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How to Communicate Politeness, Courtesy and Respect in Mexico

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Friends sitting together on a porch
Credit: Purestock | Thinkstock
Maria and Fernando Garibay Bloggers at Expats In Mexico
Credit: Maria and Fernando Garibay

Do you know the meaning of gracias? How about muchas gracias, por favor, que estés bien, eres muy amable, disculpa, mucho gusto, encantado and con permiso? These are words we use in every conversation to communicate politeness, courtesy and respect in Mexico

The nature of the Spanish language is always passionate but still respectful. You can see this in the way we say thank you. Gracias means thank you in Spanish. However, sometimes we have the need to say more than just gracias, so we say muchas gracias (thank you a lot). There are other occasions where muchas gracias is OK, but the superlative muchísimas gracias seems even more appropriate for the occasion. We also could give a thousand thanks – mil gracias – or even a million thanks – un millón de gracias – for a special favor between co-workers.

Part of our idiosyncrasy comes from our language, the way it’s said and expressed. So, for us to say encantado/encantada, which literally means, “I’m enchanted” but is translated as “I’m delighted to meet you,” to a worker who comes to our house to do a job, it’s absolutely normal.

Here’s another example: imagine you are in a walk-in clinic, you are sitting down waiting for your appointment and somebody walks into the room. Before he or she walks through the hall, he or she would say “con permiso,” which translates as “with your permission.” Your answer is automatic and would be “propio.”

The meaning of this single word represents a whole idea. It means, it’s your own place, like you wouldn’t have to ask for permission to go in the first place. But yet you ask as a courtesy to the person or people who are already there. It’s worth mentioning that this short dialogue is in accordance with our body language. The person or people who are already in the room will accommodate their posture in a way to allow him or her to continue his or her way.

Also, in an everyday conversation when somebody asks you “¿Cómo estás?” (How are you?) and you reply just “bien,” the equivalent of saying OK or not bad, it sounds like something may be wrong. That would lead us to ask “¿Estás bien?” or “¿Todo bien?” or “Are you OK?” or “Is everything alright?” That’s why we answer “muy bien” or “de maravilla” (very well or fantastic) with the passion that characterizes us.

So remember, in Mexico, although we connect with our emotions, our language and how we communicate is all about politeness, courtesy and respect for the other person.

Hasta luego.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good protocol to learn. Thank you for sharing with us. Many North Americans are NOT POLITE or respectful to one another, even north of the border! Politeness goes a long way in Mexico. In fact goes a long way……everywhere!

    Muchas Gracias!

    • Hola Susanna, we are happy to share our Mexican culture with you. And hopefully this will help you to fit better among us.

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