August 24, 2016 No Comments

Meeting & Greeting In Spain – When To Do The Dos Besos

Part of getting used to living in a new country is knowing about and adjusting to the different forms of behaviour. These may seem very small things, but they can make an enormous difference in one’s feeling of being accepted and therefore comfortable in a new environment.

For example, the customary Spanish salutation of a kiss on both cheeks (or in the air somewhere near the other person’s ear!) is used between women, even those being introduced on a friendly level for the first time. A woman meeting a man for the first time may kiss him on both cheeks if for example, he is the husband or relation of someone she knows quite well, but generally not if he is, say, a business acquaintance of her neighbours’s. For a purely business relationship shaking hands is correct for both sexes.

Men greeting other men who are members of the family or close friends may indulge in a sentimental embrace or an arm round the shoulders. Otherwise a handshake is normal.

The trick to this form of greeting is not to be embarrassed about it and to learn to judge from the other person’s attitude if they are about to kiss or to shake hands.

Forms of Address

The Spanish language has two ways of saying “you”. Whether to use “tú” or “usted” is often difficult to determine and even Spanish people’s opinions vary on which would be correct in different situations. Generally “tú” is for family, friends, children, pets and between people of similar status. “Usted” implies respect, but also distance and should be used, at least initially, with people older than oneself, in formal situations and when addressing cleaning ladies, gardeners, concierges etc . Conversations often start on a formal basis with “usted”, changing to “tú” as people feel more comfortable with each other.

“Don” and “Doña” followed by a first name, for example Don Antonio or Doña Elvira is another way of showing respect towards an older person or director of a company, for example. To confuse things more both Don and Doña can be used with “tú” or “usted”.

While this can be confusing at first, simply eavesdropping n how people address each other in conversation will help you intuitively know when to use the polite “usted” or the more familiar “tú”.


The Spanish have two surnames, the first from the father and the second from the mother. Therefore, if you give your name as Richard David Smith it may be assumed that David is your first surname. To avoid this confusion it is useful to adopt the practice of giving your name as Richard D. Smith.

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