Titulos and Formalities
In Puerto Vallarta, did you know it’s important to address professionals by their title? Unless you’re on a first name basis with your Doctor, he or she is Doctor (masculine form) Garcia or Doctora (feminine form) Diego. However, just as significant are the titles of your engineer Ingeniero or your architect Arquetecto, who are responsible for the building and design of the home you’re having constructed. Titles mean a lot in Mexico and are a key facet of etiquette; many ex-pats are unaware of this. You should address teachers as Maestro or Maestra; people with high skills and fine arts are also given these titles, out of respect for their achievements. People with degrees are referred to as Licenciado or Licenciada.
When learning Spanish, and we always recommend doing so, it’s important to know the difference between tu and usted for the word you. It can get complicated but once you catch on, it’s easy. Tu is used informally, whereas usted is both formal and polite. You would use usted when talking to someone in general, like the bank teller, grocery store clerk, or one of the professionals we mentioned above. Tu is reserved for family, close friends, your peers and loved ones. Using tu when addressing someone upon meeting, especially in a business situation or a person of esteem, could create awkwardness.
Tu is also used by someone in authority when speaking to another person who would be considered of less authority and it isn’t construed as being rude. For example, if you were their elder or teacher, addressing a student with the informal tu would be acceptable, as well as when talking to your maid or gardener, though we often find ourselves opting for usted, out of politeness.
The use of the word tu can be difficult to assess at the time in a relationship can one switch to using the less formal tu; this can make a lot of difference when it comes to the dating game. If you’re getting to know someone on a basis that can possibly turn into an intimate connection, the last thing you want to do is make them feel like you’re being aggressive.
Since our early days of speaking Spanish in Puerto Vallarta, we’ve found it wise to let the shoe be on the other foot. Wait until the tables are turned, so to speak. Especially if you are uncertain as to how one should be spoken to. When you have been addressed informally, then it is okay to use the less superior form of language. North of the border, we have dropped many customary terms of engagement, but Mexico is not only a different country, they also have their own standards.
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