Although, regions usually have many characteristics in common, regarding specific topics, each country has always its own personality. It is not the same to talk about etiquette in Brazil than talking about etiquette in Colombia, for example. Now, what exactly is etiquette? It is courtesy, social rules, politeness, manners, and the way people relate to one another. As etiquette changes according to the country or region, for some individuals, certain manners may be really strange while for others may be familiar. South America, located in the Western Hemisphere includes twelve countries, which are Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Surinam, Guyana; and there are also several territories around the main countries, which consist of islands, and belong to different nations.
There are some differences between the countries. In some of them, it takes longer to establish a friendlier relationship with other people and there is some distance before really getting to know the other person. For example, in Brazil, it is usual to shake hands among men, while women kiss on the cheek; which is different from Uruguay where people usually kiss each other. In Ecuador, unlike other countries in the region, people do not use first names unless they are really familiar or have a friendly relationship. In Venezuela, it is very important to introduce yourself to the eldest person when you arrive to a meeting. And in Colombia, leaving a little of the food you have just eaten on your plate, is considered a sign of politeness, even if you are still hungry! These are just some of the outstanding differences, although, there are some more…
On the other hand, most countries from South America have a lot of things in common. The most remarkable is the way people talk to each other, especially when they don´t know the person they are addressing. In Spanish, the main language in the continent, people differentiate when they meet someone for the first time. The word ‘you’ has more than one form. The most common is ‘tú’; in countries such as Argentina and Uruguay, they use ‘vos’ instead; and in all the South American Spanish countries, they use the word ‘usted’ to refer politely to someone unknown or old people. In some places, this word is used even among family members, but in all cases it is a sign of respect.
In general, in all the South American countries, people are polite but, at the same time, there is a friendly and pleasant atmosphere immediately after meeting someone. Most of these countries don´t have formal rituals to follow and they are not structured at all. For example, time is not a rigid issue as it may be in other countries. It is also usual to greet with a kiss on the cheek and stand close when having a conversation. When talking to South Americans, be prepared to make a lot of eye contact and get physical! In fact, it is considered impolite not to look at someone in the eye when you are having a conversation.
What differentiates South American people from the rest of the world is mainly the etiquette. It is there where all the differences rely. The Spanish Group recommends that if you are planning to travel, or you are assisting to a business meeting, or you probably need professional translation services and you need to contact a professional in Spanish, you should always be polite, from the beginning! And say ‘buenos días’!