Gringo in Guadalajara

Buenas Something

Mexico remains a somewhat more formal society than the United States.  One case in point is greetings. Mexicans are quite meticulous in their hellos and goodbyes.  In many circumstances this extends to strangers.  For instance, when passing anyone on a stairway or while walking in a park, Mexicans will almost always greet one another.  In the U.S., this might be an occasion for a simple nod --- or often, no greeting at all.

In addition, the Mexican greeting is a bit more complicated than the "Hey" that one often hears in the U.S.  Essentially, when greeting here in Guadalajara, you have three options, "Buenos Dias," (good morning or good day) "Buenas Tardes" (good afternoon), or "Buenas Noches" (good evening or good night).  Sounds simple enough, but this actually leads to some thinking during the greeting process.  While it is easy to give a spaced-out "hey" in the U.S., one has locate oneself in time before giving the Mexican greeting.  This is not always so easy if your thoughts are elsewhere.  You might need to consider:  "Is it past noon yet?"  or "It's about 6 o'clock, is that tardes or noches?"

Then there are other factors to consider.  For instance, Mexicans tend to identify the afternoon (tardes) as running later than Americans, sometimes 6 or 7 PM.  This is partly because the Mexican workday extends longer.  How early the sun goes down, when is daylight savings time, and what time lunch is all play some role in your greeting decision.

So it requires some quick thinking to be on target with your greeting.  A number of times I have greeted someone with a "Buenas Tardes" only to hear in reply, "Buenas Noches."