If you’re not prepared, greetings can be some of the most awkward situations in a different culture. Maybe you’ve noticed, that some cultures wave, some shake hands, others kiss once, some kiss several times, and others even give “high fives.” With Spanish speakers, the way people greet each other depends on the region. In this newsletter, I’ll give you some tips so you can be ready for different situations.
- Friends and Relatives – Usually, when you greet friends and relatives in the Latin culture, here is what you do. When a male greets a female or when a female greets a female, they will softly touch both arms while moving their bodies to about 6 inches apart, then they cock their heads, put their cheeks together, and make a small kissing sound. Their lips don’t make any contact. This will only take about 1 or 2 seconds. For men greeting men, in most areas, it is completely customary to give each other a hug. This may seem unnatural for many people outside of the Latin culture, so you may want to practice hugging a few times before you gain any good friends or relatives that live in Latin areas.
- Casual Parties – For a small group at someone’s house, you will usually follow the guideline for “Friends and Relatives.” In this situation you should let the host take the lead. You can follow their body language and be ready for a small hug and kiss on the cheek as explained above. In some countries and regions people may kiss two times — once on each cheek. If you are prepared to follow the lead of the Latin person, you will do great! Before some of you get too excited about all the kissing, these are the kind of hugs and kisses that are so common in the Latin culture that they have absolutely no romantic meaning.
- Business – When you are in a business situation, you usually shake hands when greeting someone unless they are a long-time acquaintance or relative. In this case, follow the guidelines for “Friends and Relatives”, but again, be sure to follow their lead.
While I was living in Latin America, I became friends with a local man and we would have conversations about the difference between Greetings in Latin culture and Greetings in English speaking culture. He thought it was funny and so unnatural to see two Americans that were close friends greet each other. He described it like this, “It is funny to see two American friends approach each other and then just sort of stop a few feet away and say ‘Hi’, or wave their hands and say ‘hi’, or even give each other a ‘high five.'” He said, “It seems much more natural to have some contact with each other either through a hug or a kiss on the cheek.”
After hearing his point of view, the idea made more sense to me too, and I completely understood how he felt. I love the Latin culture and hope that you are gaining a love for it too!!
Be sure and take a look at our Level I Visual Link Spanish™ course (on sale right now!) for a complete range of greetings and also learn to put together thousands of other sentences giving you a full range of conversational tools for Spanish.Learn Spanish, Spanish Culture, Spanish Words