We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in
Most Venezuelans are laid-back regarding racial issues, since white or creole persons blend naturally with natives and Afro-Venezuelans in everyday life (education, living, politics, marriage), so the word “negro” may be used regardless of who’s saying it, or who is being referred to in this way.
Expressions like “negrito” or “mi negro” are often used as terms of endearment. You could hear someone calling “negra” to a woman, regardless of the race of the person, and in general, Afro-Venezuelans don’t find it offensive, as they are simply variations on the Spanish word for “black”. Similarly, don’t be offended if someone calls you “flaco” (thin) or “gordo” (fat) as these may also be used fairly indiscriminately, and often as a term of friendliness. Differences between Brits, Americans, or Europeans are not perceived by most Venezuelans. Hence, you can expect to be called “gringo” even if you are, say, Russian.
Any person who looks Asian is automatically “chino” – this is also a friendly term of endearment. Don’t let this offend you as a non Spanish-speaking visitor. Venezuelans, like Colombians and Panamanians, have a very amusing way of pointing to objects by pouting their lips and lifting their chin, so don’t assume that people are blowing kisses to you when you ask for directions. Neither, do not be offended if people stare at you. Remember, you may look different, perhaps strange.
The fact is, you can appear to be in the spotlight for a short period of time, only to be ignored after the other person satisfies his or her curiosity. Another important point to be kept in mind is that the Venezuelan society is severely split between “Chavistas/PSUVistas” (those who support Ex-President Chavez and his Political Party) and “Anti-Chavistas/Caprilistas” (those who oppose PSUV; Capriles is the main Opposition candidate), so it is strongly advisable not to talk about him and/or his politics unless you are sure on which side your Venezuelan friends are.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Venezuela, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Venezuela food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Venezuela? Please comment below.