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BellaOnline's Hispanic Culture Editor

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Hispanic Culture: Etiquette Around the World

Guest Author - Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie

Studying Hispanic Culture will open your eyes to many different regions of the world as the Hispanic Community has spread through out the world. As Hispanics have branched out to live in these various regions, Hispanics have been introduced to and become accustomed to many different etiquettes and protocols, depending on the area in which they have chosen to live. This article is about proper etiquette when traveling in the following countries and is meant to help those wishing to travel there prepare to get the most out of their experience. I hope you will learn a lot from studying the etiquette and cultures of countries which are frequent destinations of travel.

Peru:
Eye contact with visitors to the community will often be minimal. It is therefore bad etiquette to stare or make continual eye contact. You should respect the modesty and reserved nature of many Amerindian communities, so adhering to similar behavior and modest dress codes would be seen as a sign of respect.
It is proper etiquette to bring a small offering to your host or hostess’s home. Popular gifts include wine, chocolates, cakes and sweets or flowers. You should avoid anything too large and showy, as this could be seen as a blatant display of wealth and however generous your Peruvian acquaintance may be, they may not be able to reciprocate the gesture.
Peruvians are not known for their punctuality. If you are invited to a house, you will normally be expected to arrive at least 30 minutes after the invitation time.

Brazil:

Close personal space, with a degree of touching of the arms, back and hands whilst in conversation are not uncommon. As a foreigner you should be prepared for this close proximity in personal space. It would be bad etiquette to shuffle away or seem offended by the close contact.

In Brazil, most women wear bikinis and a majority of men Speedos. This is generally regardless of if they have a nice body or not.

Conversations may seem vivacious and quick, characterized by much interjection and interruption. If you are having a discussion or conversation with a Brazilian, you should expect much of the same.

Spain:

Although fairly emotive people, Spaniards are actually quite conservative and modest in the way in which they choose to dress. The importance of one’s appearance is important to the Spanish. Although they value education, achievement, social and financial status, they regard flaunting and showing off as quite vulgar behavior. Spaniards tend to opt for understated pride where there is more of a quiet recognition of respect and achievement.

Handshakes can be offered to all present – including any children. Make sure that you greet the oldest people present first.

Losing face can be damaging to both your public and family image. Therefore you should avoid any public confrontation with a Spaniard, as this would be construed as disrespectful and very bad manners.

France:

France might be a popular destination for English-speaking tourists, but it is bad etiquette to assume that every French person will speak English. It might appear discourteous and arrogant to immediately begin speaking in English, hoping that your counterpart will. When attempting to converse in France, be it with a shopkeeper, waiter, policeman or local, you should as least make a certified and respectable attempt to speak some elementary conversational French.

The French tend to be very direct in the way that they speak. They have relatively little reserve in showing emotion, and will often articulate and accompany their speech with large gesticulations.

You should always use your food utensils when eating, even in fast food restaurants. Although eating with your fingers is fine in very informal surroundings and situations, generally eating with your fingers, or eating on the street is considered to be quite uncouth and should be avoided.

United Kingdom:

Business attire rules are somewhat relaxed in England, but conservative dress is still very important for both men and women.

"America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language" George Bernard was once quoted as saying. Loud talking and disruptive behavior should be avoided.

One gesture to avoid is the V for Victory sign, done with the palm facing yourself. This is a very offensive gesture.

Austria:

Viennese men may kiss the hand of a woman. Accept this tradition graciously. A foreign man should not kiss the hand of an Austrian woman, since it is not expected and may come as a shock.
Titles are very important. Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your Austrian host or colleagues to use their first names.
Austrians insist on punctuality for social occasions. The host gives the first toast, then the honored guest returns the toast later in the meal. Maintaining eye contact during a toast is very important.

China:

Bowing from the shoulders is a well-known way of meeting and greeting in China. You should be aware that you are not always expected to bow or nod. Handshakes are accepted but it is probably best to wait to see if your Chinese associate initiates the handshake.

If you’re out and about in public, don’t be surprised to see a lot of same-sex handholding. This is fairly common in China – however be aware that public displays of affection are frowned upon, and any displays of affection between the same sexes are not at all tolerated.

In public and social situations, try not to put your hands in your mouth, as this is thought to be quite crude. Whistling is really disliked, as is nail biting. Also, try not to point with your index finger – use an open hand instead. It’s thought to be bad social etiquette to show the soles of your feet and pick your teeth after eating.

Japan:

The standard form of greeting in Japan is to bow from the waist – generally, the lower you bow, the more respect that is being demonstrated toward your Japanese acquaintance.

Personal space is a great consideration in Japan, so try and keep a good three or four foot away from your acquaintance. Make sure that you do not to retain too much prolonged eye contact, as this is seen as bad etiquette. Your eye line should fall slightly below the head to the neckline of your counterpart instead.

When entering a Japanese house, you should remove your shoes at the entrance to the home. You may be given some slippers to wear, but just wearing your socks is also acceptable. However, make sure that you never walk on a tatami mat with slippers on.

Africa: (South Africa)

Think before you speak. If you are wondering whether you should say something or not, you probably shouldn't. This is especially true for humor.

Golf courses in South Africa have a "halfway house" where you stop for a drink and a sandwich after nine holes. Even if you don't fancy a break, skipping the halfway house will annoy the other golfers.

Generally, South Africa is known for its relatively informal atmosphere. In most situations, dress can be a little more casual and behavior a little less formal. However, this shouldn't be considered a license to discard all boundaries of behavior! Regardless of where your travels take you, proper tourist etiquette and cultural sensitivity demand that you err on the side of conservatism.

I found this research both fun and educational as there were many gestures and mannerisms that I did not know held the meaning that they do in the highlighted countries. Looking forward to traveling in the future, I hope you found this to be a very useful and informative. Understanding the dynamics of Hispanics spreading throughout the world depends greatly upon understanding the areas in which they have chosen to move to. If you found this study interesting, please feel free to study further regions of interest, the etiquette and culture in which Hispanic have chosen to make their home.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Valerie Aguilar for details.

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