logo spanish programs

More Spanish, More Effective, Less Money

Become Conversational in Spanish

1. Watch Demo

level 1 spanish course demo

2. Try

trial download
Free 7-Day Trial
Instant Download
start download

3. Get Started

level 1 spanish course buy now
List Price: $199.99
Hard Copy: $149.99
Download: $99.99
order free trial

Culture, Potpourri of Culture Tidbits

by Brandi

calendar image

July 7th, 2009

Lawsuits: United States vs. Latin America

In the United states many people sue other people over very small minor things as well as over large extreme issues. People in Latin America are not usually a sue-happy (litigious) people as in those in United States.

One of my Spanish professors at the university made this comparison (he was exaggerating somewhat, but it gets the point across).

In the United States, if someone is walking on the sidewalk in front of a home and trips, they might sue the homeowner. In Latin America, if someone walks on the sidewalk in front of a house and trips, the homeowner will laugh at them.

Forms and Meanings of the Verb “to drink”

In Spanish, the verb “to drink” is both “tomar” and “beber”. The verb “tomar” can also mean “to take”. If someone says “Él toma” it means “He drinks” but it can also mean “He drinks alcohol (often)”. There is also a hand gesture that goes with the latter meaning of the verb. Have your thumb and index finger form an “L” and rock it back and forth pointing your thumb at the top of your head and then at your neck three or four times.

Greetings Just for the Sake of Greetings

In English, when you say “How are you?” about 95% of the time, the other person will say “fine” or “good” whether they are doing fine or if they’ve had a recent traumatic experience – like a favorite pet dying. It is simply a habitual, memorized response that people say whether they really mean it or not.

In Spanish, they take it one step further. If you are walking by someone on the street and you ask “How are things?” you will say “¿Qué tal?” Usually people in many regions, instead of telling you how they are doing, will simply answer with the same phrase “¿Qué tal?” It appears that it’s understood that the person is doing “fine” so they don’t even bother to answer they simply just say “¿Qué tal?” or “How are things?” Maybe English speakers will start doing this same thing, answer the question with a question. If someone asks “How are you?” you would answer by saying “How are you?” right back to them.

Our Final Culture Tidbit this Week comes from a Subscriber Question

Hi Dave!

I am an American woman, who has been dating a Mexican man for, wow, 6 months now. I am fluent in Spanish, though I must admit I’ve been kind of lazy with my daily Spanish vocab lately. I took Spanish in high school and never paid any attention to it. Truth be told I never paid attention to any of my classes I was one of those lucky people who could read the text in 5 minutes and pass the test with a passing grade. But anyway, I am loving the newsletter I find myself looking forward to receiving them more and more each week, wishing you could give up your personal life and give us a message everyday :)
I want to thank you with helping me with your culture letters, because those are the letters that I am in most need of. They are helping me to understand that at some times my guy is not being rude when he doesn’t help me with one thing or another, but he’s just not used to it. He is from Oaxaca. I will be taking a vacation there in March… I am very nervous because I’ve heard so many horror stories about getting sick when I travel across the border. I am a very open person, and in general when you meet your possible future family is it okay to hug them when you kiss them? That’s what I’m so used to, and also when you first began traveling to Latin America did you get sick in any way and is there anything I can do to prevent from getting sick? Again thank you so much for the newsletter–especially the cultural parts.



As far as getting sick, probably the best thing you could do to keep from getting sick is to drink bottled or boiled water and avoid drinking it from the tap. Also, avoid eating food you buy from street vendors.

Usually, when you greet someone at a personal level such as a potential new family member, you give them a customary kiss on the cheek. Then follow their lead, do what they do. They may hug you or may not. Each family can be different. You can usually get a better feel for them by asking your boyfriend about them.

Sneak peek at next week: Interesting Tidbits from a Recent Trip to Ensenada Mexico

¡Hasta la próxima semana! (Until Next Week!)
David S. Clark — President / Director

Click here to learn Spanish.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.

home icon button home text button