most other fields, respectively). Afterwards, it's usual to call a Master "maestro" and a Doctor-level student "Doctor". If used outside a formal situation, the titles might sound ironic.
  • It is common for men to greet ladies (and vice-versa) by kissing one time on the cheek. It is not so common when introduced to someone for the first time, as this means closeness or relation.
  • When someone sneezes, you should say "Salud" (lit. "Health"). This is the equivalent for "bless you" in United States. The person who sneezed should respond with "Gracias" ("Thank you").
  • The use of the Mexican flag for any other reason than for national holidays (such as Independence Day) is considered a serious insult and faux pas for Mexicans, as is painting, throwing, making clothing from it, etc., and is also penalized under the law.
  • Using Mexican Spanish phrases and interjections like "Chihuahua", "Caramba", "Ándale", "Taco" (Mexican Taco Bells advertise Tacos as Tacostadas or Tachitos) or "bad words" thinking that by doing so you will "blend in" is sometimes seen as mocking and disrespectful coming from tourists.
  • Mexican men can speak with dirty language (albur) among themselves (be this friends or relatives). But women must avoid this, for it is regarded as vulgar and low class.
  • Trying to use Mexican Spanish double entendre or albur is not recommended since the connotations of the double talk are usually sexual and may be used against the speaker. If keen on an explanation of the double entendre, it is recommendable to do so in a more private environment.
  • Be advised that socioeconomic issues (i.e. classism) are very strong and prevalent in the country.
  • Avoid discussions on politics, national differences between the U.S. and Mexico, and especially racial/ethnic issues. Mexican-Americans in the USA as an ethnic group have experienced discrimination. Mexicans are highly aware of the historical conflict with the United States in this case; likewise, economic disparity, political crises and global diplomatic issues are not discussed without respect and appropriate sympathy. In fact, the Mexican Constitution specifically says that only Mexican citizens are to formally participate in the political arena.

Paraguay[edit]

  • The official language of Paraguay is Spanish, but 73% of the population speaks both Spanish and Guarani language.

Puerto Rico[edit]

  • When others are about to eat, it is very considerate to say "buen provecho" (enjoy your meal).

Peru[edit]

  • Waving at a stranger is awkward and should be avoided.
  • Using your index finger to motion a person to approach you, as practiced in the United States and other places, is considered rude. A more polite way to beckon someone is to place the palm down and gently sweep your fingers toward you.
  • In a gathering, you must greet each and everyone, especially the eldest.
  • It is very common to greet with a kiss (from men to women and women to both men and women). Nevertheless, two men don't greet with kiss, since it's frowned upon. Two male relatives can kiss in the cheek (normally father-son and grandfather-grandson).
  • Discussion of drugs (and coca-plant cultivation) and religion should be handled with great tact.
  • In a country in with a considerable number of Amerindian minorities, expressing respect for native peoples is important. Try to refer to them not as indios, which is a derogatory term, but as indígenas (indigenous).
  • Amerindian populations are more conservative and even shy. They don't kiss to greet one another, nor do they shake hands as frequently as other Peruvians; if they do, it is a light brush of the hand rather than a firm grip. Many Indians from small villages are reluctant to look a stranger in the eye.
  • Photographing military, police, or airport installations is usually not recommendable.
  • Peru, like most of South America, has a problematic history with politics. It is advised not to bring up political issues casually.
  • In Peru, a form of the American "okay" gesture may be obscene when directed at someone, your interlocutor can interpret that you are saying that he is homosexual. However, as a substitute for the standard "okay" gesture, you can use the "thumbs up" gesture.
  • Being on time in Peru is not as important as it is in the rest of western countries; if it's not work, urgent or specifically notes, Peruvians will generally be 15minutes late. This is called "Hora Peruana." If you need to set a firm time for an informal meeting then it is common to hear "Hora Inglesa" mentioned (literally translates to "English Hour" and means: don't be late!).


Uruguay[edit]

Out of all of Latin America, Uruguay is the least religious, about 40% of the population is secular or irreligious and 60% is in some religion (primarily Roman Catholic).
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  1. ^ ARRUDA, Fábio. Sempre, às vezes, nunca: etiqueta e comportamento. São Paulo: Arx, 2003 I.S.B.N.: 8575810715