El Salvador – Language, Culture, Customs, and Etiquette

Located in Central America, El Salvador is one of those mysterious countries that tend to bring out numerous secrets and pleasant discoveries as you encounter the people of the country and learn about different ethnicities. As it’s bordered by the North Pacific Ocean and placed as a small land between Honduras and Guatemala, it preserves numerous cultural peculiarities and languages that you won’t find anywhere else!

Although Spanish is considered the official language of El Salvador, even the way how it is spoken and pronounced will differ and surprise people coming from Spain or Mexico. As you take time to discover the specifics of Nahuatl, you will instantly learn that it goes beyond the small communities that are located remotely because it is part of the country’s culture and the background that can be sensed basically anywhere as you explore this beautiful ancient land! 


According to most sources, at least eight languages are spoken in El Salvador. While the locals will mostly speak Spanish as you encounter them, it is not the classic Castellano style that you would encounter in Madrid because it will also represent specific pronunciation and the use of words that come from different dialects. As a foreigner, you may find it rather difficult if you have basic Spanish language skills, yet you will quickly get used to it. Speaking of the other languages and dialects, you will encounter the inspiring Nawat language speakers who will happily use it on a daily basis for work and communicate with each other, although the government tends to provide learning in English or German compared to languages like Lenca or Pipil. While Nahuatl and Cacaopera are explored by the local scientists, the indigenous groups do not get sufficient recognition and the languages are at risk of elimination as the official statistics claim that they are spoken by less than 0.07% of the population. 


Culture plays a vital role for the people of El Salvador, which is why you should always take your time to learn more about it as you plan your first visit to the country. The majority of foreigners know very little about the land and its culture, which often results in misconceptions and false understanding of the cultural aspects. Take your time to explore the culture online and remember to prepare your travel documents as well. It can be done easier by hiring professional translators. Read PickWriters online reviews of the best language companies and choose the one that will fit your requirements. As a rule, when you are planning to start a cultural campaign in El Salvador, it might be helpful to translate your presentation as well. As you might already assume, the culture of the country is mostly influenced by the Native American Culture. Most people instantly think about the Maya people, yet the Mestizo people and the major influence of the Catholic church make it unique and worth exploring. 



One of the interesting customs that you will notice as you visit El Salvador is that the local ladies will happily pat each other on the shoulder as they greet each other. Shaking hands between women is not that customary and often shows that you are a foreigner if you are a lady shaking hands with another female. The same relates to the level of affection that may be a bit odd to Westerners as close friends share hugs and three kisses on the right cheek. You will also see that most men will also wait for a woman to extend her hand during the meeting, which is also one of the country’s specifics. Depending on the gender and age of a person, people in El Salvador will follow local traditions and mix them with minor and major Catholic celebrations. 



While the locals will never admit it, the culture of machismo with male domination is still present in the country. The wives will always take care of the household and the children will be in their care. The men will do most work beyond the homes, yet things will be different if we are dealing with middle-class families. During the last ten years, in this culture of foreign country, many changes have taken place. Women have gained more recognition, thus the etiquette culture has changed as well. The typical Spanish “Senor” is used in front of the first female name even by the close names, and the ladies will be greeted by men, depending on the time of the day. Speaking of the gifts, the locals will always appreciate roses but will not accept lilies or marigolds as these are used for sad events. The scissors and knives must be avoided as gifts. Now, do not be surprised if a person opens your gift right away! It’s a part of the local culture to show one’s genuine appreciation! 


The Basic Safety Matters 

When you are planning to visit El Salvador during the hot season, remember to always keep a bottle of water along with you and behave the best way you can by showing due respect and care. As a tourist, you are entering a different culture where perceptions of things that may be normal to you will differ. Make sure that your clothes are always appropriate and suitable for the season. As a foreigner, you should do your best to speak softly and learn some phrases in Spanish because it will help you around when you do shopping or discuss things like accommodation or transportation. When the locals hear Spanish (even if only a few phrases!), they will approach you differently and will not assume that you are a wealthy foreigner who can be easily tricked. 



Diane Sherron is a linguist who loves to travel the world and explore peculiarities in the fields of education, culture, and technology. Her posts seek helpful solutions as she focuses on innovative learning methods and cultural cooperation. Follow Diane to travel along and make your studies inspiring.