Sunday, January 14, 2007

Buen Provecho - Guatemaltecan Politeness

I have remembered one of the many reasons Guatemala was my favourite stop on last year's Central America travels. The kindness and hospitality of the people here is unmatched elsewhere. The is a general level of politeness and courtesy in all interactions. People approach strangers with humility and respect. When good service or a nice favour is received the thank yous are abundent and the server is told they are muy amable (very kind)

Meeting new Guatemaltecans has been an enlightening experience. Introductions are met with a firm handshake, a mucho gusto (lit: much pleasure) and if the pair are of the opposite sex there is a brief kiss on the cheek. To which is added to all this an unnameable sincerity. They truly are pleased to meet you.

Perhaps my favourite custome is the phrase Buen Provecho. There is no literal translation in english. Close would be the french saying Bon Appetit but they are not used in exactly the same way. Whereas a bon appetit is wished at the start of the meal, buen provecho can be expressed before, during and after a meal. At anytime and by anyone.

My house mother runs a comedor (a modest restaurant) in the front part of our house at lunchtime. So for the past week I have been enjoying my comida tipica in the company of her regular clientele. When anyone enters the room and sees me eating they wish me buen provecho. When Annie serves the meal she says buen provecho. And when I get up to leave the table it is customary to say muchas gracias to the others in the room to which they reply buen provecho.

As I learn more about the subtle niceities and etiquete of the people here I can't help but grow more humble and thankful of the time I get to spend in such an enriching cultural.

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