Thursday, February 5, 2009

Greetings and formalities

One really important custom we had to get used to when we moved to Latin America was the custom of greetings. In our culture in the US, we can enter a room and give a general greeting of ,"Hi, y'all" or just wave. Since moving south of the border, we had to learn to take time to greet everyone in the room when we entered. For people we don't know well, we just shake their hands and say hello. For the people we know, we are to shake their hand lightly and as we finish the handshake kiss them on the right cheek, then finish with the handshake. The kissing thing takes a while to get used to, and some Mexicans know that we don't do that in our culture, so there is sometimes and awkward moment of "Do we kiss or NOT?". The most important thing to remember, though, is that we must acknowledge everyone in the room or we are certainly to offend some people.

Even when we enter a small store or a doctor's office, we should at least greet everyone with a formal "Good day". This is considered good manners and something that we must remember often.

The other formality that has taken a while to get used to is the formal form of the word "YOU" (usted). In English, we only have one way of saying YOU, but in Spanish there is a familiar form and a formal form, one that you would use with acquaintances, superiors, and people you should respect. My children often make the mistake of calling their teachers TU (informal) instead of USTED (formal). We have to conjugate our verbs according to the YOU tense, so this can be complicated.


Amrita said...

Very intersting jan.

The form of addressing is also quite similar in Hindi (our mother tongue) we have a formal and informal YOU. Good Spanish lesson.

Coming over for a cup-cake!

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

I think both of those customs are great and would improve American culture. So many people neglect introductions in a large group. Can't tell you how many times I've sat in a room with a bunch of people, and there's one person I don't know - and no one knows whose supposed to introduce whom.