Cultural Tips for Guatemala

Cultural Tips for Guatemala

  |   Posted: August 18, 2003

  • Handshakes are the common greeting among both men and women; handshakes are gentle, almost limp, and somewhat prolonged. 
  • Women may pat each other's right forearm or shoulder instead of shaking hands. 
  • Female friends may also hug and lightly kiss each other on the cheek. 
  • Gift-giving, or invitations to a meal, are common social pleasantries in Guatemala, as are social outings with business associates. Business and social time often overlap. 
  • The main meal is eaten at lunchtime and an afternoon "snack" or "coffee break" is common around 4 p.m. Business dinners tend to be lighter fare and begin after 7 p.m. 
  • Traditions are important at meals. Guests are expected to clean their plates and wait politely for their host to ask them if they would like more. Visitors with good manners first decline but then finally accept second helpings when their host insists. This is seen as a compliment to both the host and the cook. 
  • Corn and tamalitos (cornmeal steamed in corn husks) are eaten with every meal. Meats are usually stewed in an amazing variety of sauces, each with its own distinctive flavor; mainly because individual villages grow and use their own herbs and spices and use them in unique ways. Coffee follows the meal. 
  • Restaurants expect a 10 percent gratuity for service. An additional tip is left for the marimba (wooden xylophone) band. 
  • Although women in Guatemala generally occupy a somewhat secondary status in this traditionally male-dominated society, many operate businesses and may have considerable personal freedom. 
  • Women should take care to not behave aggressively, but with graciousness. Women can generally walk the streets and dine alone, but may feel more comfortable if escorted.