More Etiquette Tips
summon a waiter, wave a finger or say "mozo".
You'll see some people snapping their fingers of hissing. That's OK
for locals, but not OK for foreigners. The waiter will only
come to the table if you signal him; this is politeness, not inefficiency.
- At cafés, the bill may or may not include a service
charge. No matter: leave a 10% tip. At restaurants, there is almost always a
service charge included. If the service was very good, leave a little extra.
- When shopping, put your money in front of the clerk,
not in the clerk's hand. In a shop, it is customary for the clerk to write up the
ticket, then you take the ticket to the "caja"
(cashier) who takes the money, then either the original clerk or another
one wraps the package and hands it to you.
- To reject the advances of shoe-shine boys, extend your
arm to full length, and wave your index finger from side to side. Frown very
slightly when you do it. Don't say anything at all.
- You can bargain for prices at open markets, but not in
department stores or shops. Don't hope to beat the seller on the price, because you
won't. Don't be insulting in your counter-offer. Part of the seller's fun is
the social interaction of meeting customers, so be pleasant and leisurely if the seller is
in that mood. If you don't know how to bargain, loiter discreetly while you observe
the locals bargaining.
- Keep small bills and small change on you so that you
don't embarrass the sellers if they don't have change for a large bill. Banks tend to give
foreigners too-large bills when they change money; watch for this.
- Women: completely ignore the whistles and comments of
the male onlookers. Pretend you're deaf. If you show the slightest reaction
(particularly offense), the man will be delighted-and encouraged.
- Meet your friends and dates at a café or movie, not
at the place you're staying.
- To conserve expensive energy, many families and hotels
turn on the water heater only in the morning or the evening. Find out, and adjust
your showering schedule accordingly.
- Take with you a number of little, inexpensive gifts,
especially ones that include a logo, such as university-logo pencils or memo pads.
Small boxes of nice chocolates or candies (particularly if they are locally made) are
welcome. If you are staying with a family, take a good bottle of wine.
- On crowded buses, give your seat to old people and
pregnant woman, but don't be surprised if they give the seat to a child.
- Most cities have a published bus schedule that shows
the routes. These are usually available at "kioskos", the little newsstands that are
everywhere. The newsstand person is often a good one to ask for directions.
- Keep your eyes open, and watch what the locals are
doing (how they flag down a taxi, how they handle standing in line for a bus, etc.)
When in doubt, ask.
The locals know you're a foreigner, and will be sympathetic to your questions about how to
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