A warm handshake is the custom here. As men become well
acquainted, the handshake might be accompanied by a light
touch on the forearm or elbow. Good friends will greet
with an abrazo, or embrace. This may also include several
hearty pats on the back.
When conversing, Argentines may stand closer than North
Americans or Europeans do. Also, an Argentine man may
even touch the arm or shoulder, or even finger the lapel
of the man he is speaking with.
Gestures to avoid in Argentina: -Standing with the hands
on the hips suggests anger, or a challenge. -Yawning in
public is rude. -Slapping the inside of the thighs near
the groin is considered an obscene male gesture. -Never
pour wine by grasping the neck of the bottle with the
hand and rotating the hand backward so that the palm
turns upward. Also, always pour with the right hand,
never the left.
Argentines have strong national pride over their
excellent red wines; if and when toasts are made, the
proper gesture is simply to raise your glass to those
around you and say 'salud' (which means 'health'), then
Since one of Argentina's most popular sports is soccer, a
popular gesture conveying exuberance and victory is to
raise the fist upward emphatically, with the knuckles of
the fingers pointing outward.
To indicate you have finished eating, cross the knife and
fork (tines down) in the middle of your plate.
When conversing, good eye contact is important. To not do
so is considered impolite.
In a marketplace, if a vendor holds his hand out, fingers
extended and flips the thumb back and forth it merely
means, 'There isn't any left; I don't have any more.'
A good, warm handshake is the traditional greeting in
Brazil. However, because the Brazilians show affection
People in Brazil will also shake hands when arriving and
departing. There may also be a touching of the forearm or
elbow, and often a pat on the back.
If you are conducting business, be certain to bring a
plentiful supply of business cards because these are
always exchanged. Also, during business meetings expect
to be served (often) small cups of very strong coffee.
Since this is more of a touching society, people stand
close together when conversing or when standing in lines.
To add emphasis to a statement, a Brazilian may snap the
fingers while whipping the hand down own and out.
To express appreciation, a Brazilian may appear to pinch
his earlobe between thumb and forefinger. For example, if
you've enjoyed a meal this gesture may be used. Among
Brazilians, to dramatize it even further, they will reach
behind the head and grasp the opposite earlobe.
When carrying any article along the streets-a pair of
shoes, a bottle, a box of candy-it is customary to have
it wrapped in a bag or some paper.
Men should note that when a woman enters the room, the
polite gesture is to rise and be prepared to shake her
hand if she offers it. A seated woman, however, need not
rise nor is she obliged to offer her hand when a man
Yawns should be stifled or covered with the hand.
Holding the palm upward and then spreading the fingers
signals that someone is "stupid".
If you pour wine, never do so with your left hand.
Colombian women will often substitute the gesture of
holding forearms for a handshake.
If you are visiting on business and happen to tour a
factory, it is polite to shake hands with those workers
Etiquette and propriety are important in Colombia,
therefore, avoid placing your feet on a table or other
piece of furniture, and avoid yawning in public and
eating on the streets.
Tapping the underside of the elbow with the fingers of
the other hand suggests that someone is 'stingy.'
To indicate that you have finished eating, place the
knife and fork horizontally across the plate.
Women visitors should be especially sensitive about
making any glance or gesture that might be considered
In business situations, formality rules. Don't expect
abrazos here, and business jackets are usually kept on
during business discussions.
Exchange business cards, with yours printed in both
English and Spanish.
Don't ever put your feet up on any article of furniture.
Most American gestures-including rude ones-are known by
Costa Ricans (who call themselves 'ticos'). However, one
gesture generally not used in the United States is the
'fig' gesture where the hand is made into a fist and the
thumb is forced upward to protrude between the forefinger
and middle finger. This is a
very rude gesture.
Local people bathe frequently each day because of the
heat, and guests are expected to bathe at least once
As in other Latin countries, the handshake is the custom
upon both arrivals and departures. Good male friends will
embrace (the abrazo) and good female friends will embrace
and kiss lightly on the cheek.
Fidgeting with the hands is considered distracting,
almost impolite. Same with the feet.
When beckoning a waiter, you may observe that some
patrons will clap their hands over their heads, but that
is generally considered rude.
Males are expected to rise from a seated position
whenever a woman enters the room.
Good eye contact is important in both social and business
Salvadorans are expressive with both hands and face, so
watch for those signals that complement verbal
Yawning in social or business situations should be
A 'hearty handshake' is the description often given to
greetings in Guatemala. But this does not necessarily
mean a strong, firm grip. Latins tend toward a more
gentle grip than practiced by North Americans and some
Europeans. Close male friends will also greet with an
abrazo, accompanied by patting the back. Close female
friends will hug lightly and brush cheeks as if kissing.
It is best to ask permission before taking photographs of
people. In fact, some people in the countryside will
request a small payment in return.
A soft voice is preferred to any loud, boisterous
To beckon someone, extend the arm, palm down and move the
fingers in a scratching motion.
One gesture that should be avoided is the 'fig' gesture.
This is done by making a fist and then pushing the thumb
up to protrude between the index and middle fingers. In
some Mediterranean countries, this is considered a
phallic symbol and is therefore terribly rude-as it is in
Guatemala. However, in Brazil it is considered a sign
meaning 'Good luck.'
When dining, it is polite to finish everything on your
You may notice a Honduran waving an index finger back and
forth in front of him, perhaps about chin level. This is
a gesture signifying "no".
If a Honduran takes one index finger, places it near the
corner of his eye and seems to tug downward gently, this
is a signal that is saying 'Be careful. Watch out.'
Bargaining is expected when shopping.
The typical warm, friendly Latin handshake prevails here.
Men who are close friends will embrace (the abrazo), and
women friends will engage in a brief hug and
Smiles are important when meeting others, and North
Americans and Europeans may find that Nicaraguans stand
closer together during gatherings and conversations. This
merely reflects the Latin attitude toward personal space.
Deference and respect is shown to the elderly with many
actions and gestures: rising when they enter the room,
opening doors, and giving up seats on public
As in other Central American countries,
one obscene gesture is the 'fig.' This is the label given
to the fist when the thumb protrudes upward between the
index and middle fingers. It is a phallic symbol, and
therefore considered an offensive and rude gesture.
Eye contact is important at all times.
A nod, a handshake, and the abrazo are all used in Panama
for daily greetings. A nod and mildly firm handshake is
the most common. Women
friends will embrace lightly, and make a kissing-like
motion to one cheek.
Women should avoid wearing clothing that is revealing.
When dining the host usually sits at one end of the table
with the guest of honor at the other end.
Because of the long North American presence in Panama,
most American gestures will be known and understood.
Handshaking is not only the common greeting but done, as
in many Latin countries, on both arriving and departing.
Men shake hands with other men and also with women. Women
friends will embrace briefly and brush cheeks in a
Two gestures that may cause offense are as follows:
Crossing the middle finger over the index finger as North
Americans and do to signal 'Good luck.' The 'O.K.'
gesture, with thumb and forefinger forming a circle is
Tilting the head backward signifies 'I forgot.'
Winking is usually only done for romantic or sexual
If a Paraguayan brushes his fingers under his chin, outward, he is saying
'I don't know.'
Don't keep your hands in your lap while eating.
Both men and women shake hands when greeting and when
arriving and departing. Men who are good friends will add
or even substitute an abrazo or hug accompanied by some
hearty patting on the back. Women will hug lightly and
brush cheeks as if kissing. Children will often kiss
elders as a greeting, even if they have not met before.
North Americans and Europeans may unintentionally perform
what has been called the 'conversational tango' with
people in Peru. That is because Peruvians, and many other
Latins, tend to stand very close together when
conversing. This makes Americans and Europeans very
uncomfortable, so they back off. The Latin follows, and
the visitor retreats again. As a visitor, try to avoid
this lest you silently signal to your 'partner' that you
don't like him or his conversation.
When walking alongside a woman, 'well-bred' men will walk
with a protective hand under her elbow, which she should
If you smoke cigarettes, offer them to those around you
before smoking. The same with candy.
If and when photographing members of the Indian
population, be certain to obtain permission first. The
village mountain people believe photographing children
will take their souls away.
Shaking the hand up and down at the wrist with the
fingers flapping, if done slowly, means 'What a lot!' But
if done rapidly and with the elbow raised, it means 'Oh,
boy, we're in for it.'
As in most Latin countries, people tend to stand close to
one another in any social or even business setting. This
relates to a different perspective on 'personal space,'
with North Americans and many Europeans believing that
people should stand about an arm's length from one
another. If you tend to move away from a Latin first, it
could be considered as offensive or insulting.
Men tend to smile and stare at women, which is considered
acceptable, but the reverse is not.
Puerto Ricans tend to interrupt each other frequently and
are not upset when this occurs.
If someone wiggles their nose, it probably means he or
she is saying 'What's going on here?'
You will hear restaurant patrons signal for waiters by
making a 'psssst' sound.
A warm and friendly handshake is the custom in Uruguay
among both men and women. Good male friends will hug;
women will do the same, adding a 'pretend' kiss on the
When young people are introduced in Uruguay, girls may
kiss one another, and boys may give brotherly kisses to
the girls. Young men, however, will shake hands.
To signal to a waiter, simply raise your hand.
Many North American gestures
will be recognized here. For example, the 'thumb's up'
signal is well-known and used in Uruguay. Similarly,
because of its close proximity to Brazil, Uruguayans will
consider the 'O.K.' symbol a very rude gesture.
People greet one another here with a warm, somewhat
gentle but friendly handshake. Men who know each other
well may pat the right shoulder of the other person as
well. Men and
women who are good friends may kiss, and good women
friends will hug lightly and kiss cheeks. Be sure to
shake hands when arriving and when departing as well.
As in many Latin countries, posture while seated is
important. Try to keep the feet well planted on the
floor, and avoid slouching or placing your foot on a
chair or desk.
When dining, wait for everyone else at the table to be
served before beginning to eat.
To indicate you have finished eating, place your utensils
in parallel and diagonally across your plate.
It is better to conduct business in person rather than