Saludos: etiquette I like about the Spanish culture

Greetings!

One of the etiquettes that I like most about the Spanish culture is the greeting. In the Spanish culture, people greet even when they arrive at the most random places, such as a hospital waiting room.

There are different ways to say hello. Hola is the most common and general way. But you can also say buenos días / buenas noches (depending on the time of day) or simply ¡Buenas! Similarly, it is important to say hasta luego or adiós when leaving.

The Spanish are famously known for their two kisses, one on each cheek. Even in formal situations Spanish people greet with kisses.

I have to admit, the two-kissing greeting is not one of my favorites. I think one is enough. But hey, it’s just my opinion. In my Dominican culture we also have the same tradition—with the exception that it’s not two kisses but one, as I prefer. I guess it doesn’t matter when you have to greet just two or three people. But when greeting a big group (which happens often in my large family), that is when it’s a bit too much.

Hispanics living in the United States are more lenient with these traditions, as we have also adopted the American culture. In the Dominican Republic, for example, if there are ten people in a room and you greet one of them with a kiss, the right (and expected) thing to do is greet the rest the same way. People within the same culture in the US, however, do not necessarily expect you to greet each person with a kiss. If instead I decided to just wave Hello, no pasa nada. They’re accustomed to the American way, so they understand.

In Spain, they take it more seriously, especially in small towns where the tradition is carried at face value. I was sort of surprised when, meeting the teachers for the first time at the bilingual school I worked, they greeted me with the typical two kisses on the cheek. I was so used to handshakes in formal situations, I thought it was a very interesting experience.

But what’s more special is, in Spain, even the little ones greet everyone when they enter a room — something not too common in the United States. At least in my experience. In my building in Ciudad Real, children and teenagers I met on the elevator or in the hallways were always very polite. Meanwhile, my grown “professional and educated” neighbors in Philadelphia get on the elevator and hardly look at me. It is because of them actually that I thought about writing this piece!

It is nice to be reminded of manners and be reminded of what works in other cultures, because ours is not universal. We don’t want to be that tourist who, by his bad manners, always stands out abroad. 🙂

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