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The Mexican And American Culture Clash

mexican american culture and greetingsHey guys, I’ve got a guest post today I think you’ll really enjoy by Jeffrey Nelson, who is a husband, father, author and bilingual living and working in the Midwestern United States. He lives with his Mexican wife and their son, Liam, who is currently being raised bilingual in English and Spanish.  He runs the blog Living Bilingual.  Check it out below:

One cultural issue that is ever-so-present in my world is the difference between Mexico and the United States as it relates to personal relationships. This is a cultural difference that is very apparent to members of each respective culture when interacting with people of the other culture. A few things I have noticed while experiencing this phenomenon are the differences in personal space/physical contact, intensity with which people are greeted, and the expectations that exist when enter/exiting a situation.

The Personal Space Difference:

Mexicans greet each other in very different ways than Americans. In Mexico, women kiss everyone on the cheek when greeting them. A man, on the other hand, will kiss a woman on the cheek and shake the hand of another man. This hand shake usually involves a pat on the shoulder/bicep area or another hand placed on top of the hand being shaken.

The bottom line is that Mexicans are a lot more physical when greeting each other. Whether it’s a quick beso, a firm handshake that lingers, or all of the above plus a hug, they greet each other physically as opposed to the quick ‘hey’ that we Americans tend to throw out.

A quick side note from Andrew: if you’re learning Spanish or thinking about doing so, you need to know about this…

I’ve got an entire book about how to put together your own personal, custom Spanish-learning system that’s based on using online resources (mostly free) and Spanish-language popular media such as TV shows, movies, books, etc.  It’s designed especially for beginners and intermediate learners, it shows you how to get started right by learning modern, normal, everyday spoken Spanish (what native speakers actually use to talk to each other in most common situations) so that you’re learning the most useful type of Spanish and not something outdated or overly formal like what you might find in a textbook.  The biggest emphasis, however, is having fun because if you don’t do that then odds are extremely good you will fail because the most common reason people fail to learn a language is that they get bored and frustrated and then they quit!  If you get to choose whatever TV show, movie, or book in Spanish that seems like it would be interesting and/or entertaining to you, and then use it to teach yourself Spanish, how could that not be fun?!  In this guide I even include 4 lists, each in its own appendix at the rear, of all the free online resources you will ever need as well as a review of many of them and information on how to use them.  If this sounds like something that might interest you, please check out my book here on Amazon.

Ok, pardon my sales pitch (doing that sort of thing is how I’m able to provide you with this kind of free content and not run any sort of ads on this site, by the way), on with the rest of the article!

The Intensity of The Greeting:

Mexicans also greet each other with much more intensity than Americans. A big smile, the kiss, handshake, hug, combination depending on who is greeting whom, and a passionate como estas? Que bueno verte! [How are you? It’s so good to see you!]

Mexicans greet each other like Americans would if they hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks/months as a standard greeting. My wife says good night to her parents every night in the same way I say good bye to my parents when we are headed back home from visiting them and won’t see them again for 3-6 months. A simple ‘hey, how are you doing?’ devoid of emotion is considered rude in Mexican culture. In America, we tend to tailor our greeting to the circumstance a lot more. For example, if I just saw you 10 minutes ago, and I will see you again in two hours, there may not even be a greeting.

In Mexico, the formal, excited, intense, drawn out greeting is there every.single.time. Whether I’m just going to the store for milk or am going off to war, it’s basically the same goodbye. This may be a slight exaggeration, however it isn’t as far-fetched as you might think if you don’t understand Mexican culture.

The Cultural Expectations When Greeting/Leaving Someone:

As I’ve stated, there are certain expectations that exist in Mexican culture when you are greeting and/or leaving a person or group of people. Basically, anytime you enter, re-enter, leave, return for your keys, whatever, you are expected to not only greet the people, but greet everyone individually with the kiss/hug/handshake/combo style. Even my wife will greet me formally every single time I come home from work, or from any other place. She will despedirse almost every morning while walking me to the door as I head out for work. This is just part of the culture. The hello/goodbye moments are very important to the Mexican people. It’s almost a sign of respect to acknowledge and greet individually everyone in the room at all times regardless of who they are or how comfortable you are with them; parents, spouses, children, etc.

Due to these three points, Mexicans often perceive Americans as cold, aloof, indifferent, and ultimately almost rude for the way we greet and interact with each other. To them, it’s ridiculous that we don’t hug and kiss our parents more, go on-and-on about how much we love them, or call them on the phone every day (or even once a week). The stereo type that family is incredibly important for Mexicans holds true, however it’s more of the way they express the importance.

While their language may be easier to learn than some, the true Mexican language consists of not only Spanish, but the way they use it to interact with each other. The true language of Mexico is a combination of Spanish and their diverse and special culture.

A Quick Note Before We End…

I’ve got two posts that I’ve put up that I’m recommending everyone interested in learning Spanish go read if they haven’t already (if you have, ignore this, sorry): How to avoid wasting months learning Spanish the wrong way (basically this is my “how to get started right in learning Spanish” post for complete beginners) and The Telenovela Method where I cover how to use popular media like movies, music, and books to learn Spanish. Additionally you can check out the front page for a more complete list of my best and most popular posts.



Get my list of the internet's top 33 FREE Spanish-learning resources here!

I put together a list of the internet’s Top 33 Free Spanish-learning resources, my favorite language exchanges and Spanish chat rooms, and more. I’ve spent a great deal of time putting together a 3-part series of articles for you on the internet’s best free resources for the Spanish-learner that you’ll get when you sign up for my newsletter–in addition to all of what you get below, I’ll be sure to send you any updates about cool new sites, resources, and learning tips and techniques that I come up with (I’m currently putting together a whole series that will teach you in great detail precisely how I go about learning a new language):

Part 1: A very long list of my favorite Top 33 free online Spanish-learning resources (tools, references, sites with free lessons, articles, blogs, forums, etc.) that’s far too long to include here, especially with all the other stuff I’ve got here that’s available just on this site alone, and I’d like to offer it to you (completely free, you don’t have to do anything other than sign up) right now.

Part 2: I explain what language exchanges are (essentially they allow you free access to an unlimited number of native speakers to practice your Spanish with), why they’re absolutely essential if you’re teaching yourself (I’m serious when I say this: it’s impossible to get fluent without them if you’re learning a foreign language on your own), how to use them, and which ones are the best.

Part 3: I cover chat rooms which are specifically devoted to connecting you with native Spanish speakers who want to learn English so you can chat with them in Spanish (and they’ll help and correct you) and then you do the same for them with their English (these are completely free to use, but rather hard to find, but I’ll tell you where the best ones are!). Sign up below!

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