Being Polite

Being Polite

Forms of Address

  • Consider familiar and formal forms of address - ‘tú’ is usually used among friends, relatives or people of the same age, while ‘usted’ is used in a formal context or when addressing someone senior or unfamiliar. Pronouns and verb forms change according to the form of address.
  • Respect titles. ‘Señor’ (Mr.), ‘Señora’ (Mrs.), and ‘Señorita’ (Miss) are commonly used.

Polite Expressions

  • ‘Por favour’ and ‘Gracias’ are important to use in all contexts. ‘Por favour’ is a way to say ‘please’ and ‘Gracias’ means ‘thank you’. Another polite phrase often heard is ‘De nada’, which serves to say ‘You’re welcome’.
  • When asking for something, use ‘¿Puedo tener…?’ which means ‘Could I have…?’ or ‘Quisiera…’ (I would like…). Remember, phrases are more formal and politer if used in the conditional or subjunctive mood.
  • A polite way of saying ‘I’m sorry’ is ‘Lo siento’. If you simply want to get someone’s attention, especially if that person is older or of a higher social status, it’s best to say ‘Perdón’ which just means ‘Pardon’ or ‘Excuse me’.
  • To interrupt someone politely, use ‘Disculpe’, which means ‘Excuse me’.
  • Always use ‘¿Me permite?’ or ‘¿Le importa si…?’ when asking for permission, translating to ‘Would you mind if…?’

Greetings and Direct Interactions

  • During greetings, it is customary to kiss once on each cheek in Spain, starting with the left. In a more formal setting, a handshake is usually more appropriate. ‘Hola’ and ‘Adiós’ are simple greetings for ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’, and ‘Buenos días’ (good morning), ‘Buenas tardes’ (good afternoon), or ‘Buenas noches’ (good night) can also be used depending on the time of day.
  • Spanish culture also values direct eye contact. It is seen as a way of showing that you are paying attention and being respectful.

Cultural Differences

  • Keep in mind small cultural differences, such as table manners. It’s important not to rest elbows on the table and not to begin eating until the host starts.

Remember, always try to mimic the politeness level of the person you are talking to. Practice with different scenarios to familiarise yourself with formal and informal registers.