Cultural Learning: Greetings

I went to the store today to buy bread. I was in a hurry. I had a lot of other things to be doing and to be preparing. I wanted to run in, ask if they had bread, buy the bread, and then hurry back home so I could get on with what I needed to do.

However, I arrived at the store, asked if she had any bread left, only to be answered with, “Buenos Días!” This was my reminder that I had forgotten to greet her. My mindset changed immediately. I then returned the greeting, asked her how her family was, she asked how Jeremy was and what I had done that morning. THEN, I asked if she had any bread.

There are many cultural differences we have learned to do or not to do so as to not offend Peruvians, and we continue to learn more of these as time passes. For those we have not learned yet, we lean on the grace our Peruvian friends and contacts give us for being outsiders.

Greetings and goodbyes are very important here and we realized very quickly that it was not something we were accustomed to. In the States it is normal to enter a room, a meeting, or any gathering and only greet those that are right around you. Same for when you are leaving a gathering, you may say goodbye to those right around you, but not to every person in the room. Here in Peru, it is very important when you enter a room to personally greet each person that is present, and when leaving to personally say goodbye to each person.

And then there is the difference in the type of greeting you give. Females to females and females to males almost always greet with a kiss on the cheek. A greeting between males is a handshake (adding a side hug if it is a special occasion and you know the person well).

I love this part of the culture here. It is such a beautiful thing that you recognize each person when coming into a room. It is as if you are recognizing, and demonstrating to them their worthiness by taking the time to personally say hello or goodbye. With each human being made in the image of God, a greeting is a meeting of two images of God. We greet to recognize that the other person, too, is made in the image of God and therefore worthy.  And when the image of God meets the image of God a holy space is formed and an opportunity is created to share His presence.