Politeness costs nothing and gains everything.
Every time I visit Mexico or another Latin American country, I am reminded of how courtesy standards are higher there.
Here is a sample of what is expected or considered polite in those countries:
- In the mornings, you are expected to greet people (even strangers) with a “Buenos Dias.”
- During the rest of the day, you are expected to greet people who cross your way with a “Buenas” or “Hola.”
- You are expected to greet store / restaurant attendants every time you enter or want to pay.
- If someone greets you, you are expected to answer or return the greeting.
- When you are done eating but there are still other people around you eating, you are expected to say “Buen Provecho” (which can be translated as “enjoy your meal”).
- If you pass between two people talking or interfere with what a person is doing, you are supposed to say “Permiso.”
- You are probably going to get a lot of smiles and you are expected to return them.
- People are used to make small talk. If they notice you are visiting, they may start to ask you questions like “Where are you from?” or “How many days are you staying?” It is their way of showing interest and hospitality. You are expected to get involved in the talk (don’t act rude or sharp).
- In Spanish, there is a formal (usted) and informal (tu) way to address people. You are expected to use the formal way in order to show respect.
I am from Puerto Rico so I am supposed to have ingrained in my system all these “rules.” Guess what? Ten years in the United States have slowly wiped a lot of these ways of treating people from my daily living.
Trying to be fair and stepping away from generalizations, I can say these common courtesy expectations are not so heavily observed in the United States (and that says a lot of the respect we have for others). But, in all honesty, I seek to greet coworkers in the morning, salute employees before ordering at a restaurant and hold the door for others. And travel helps me to REMEMBER the value we should give to other human beings.
It is not only Latin America. I was shocked seeing the reverent ways elders are treated in Asia. It was interesting to notice the kindness and tenderness used to treat kids there.
It is great to think how in other parts of the world people are treated with respect, there is a sense of community and humans are interested in other humans. Every time we visit those places, we get impregnated of those ways. We return home with a desire to replicate what we just lived. There is no way to deny it. Travel makes me more polite and it has taught me a thing or two of how to treat others.
In what ways has travel made you more polite? Let me know in the comments section below.