By Angela Padrón

In some cultures, when people meet they wave hello or extend a hand for a shake. In others, it’s customary to bow or kiss the person on the cheeks. Knowing the proper greetings of a culture is important so as to not offend anyone or create any misunderstanding.

In Spanish-speaking countries, greetings can vary from region to region. However, in general, there are three categories of greetings to remember:

  1. Relatives and Friends – In Latin America, people greet family and friends with a kiss or a hug. Actually, when males or females greet other females, they touch cheek to cheek and make a kissing sound—but their lips really don’t touch. Males greet other male relatives or friends with a hug or a similar embrace with a firm pat on the back.
  1. Casual Acquaintances or New Friends –With acquaintances, or even with people you are meeting for the first time, greetings can be similar to those with friends and family. Females will normally be kissed on the cheek, just as someone would a relative or a friend. Men will extend a handshake to another male. However, others may just nod hello and give a verbal greeting such as “Hola,” “Buenos días,” or “Buenas” which is the shortened version of “Buenas tardes” (Good afternoon) and “Buenas noches” (“Good evening”). A more common expression is to say “Mucho gusto” (“Nice to meet you.”).
  1. Business Associates – In a more formal setting like a business, people in Latin America are usually greeted with a handshake, unless they are long-time acquaintances or family members, in which case a hug or a kiss would be acceptable.

If you’re ever unsure as to how to greet someone in a Hispanic country, just observe others in both public and casual settings as well as at family gatherings. Then follow your host’s or friend’s lead. Latin Americans in general are very loving and friendly, so one thing is for sure – you’ll always feel welcomed wherever you go!

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