Tuesday, October 23, 2018

When Learning Spanish, Learn Some Manners!

My Spanish-Speaking Drill Instructor,
Alberto, of  Chincha Alta, Perú 


It was my late Mexican-American friend, Yolanda Gutierrez,  who admonished me to learn Latin-American culture if I'm going to speak the Spanish language. I took that advice so much to heart that I committed myself to spending every vacation from work traveling to one or more Spanish-speaking countries where, as much as possible, I planted myself in the barrios (the hoods), far away from the facade of the tourist industries.

In my second trip to Perú, I chose not to attend a Spanish immersion school as I did in my first trip, but hired a local citizen, Alberto, who charged me an equivalent of five U.S. dollars per hour to spend three hours per day drilling me on my Spanish. We roamed around his hometown of Chincha Alta, Perú discussing a variety of topics while, at the same time, learning to navigate the city. 

Avenida Benavides (Avenue) in Chincha Alta, Perú


One day, while walking around the city's Plaza de Armas (the main square), I decided to stop in a store to get some needed stationary. As he and I walked in, I immediately placed my order. When my purchasing transaction was complete, the store clerk thanked me, and I nodded in acknowledgement before proceeding out the door. 

Alberto stopped me right outside and began to lecture me about my manners. In Spanish, and in his own Peruvian manner, he said to me, “Guillermo," the name I go by when I'm in a Latin-America country,  "when you go into a place of business, it is important that you greet everyone inside with buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon), or buenas noches (good evening) before you discuss whatever business you want to handle. And when you're done, you say permiso (excuse me), then you "bounce!""

Boarding a combi, a van serving as public transportation taking me
back to my homestay in El Carmen, Perú, 30 minutes away


I gladly accepted his reprimand as a learning curve in my Latin-American experience. I never forgot those words of advice. In my following trip to Mexico City, I tried what Alberto told me when I approached a group of Mexican nationals at the airport with a question. 

 Lo and behold, I then had trouble convincing those guys that I'm American and not Cuban all because I put into practice the Latin American etiquette that I had just learned. I had to bust some English and flash my American passport before they finally believed me. To this day, when approaching a Latin-American or entering a Latin-American place of business, I apply the same manners whether I'm in Colombia, Panamá, California or New York. There is more that I need to learn and am looking forward to further schooling.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments will be ignored and deleted.