Good behavior

I recently came across this article on the internet titled How to Behave While Visiting El Salvador. It's short, but has some good basic points. Here are the "do's":


  • Wear clean, non-wrinkled and stain-free clothing. Although you are on vacation, Salvadorans are very conscious about their appearance.
  • The first time that you meet someone, shake hands and say mucho gusto (nice to meet you)
  • Take some time to learn basic Spanish before you travel to El Salvdor. Use the formal usted in your conversation with locals until they use the informal tu first
  • Salvadorans believe greetings to be important. Say buenos días (good morning) or buenas tardes (good afternoon/evening) before starting a conversation It is also courteous to say hello to the person sitting next to you on the bus and to make a general greeting when entering a public place like a restaurant.
  • Take your time. Don’t expect everyone to rush as if you were in New York.
  • Bring mementos and souvenirs from home to give as gifts to Salvadorans you come in contact with

    The article also has a list of Don'ts.

    Anyone want to add some more tips in the comments?


    George Fulmore said…
    Where do I start? As one who is married to a woman born in El Salvador and who still loves her country unquestionably after living in the U.S. for more than 25 years, and as one who lives in El Salvador several months of the year now, I'll just start with a couple:
    * If you are asked if you like El Salvador, immediately say that you love the place. You don't need specifics. That is not required. It is any hesitation that will be taken as a negative.
    * Learn quickly that while Salvadoreans may criticize their country, this is not encouraged from extranjaros.
    Robinson said…
    The only one I disagree with is that we get insulted by being called indios. As I remember, that word is neutral; that is, it has no negative or positive connotation.

    By the way George, you're right!.
    Carlos X. said…
    I like the bit about greetings. This also has a security aspect to it. If you walk into a semi-empty bar and you acknowledge others, it will signal to them that your alright, your intentions are good. Similarly, by observing who is friendly back and who is unfriendly, you will know if you are walking into a safe situation or into a dangerous situation.
    Minna Levin said…
    Adapt to the local language and use "vos" instead of "tú" (if not "usted"). You basically never hear "tú" here (my friends say that it could be perceived as snobby). Remember that the verb also changes with "vos", though. Just to complicate things a bit more! :)

    If you pass by someone who is eating, make eye contact and say "buen provecho!" either you know the person or not! It's courtesy.
    Inez said…
    Good list, and I agree with the comments others have left. I would also add:
    - Wear bugspray! You don’t want to get dengue.

    - Take pictures of police or soldiers.
    - Drink tap water or water sold on the street in bags or bottles.
    - Eat any produce unless it is well cooked or rigorously cleaned/disinfected.
    - Carry bills larger than $20s. They will be pretty useless. Even a $20 bill is very much less than ideal (especially during the first half of the day when stores don’t have change). Try to have quarters, $1s and $5s on you as much as possible.
    Thugbot said…
    Do barter with vendors. IMHO it is almost a sign of respect.

    Don't be surprised when said vendor shuts you down and won't budge on price.

    Do eat the pupusas sold in the street, but don't touch the cortido. Esp if its been sitting in the sun all day.

    Don't walk the streets if they are empty and its late in the evening (larger cities only).

    Don't walk around using an ipod/laptop/pda/etc.

    Do buy MacGyver DVD bootlegs whenever possible. I'm pissed I didn't take advantage while I was living there.

    Dont fall asleep in a hammock next to a sisterna (is that spelled correctly?) of sitting water. I caught dengue because of this.

    Do make conversation with the vigilantes. They are very friendly and usually bored out of their minds.
    Angel Magaña said…
    I stumbled upon this blog while researching other matters related to my Salvadoran relatives. Excellent blog.

    Ditto on the "buen provecho." It is almost considered rude to not say it.

    Another one I don't see on the list...

    When you get up from the table (for example) or walk in front of others, such as two individuals having a conversation, you say "con permiso," (with your permission). Conversely, if you are the one being interrupted, the appropriate response is "propio" (Its yours/granted) or "pase" (go ahead)

    Another one...

    If you find yourself on the bus, it is expected that you yield your seat to the elderly or women. On a related note, if a standing passenger is carrying stuff and happens to be next/near to where you are sitting, it is not uncommon for people to offer to help carry the items to save them the burden of carrying the stuff while standing.

    Last one...

    Not sure on the propensity of its use, but when you ask for something (say a side dish for your meal at a restaurant), you will usually hear people say "Me regala [unos frijoles]"...It is understood that although you are using the verb "regalar," you are not actually asking for it to be given to you for free.

    Regarding the use of "indio," it has no other connotations other than to be offensive. The word's meaning has been morphed into something where its use is almost exclusively used as a means of insulting someone, usually to point out someone's lack of sophistication. I personally find this term as offensive as the N word is in the USA.