Guatemala is a country of stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and warm, welcoming people. To help you fully appreciate and navigate the customs and cultural norms of this beautiful Central American nation, we've compiled a comprehensive list of tips and insights for your journey.
Greetings: A handshake is the customary way to greet someone in Guatemala. Close friends and family may exchange a hug or a light kiss on the cheek. Remember to maintain eye contact during greetings, as it is considered a sign of respect and sincerity. When addressing someone for the first time, use formal titles such as "Señor" or "Señora" followed by their last name.
Gift-giving etiquette: If you are invited to a Guatemalan home, it's polite to bring a small gift like flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine. When giving or receiving a gift, use both hands to present or accept the item, and be sure to express gratitude.
Table manners: When dining with locals, wait for your host to begin eating before you start. Use utensils for most dishes, but note that tortillas can be used to scoop up food. It's polite to finish everything on your plate, as it signals that you've enjoyed the meal. When you're finished eating, place your fork and knife parallel on your plate with the handles facing to the right.
Avoiding offense: Touching someone's head is considered disrespectful, as the head is seen as a sacred part of the body in Mayan culture. Pointing with an open hand is more polite than using a single finger. Additionally, refrain from using your left hand to give or receive objects, as it is considered impolite.
Religion: Guatemala is predominantly Roman Catholic, but there are also significant Protestant and indigenous Mayan religious communities. Respect religious customs and traditions by dressing modestly when visiting religious sites, and avoid interrupting religious ceremonies or rituals.
Photography: Ask for permission before taking photographs of people or sacred sites, as some may consider it disrespectful. Be aware of your surroundings and considerate of the privacy and feelings of those around you.
Transportation etiquette: When using public transportation, offer your seat to elderly passengers, pregnant women, or people with disabilities. Be prepared for crowded buses and practice patience and politeness when navigating the local transport system.
Gender roles: Guatemala has traditionally been a patriarchal society, but attitudes towards gender roles are slowly evolving. As a visitor, be aware of local sensitivities, and always treat men and women with respect and dignity.
Supporting local communities: As a responsible traveler, opt for locally owned accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators. This not only supports the local economy but also allows you to engage more authentically with the culture and people of Guatemala.
Safety and security: While Guatemala has made significant strides in recent years to improve safety, it's essential to take common-sense precautions. Avoid flashing valuables, be aware of your surroundings, and follow the guidance of locals or in-country experts.
Festivals and celebrations: Guatemala is known for its vibrant festivals and celebrations. Participating in these events can provide a unique insight into the country's culture and traditions. Be respectful of the customs surrounding these celebrations, and don't hesitate to ask your in-country experts for guidance on how to best enjoy these events.
By being aware of and respecting the customs and cultural norms in Guatemala, you will undoubtedly enrich your travel experience and forge deeper connections with the local people. At Lokal Travel, our in-country experts are here to help you navigate the nuances of Guatemalan culture and ensure your trip is both rewarding and memorable. Contact us today to begin planning your unforgettable journey to the heart of Central America.