How to be polite in Spanish: Don’t be rude, use these 3 expressions to stay polite

Don’t be RUDE in Spanish! How to be Polite

In Mexico and Spanish-speaking countries, polite dialogues play a significant role in daily interactions. Politeness is deeply rooted in Mexican culture, where showing respect and consideration for others is highly valued. I’m Paulísima and in this video we’re exploring what you need to come across as polite in Spanish.

1. Being polite in Spanish by saying: Salud – Bless you

Actor 1
Entonces, como te iba diciendo, Karla, la que me cae mal… (estornuda)
(So, as I was telling you, Karla, the one I don’t like…(sneezes))

Actor 2
¿Qué? ¿Qué me ibas a decir de Karla?
(What? What were you going to tell me about Karla?)

Actor 1
(Sneezes again)
Actor 2
Salud, salud. Perdón, no te dije salud la primera vez.
(Bless you, bless you. Sorry, I didn’t say bless you the first time.)

Actor 1
Ay, no te apures… mejor continuemos con el chisme.
(Oh, don’t worry… let’s just continue with the gossip.)

When someone sneezes in Mexico, you have to say: ¡Salud! Which literally means health. This is great to learn because you also say “salud” when cheering with drinks.

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2. Polite expressions in Spanish restaurants: Provecho y con permiso – Bon appetit and excuse me

In Mexico, and in many parts of Latin America, the phrases “buen provecho” or “provecho” or even “provechito”, are very common. The phrase is said when one arrives at a place where people are eating or when a meal is about to begin.

Actor 1
Buenas tardes.
(Good afternoon.)

Actor 2
Buenas tardes, Pau, pásale. ¡Susan!
(Good afternoon, Pau, come in. Susan!)

Susan en off

Actor 2
Ya llegó Pau.
(Pau is here.)

Susan en off
(I’m coming!)

Actor 2
Pásale, pásale. ¿Ta comiste? Estábamos a punto de empezar a comer. ¿Te sirvo?
(Come on in, come on in. Have you eaten? We were about to start having lunch. Shall I serve you?)

Actor 1
No, gracias señora. Ya comí. Buen provecho.
(No, thank you ma’am. I’ve eaten already. Bon appetit.)

Actor 2
Gracias. Siéntate en lo que baja Susan. ¿Te traigo un vasito de agua?
(Thank you. Sit down while Susan comes down. Shall I get you a glass of water?)

Actor 1
Bueno, estás en tu casa. Con permiso.
(Well, consider yourself at home. Excuse me.)

You have to know that in certain circles of high society, people find saying “provecho” or “provechito” to be tacky. However, most people in Mexico don’t belong to high society, therefore the use of “provecho”, “buen provecho” and “provechito” is prevalent and ubiquitous.

female teacher giving examples on how to be polite in spanish

Note than Susan was called she said: “mande” which literally translates as “order”, as in “give me an order”. This is the way most Mexicans reply when their name is called. When I was a kid and failed at saying “mande” and instead said “qué”, my mom would always say: You don’t say “que” you say “mande”.

At the end, the lady left the room so she said: “con permiso” a great formula for politely excusing yourself. You can use it as well as “excuse me” when someone is in your way.

3. Overall politeness vocabulary: Disculpe y más – Excuse me and more

Actor 1
Buenos días. Disculpe, ¿sabe si por aquí hay una estación de metro?
(Good morning. Excuse me, do you know if there’s a subway station around here?)

Actor 2
No sabría decirle. Es que no conozco bien esta área. Disculpe, ¿sabe si por aquí hay un metro? Es que me preguntó la señorita pero la verdad es que no conozco esta zona.
(I wouldn’t know how to tell you. It’s just that I’m not familiar with this area. Excuse me, do you know if there’s a subway around here? The lady asked me but I’m really not familiar with this area.)

Actor 3
Sí, mire, está el metro Chilpancingo. Sígase derecho tres cuadras y luego doble a la izquierda. Y de nuevo a la izquierda.
(Yes, look, there’s the Chilpancingo subway station. Keep going straight for 3 blocks and then turn left. And then again to the left.)

Actor 1
Perdón, no entendí.
(I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.)

Actor 2
Camina derecho tres cuadras y luego doble a la izquierda, y de nuevo a la izquierda.
(Walk straight 3 blocks and then turn left, and then left again.)
Muchas gracias, señora.
(Thank you very much, ma’am.)

Let’s unpack.

  • Disculpe. (Excuse me.): Disculpe is the perfect interjection to politely ask for someone’s attention. If you’re going to talk to a stranger I absolutely advise you to start out with “disculpe”. Another alternative for “disculpe” is “perdón”.
  • Saludo. (Greeting.): “Buenos días” “Buenas tardes” “buenas noches” are greetings that you cannot do without. It’s really important that you always greet before getting to the point.
  • Señora, señorita. (Ma’am, miss.): Addressing women as señora for an older woman and señorita for a young one is commonplace in Mexico. But there’s a problem with it, both words refer to the marital status of a woman which is something you can’t really tell. Sometimes women who are addressed as “señoras” would be like” “se-ño-ri-ta”. I have a friend who decided to just call everyone señorita, which can be funny to some older women. I personally just say “disculpe”.
  • Señor. (Mister.): You can either say “señor” but if you want extra politeness points, try saying “caballero” (Gentleman). I’ve noticed that men actually behave more like “caballeros” when I address them as such.
  • No sabría decirle. (I wouldn’t know how to tell you.): In this case the person who was originally asked the question did not know the answer and instead of simply saying “I don’t know”, they said “I wouldn’t know how to tell you” which sounds more formal and polite.
  • No entendí. (I didn’t understand.): It’s perfectly fine to express your lack of understanding of something. Most people would gladly explain it all again.

Mexican people are really kind, we are, I promise. It’s common that people would go the extra mile to help you out. Like in the dialogue, the lady stopped someone else to ask about the subway.

This kind of interaction is very common in Mexico.

Remember that in my Mexican culture, courtesy and kindness are very important things, so please don’t forget to say “please and thank you”.

For example: Por favor, suscríbete al canal si no lo has hecho. Gracias. (Please subscribe to the channel if you haven’t done it. Thank you.)

4. Find the mistakes in everyday life conversation

Can you fix this interaction? I think you can, you have learned enough.

Actor 1
Mesa para dos.
(Table for 2.)

Actor 2
Buenas noches, señor. ¿En qué puedo ayudarle?
(Good afternoon, sir. How may I help you?)

Actor 1
Sí, quiero una mesa para dos.
(Yeah, I want a table for 2.)

Actor 2
Por supuesto, caballero. ¿Le gustaría algo de beber mientras espera?
(Of course, gentleman. Would you like something to drink while you wait?)

Actor 1
Sí, dame una cerveza.
(Yes, give me a beer.)

Actor 2
Claro, señor. Enseguida.
(Of course, sir. Right away.)

Tell me in the comments what would you have said instead of this man who is not polite at all. Continue learning about this subject in the next lesson.

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