The Spanish Language Blog

Often foreigners have doubts or hesitations when they greet or meet someone in Spain. Should they give a kiss on the cheek? Is it appropriate to give hugs? It is very usual to have these kind of questions when you first get to know a country or culture.

Different countries, different traditions

Latin American greetings traditions

Both in Latin America and in Spain greetings are generally handshaking and on informal occasions kissing on the cheek, even among strangers. In Colombia the usual greeting among men is a handshake. Women, however, prefer a verbal greeting or kiss on the cheek. The greeting in Argentina in most cases is a single kiss on the cheek even among men, although it depends on the degree of familiarity. In Mexico, for example, the greeting between two men is limited to a handshake.

Spanish greetings traditions

In Spain, it is advisable to distinguish formal situations from informal ones. The greeting with a kiss is seen among people who have a close or family relationship: between parents and children, close friends etc. Men do not often greet each other with kisses unless they have a family relationship instead they rather shake hands. It's not often give hugs when introduced to someone, this is available for people who maintain a close relationship as friends or family. Between friends, in addition to hugging often accompanies with a pat on the back.

For verbal greeting, “¡Hola!” is used as a valid and neutral greeting almost any occasion yet on formal occasions, it will be more correct to use expressions like “¡Buenos días!”, “¡Buenas tardes!” and “¡Buenas noches!” which also can be used to say goodbye. On informal occasions, there are a variety of expressions like: ¿Qué pasa?, “¡Buenas!”. If you are introduced to someone new, you can say Encantado/a or Mucho gusto. And while saying goodbye generally these expressions are used“¡Hasta luego!” , “¡Nos vemos! or simply" Chao! ".

After a while you get used to both customs and the culture and there is no reason to hesitate to do the right gesture as Spanish people are very welcoming and warm. However, if you are still in doubt, you can wait for the first move and do what the other person does. Bear in mind that best things in life happen at the hellos and goodbyes!

Vocabulary set

Here is a small list of Spanish vocabulary used at greetings and farewells:

  • Hola – Hello
  • Buenos días – Good morning
  • Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
  • Buenas noches – Good night
  • ¿Cómo está(s)? – How are you?
  • ¿Cómo te va? – How are you doing?
  • ¿Qué tal? – How are things?
  • Chao – Bye
  • ¿Qué pasa? – What’s going on?
  • ¡Buenas! – Short way to say Good morning/afternoon etc.
  • Encantado/a or Mucho Gusto – Nice or pleased to meet you
  • Adiós / Hasta luego – Goodbye / Bye
  • Hasta pronto – See you soon
  • Nos vemos – See you
  • ¡Cuídate! – Take care
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