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The Importance of Greetings in Mexican Spanish

The Importance of Greetings in Mexican Spanish

The other day I rented the movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. There is a scene in which Tommy Lee Jones’s character enters into a tienda, goes directly to the fridge, takes out his beverage, sets it on the counter to pay and says something like, “¿Cuánto cuesta?” That’s when you realize that he is still hasn’t mastered the subtlties and nuances of Mexico.

This character supposedly knows Mexican culture inside and out. It’s just one, small detail that shows you that he doesn’t. When a Mexican walks into a store, he or she almost always greets the employees. That may not be the case in Mexico City or maybe not even in Guadalajara or Monterrey. It is the case in smaller cities and pueblos. It is most certainly the case here in Xalapa.

When you walk into a store, a doctor’s office or a restaurant, you say, buenos días, buenas tardes or buenas noches, depending on the time of day. If you, like me, wander through the day a little unsure of when morning turns to afternoon, a simple buen día will suffice. When you leave you say gracias and maybe even something like hasta luego, even if you’re pretty sure you’ll never see this person again.

Greetings go a long way in helping you to blend in and to come across as a traveler rather than a tourist. Imagine how it looks to the Mexican shopkeeper when ten locals have wandered into his store, all saying buenos días, gracias and hasta luego. Then in walks an American, silent and looking only at his objective: potato chips. He grabs his bag of chips and hands them to the store keeper. He’s told how much they cost, pays, grabs his chips and walks out. That is what gives tourists a bad name.

It pays to master the niceties before visiting a foreign country. This is especially true for Mexico. Look around, listen, and see what the locals do. Even if your Spanish is minimal, a little courtesy can go a long way.

So check out these Mexican Spanish greetings:


  • Buenos días – Good morning
  • Buenas tardes – Good afternoon
  • Buenas noches – Good evening / Good night
  • Buen día – Good day
  • Buen provecho – Bon appetit
  • Gracias – Thank you
  • Hasta luego – See you later
  • Tienda – Store
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?

Want to learn how to greet someone in Mexican Spanish?
Check out this FREE lesson: 3-Minute Mexican Spanish – Greetings