Before you set foot on Peruvian soil, it’s a good idea to know the basic etiquette behind greetings and introductions. Peruvians are a friendly bunch, so a slight faux pas, especially coming from a foreigner, is unlikely to cause a scene. Nevertheless, it’s always good to know that your social interactions are getting off to a good start.
Formal Greetings in Peru
Being overly polite is preferable to rudeness, so stick with formal greetings if you have any doubts. They are easy enough to remember, you just need to use them at the correct time of day:
- Buenos días - Good day or good morning. Used until midday.
- Buenas tardes - Good afternoon or good evening. Used from midday until nightfall.
- Buenas noches - Good night. Used at night as both a greeting and as a way of saying goodbye in Peru.
Peruvians are particularly polite when speaking to their elders, so bear that in mind as a basic rule. You should also use formal greetings when addressing persons of authority, such as police officers and border officials. For extra politeness, tag on a señor (male) or señora (female) -- “Buenos días, señor”.
It’s not uncommon to hear Peruvians using a quick “buenas!” without the time of day attached. That’s fine among friends and acquaintances, but try to use the full version when addressing strangers.
Saying Hello in Peru
A simple hola is the standard way of saying hello in Peru. It’s friendly but informal, so stick with formal greetings when addressing your elders and authority figures. You can add a little color to the standard hola with some informal phrases such as:
- ¿Cómo estás? - How are you?
- ¿Qué tal? - What’s up?
- ¿Como va? - How’s it going?
For some strange reason, it’s not strictly correct to use hola when answering the telephone. Instead, you should say aló as you take the call.
Physical Gestures and Introductions in Peru
Peruvian greetings and introductions are generally accompanied by a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. A firm handshake is customary between men, while a kiss is standard practice in most other situations. Peruvians kiss each other once on the right cheek. Kissing on both cheeks is unusual, so keep it nice and simple.
Handshakes and cheek kisses are particularly important during formal introductions. In such circumstances, you can also say mucho gusto -- “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
As a rule, limit your handshakes and kisses to social situations. Apart from a smile, you don’t need to use any physical gestures in day-to-day, non-social situations. These include interactions with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, government workers and anyone else working in a service capacity (although an introductory handshake might be a nice touch).
Greetings in Quechua and Aymara
More than 80% of Peruvians speak Spanish as their first language, but you will probably hear both Quechua and Aymara in the Andean highlands and around Lake Titicaca. Here are some basic greetings in both languages.Quechua Greetings:
- Rimaykullayki – Hello
- Napaykullayki – Hi
- Allillanchu? – How are you? (formal)
- Imaynan kashianki? – How are you (informal)
- Kamisaraki – Hello
- Kunjamaskatasa? – How are you?