Spanish Greetings

It is always nice to meet up with a friend. You can walk up to them, say hello, give them a high-five and ask them "what's up?" Sounds easy enough. But what if that friend of yours lives in Mexico or South America or is originally from Mexico or South America? Should you shake hands, give them a kiss (or maybe two), wave or give them the old high-five? The truth is greetings in other cultures can be very different. This is especially true in Latin American culture and if you aren't prepared, you can find yourself in some very awkward and strange situations. In Latin America the way people greet each other can vary region to region, but here are some basic tips to help you most instances.

  1. Relatives and Friends - In general, friends and relatives greet each other in Latin America with a kiss or a hug. When a male greets a female or a female greets another female here is what happens. They will gently touch both arms and move together until they are about six inches apart. Then they cock their heads, put their cheeks together, and make a light kissing sound. Their lips don't ever touch, just their checks. This entire ritual will only take one or maybe 2 seconds. When a male greets another male, who is his relative or friend, it is customary for them just to approach each other and give each other a hug. If you are a male and this sounds a little uncomfortable, then you better start practicing giving out hugs. You will get hugged by your Latin American male friends, so you might as well get used to it.
  2. Casual Parties - When you are invited to someone's home you can generally expect to be treated as a friend or relative. Be prepared for a kiss or a hug! If you are unsure at all on what to do when you are in someone's home, the best thing to do is just follow the lead of your host. You can follow their body language and just do what they do. In some countries and regions you may also be kissed twice - once on one cheek and once on the other cheek. If you are prepared to follow the lead of your host, you'll do just fine! Just so you know, before you get too excited about all the kissing, these are hugs and kisses that are so commonplace in the Latin American culture that they have absolutely no romantic meaning.
  3. Business - In most business situations and greetings, you can generally plan on shaking hands, unless they are a long-time acquaintance or relative. In this case, follow the "Relatives and Friends" guideline, but again, be sure to follow their lead.

In addition to learning Spanish and mastering the language, understanding and knowing how to act when greeting someone from Latin America will allow you be more comfortable in these situations. Your understanding will also help make them more comfortable and allow you to grow your friendship with them.


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