In all of Latin America, Mexico is often considered inscrutably polite.
Folks are not only friendly, but they’ll go out of their way to make all of society into a “polite society.” And while I’ve only been to a few other Latin American countries, some version of the following will be true in many of these others (and in much of the Mediterranean, too).
The visiting foreigner’s story:
“I just wanted to know how to get to Place A, so I asked. The rather rude response I got was:
‘Here, we always say Buenos Dias or Buenos Tardes or Good Day or Guten Tag, before anything else.'”
I’ve heard this story in so many variations, that I can’t really re-tell every one of them.
The point is, for the foreigner it’s a humiliating learning experience. Very few of them will forget it, and most of them will learn, finally, to ALWAYS politely say Buenos Dias or Buenas Tardes (depending on the time of day) before any public interaction.
Though you can almost NOT learn to speak formal Spanish (usted) in famously informal Mexico where everything is said with tu, people very much insist that you say Buenos Dias or Buenas Tardes (depending on the time of day) before anything else.
What this momentarily dejected foreigner will now experience is worth commenting on.
By saying Buenos Dias or Buenas Tardes (depending on the time of day), you open a little door.
Mexicans have keen eyes for who is foreign and who is not, saying Buenos Dias or Buenas Tardes (depending on the time of day) tells them that you know the rules. Mexicans know the rules, follow them religiously, and if they don’t, they’ll quickly get a cold shoulder, too.
But when spoken correctly, this simple utterance, Buenos Dias or Buenas Tardes, will be followed by an enthusiastic nodding of the head and a palpably enthusiastic reply of the same two words. Tension is dispelled and the first speaker is invited by the second to continue speaking, to make their request, or even to make their pitch.
Many Mexicans, particularly those with higher incomes and better educations, don’t recognize this interaction for what it is.
It’s the most basic way that one can understand what “Marketing” is.
Now, imagine your basic, big, slovenly Gringo tourist decides “I just don’t feel like saying Buenos Dias or Buenas Tardes (depending on the time of day).”
Unsurprisingly, that’s what many in-house and poorly trained marketing departments do. They put their promotions on Facebook. They send out only promotional emails. They put advertisements in the wrong places, (places they wouldn’t theoretically sell), and they generally just imagine that the rules don’t apply to them.
The brand has never said “Buenos Dias” nor “Buenos Tardes” and so, it’s perceived as a hulking, ignorant intruder.
What would you do to try to set such a Gringo straight?