Culture and nonverbal communication

Spanish CultureSpanish culture can differ greatly from your own. Traveling South America, Spain, or anywhere else can be more enjoyable if you understand the culture of the place you want to visit. For this purpose, we have compiled some fun facts about Latin America that can help you get a hint of the Spanish world.

Spanish Culture Differences

The same way that foreign languages feel strange to us, some everyday things in American life can seem strange to people in different countries and vice-versa. Something as innocent as tossing a pen can be misunderstood in Spanish culture. We may also be offended by some innocent action or word of a Latin American. In order to avoid misunderstandings when vacationing foreign lands, you will find a few cultural highlights below.

  • In Latin American it is considered impolite to toss things to each other. If you need to give something to a native, make sure you walk over and hand it to them.
  • You may pick up a few slang words while visiting South America, Mexico, or Spain. Just remember that slang words vary from region to region. For example, the slang word for "friend" in some areas of South America is "choche" or "pana", in Central America it can be "pasiero" or "vato" depending on the region and country.
  • Saying the word "stupid" in the English language is common and innocent enough. BUT in Spanish culture the translation is very strong and offensive. Avoid using the Spanish word for stupid at all times.
  • Don't be offended when Latins call you a "gringo". To them the words simply describes someone as foreign and isn't meant to degrade. The word came from war time when American soldiers wore green uniforms. The Mexicans knew enough to say "Green, go!" in order to express their wishes for the American soldiers to leave. This eventually became "gringo" and is used for any stranger, especially if you have light hair and eyes.
  • Latin Americans will usually greet friends and relatives more personally than do Americans. They give hugs - even the men! Men usually also greet woman with "besitos" meaning they touch cheeks while making a kissing noise with their lips. Woman also greet other woman with "besitos." These little kisses are purely friendly and have no romantic meaning.
  • When traveling abroad, bargaining for a lower price in markets, small shops, and even for taxi rides is expected. Tourists are often given ridiculously high prices when shopping. Bargaining is a sport and can be very entertaining. So make sure you never accept the first bid. And remember, most things cannot be returned.

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