Out and About
It's customary to greet people as you pass them in the street, enter and exit a store, and most other initial face to face encounters. The most common greetings are:
Hola, buenos días
(Hi, good morning)
Hola, buenas tardes
(Hi, good afternoon)
Hola, buenas noches
(Hi, good evening)
To respond to this greeting, choose either the Hola or the buenos/nas phrase. Use this
greeting as though tomorrow will never come, and you will be amazed when even the grumpiest of old ladies and "scary" groups of young men greet you in return.
If you haven't already learned ¡perdón! (sorry!), do so now. If you are a woman, you can throw a little "Aye!" in front of it. Mumble it to yourself repeatedly until it rolls off your tongue. This is what you say when you accidentally bump into someone on the street, step on their foot, knock their purse about, etc. This is the polite and appropriate way to respond. "Aren't you supposed to say lo siento?" you might be wondering? NO. Don't do it. "Lo siento" is reserved for much more dire circumstances, e.g., you are telling your neighbor you just ran over her dog.
How about when someone lets you "in" in traffic? Or they stop their car so that you can cross the street. You raise the back of your hand to them (about face level) and nod while you say gracias. Until you get used to this gesture, you will swear
you are getting flipped off every time you do something nice. You aren't. You are getting thanked.
Another common gesture is made by raising your hand to about chest level and bending your index finger up and down. This means "yes" and is especially useful when you have your mouth full but want to agree with what someone else is saying. Its sister gesture is made by waving the
index finger back and forth, as though it is a tiny windshield wiper. This means "no", as you probably guessed.
And finally, public restroom etiquette (sorry). Actually, just toilet paper etiquette. Unless you
are in someone's home or there is a sign directing you otherwise, throw your toilet paper in the trash can or wicker basket next to the toilet. It might seem gross but plumbing here in San Miguel is such that you are quite likely to gum up the works if you flush
your toilet paper (not to mention other unmentionables) down the toilet. When you forget (and you will) let that tell tale wad of floating toilet paper that refuses to be flushed serve as your punishment reminder.
|hi, hello||hola||(OH lah)|
|good morning||buenos días||(BUEN ohs DEE ahs)|
|good afternoon||buenas tardes||(BUEN ahs TAR thes)|
|good evening||buenas noches||(BUEN ahs NO chess)|
|please||por favor||(por fah VOR)|
|thank you||gracias||(GRAH see ahs)|
CULTURE CLUB TIP #3
Don't expect anyone working in a store to have change. They might. They might not. A lot of times they can get it for you. But be prepared, you'll have to give them that $500 peso bill first. They will walk away with it. Even at the Tuesday Market. Especially at the Tuesday Market!. You will wonder if you are the biggest sucker in the world. You will glance over your shoulder to see if you can catch anyone laughing at you. As you wait, and wait, and wait some more,
you will become convinced that you must be the stupidest gringo that has ever walked the cobblestones of San Miguel. Eventually, though, whoever walked away with your $500 pesos will come back with your change, and your faith in humankind, and Mexicans in particular, will be restored. This will happen over and over again. Get used to it.
The most salvationary exception to this rule is Oxxo. Oxxo is one of the few stores
that always has change. Go there, buy a bottle of water or some gum and ask the cashier, "Tendrán cambio de quinientos pesos?" ("Would you have change for $500 pesos?) Most often they will answer yes.