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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Learning Latin-American Manners


To date, I've traveled to nine Latin-American
countries to improve my Spanish.

  

My late Mexican-American friend, Yolanda, once told me, Bill, if you are going to speak Spanish, learn the culture! I agreed because every country has their culture and customs, and we grow as human beings by familiarizing ourselves with those cultures and customs in a world that is getting smaller by the minute.

 In the fall of 2009, I  remember walking into a store in Southern Perú, and couldn't understand why the store owner was getting an attitude. You would think that she would be delighted that I'm spending money in her store versus the other store down the street. But when I finished my transaction and left, someone from the community who has been observing me, stopped me. In Spanish, and in his own Peruvian manner, he said to me, “señor, come hear and let me holler at you for a minute. When you go into a place of business, he continued, you greet people with buenos días, buenas tardes, or buenas noches first, then you discuss whatever business you want to handle. And when you're done, you say permiso (an informal way of saying, “excuse me, gotta run”).

 I never forgot those words of advice. In my 2010 trip to Mexico City, I tried what this Peruvian man told me on a group of Mexican nationals at the airport. Lo and behold, I had trouble  convincing them that I'm American, and not Cuban, because I put into practice a Latin American custom I had just learned. To this day, when I approach a Latin-American or go into a Latin-American place of business, I apply the same greeting, whether I'm in Colombia, Panamá, or a Latin-American community here in Oakland. There is more I need to learn and am waiting to be schooled.