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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Uruguay
 
 
 

General

Uruguayans are quite traditional and do not welcome criticism from foreigners. They also do not appreciate being confused with Paraguayans or Argentinians. Otherwise, people are friendly and easygoing. Although tactful, people are frank and direct and maintain a close distance when speaking. Close acquaintances of the opposite sex greet each other with one kiss on the cheek.

A national behavioural particularity is the conspicuous "following gaze" that males direct to females to indicate that they are attractive. In many cases this is accompanied by verbal expressions called piropos, which are sometimes abusive and usually are ignored.

Uruguayans tend to place more emphasis on people and relationships than to the strict adherence of set schedules. In social situations you don't expect people to arrive on time; it will be surprising if they do. Invite friends over for some drinks at 9 pm generally means at 9:30 pm or 10 pm.

Meeting & Greeting

Men shake hands when greeting one another and maintain direct eye contact. A firm handshake is a sign of strength and honesty. At a first meeting a handshake will suffice and is sometimes combined with slight touches on the arms and/or elbows. Good friends and family will engage in a hearty hug or abrazo which is sometimes combined with a few firm slaps on the back.

As for greetings among women, at first meeting, a light handshake will suffice, sometimes usually accompanied by a slight nod and warm smile. Friends generally kiss each other once on the cheek.

Among the sexes, at a first meeting, a regular handshake will do. Friends, family and long-time acquaintances will share a light kiss on the cheek which consists of touching cheeks a making a slight kissing noise. This is usually accompanied with a touch on the arm and shoulder and in some cases a light hug.

Communication Style

Uruguayans tend to stand close to one another while talking. One to two feet is normal. It can be considered rude to back away from someone while they are speaking.

There is a fair amount of touching between men and men, men and women and women and women while conversing. This includes hand on shoulders, hand on arms, and hand on hands. This is more the case between friends and less so between work colleagues.

Men kisses each other, maybe not on first meeting, but they do. Work mates, friends, etc.

Uruguayans favour direct eye contact over indirect. Maintaining eye contact is viewed as sense of respect and interest in the person who is speaking. During conversations sustained eye contact is commonplace rather than intermittent.

You must speak and look into the other persons eyes, if not it seems as if you're not being honest. Also, you must look into the eyes of the speaker to let him/her know you're paying attention.

Gestures

People beckon one another by extending an arm and making a scratching motion with their fingers. A thumbs up sign can mean OK, cool, good-luck, thanks, I agree, etc. Thumbs down means the opposite. Flicking your fingers under your chin signifies not knowing or not caring.

Pointing out people is considered to be rude. You generally point at someone else by moving your head slightly in his/her direction.

Do be aware that the inverted American OK sign is an obscene gesture. Avoid putting your feet up on a chair, desk or table. Also, it tends to be considered rude to use a toothpick in public.

It is disgusting if a man spits in the street, but it is more disgusting if a woman does it.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Make sure that gifts are nicely wrapped and expect that they may be opened right after they are presented. If invited to an Uruguayan home, it is appropriate to bring flowers, wine, good quality liquor, or chocolates.

Gender Issues

It’s not acceptable for a man to hit a woman but a woman can slap a man in his face if she’s very angry; for example, if he cheated on her.

 

 
 

 



 


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