Hola! If that’s the only Peruvian greeting in Spanish you know so far, you’re about to learn two dozen more for everyday use throughout the country. Remember the proverb “there’s no second chance to make a first impression?” It’s a reminder that the way your conversation starts is very important, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the most common phrases used to greet people in Peruvian Spanish.
Before we move onto the list itself, we must emphasize just how important greeting (and saying goodbye) is in Peru. Many foreigners that have visited or moved to the country will initially be bewildered by the length and ritualistic character of greeting someone, even if it’s a fleeting encounter on the street. Eye contact is a must, and in most parts of the country, kissing someone on the left cheek at the start and end of the conversation is common and pretty much expected, even if you have never met the person before. (For additional social brownie points, we advise you to ask the person how their family is doing, since families are so important there.)
Now the time has come to dive head-first into the pool of basic Peruvian greetings in English!
Formal greetings in Peru
The importance of the basics can’t be underestimated. As a visitor to a country where traditions and forms of address are so important, it’s essential that the most common formal greetings are right at the tip of your tongue. Remember you have to use the formal “usted” (you, singular) when talking to people you don’t know, that are older than you, or in a professional or formal setting. The following classical greetings will always be well-received.
Common formal greetings
- Buenos días/tardes/noches (Pronunciation: BOOWEY-nahz DEE-ahz/TAHR-dez/NOH-chez / Translation: Good morning/afternoon/night)
- ¿Cómo se encuentra? (Pronunciation: KO-mo seh ehn-KWEN-trah / Translation: How are you?)
- ¿Cómo le va? (Pronunciation: KO-mo leh BAH / Translation: How are you doing?)
- ¿Cómo ha estado? (Translation: How have you been?)
This is where it gets more fun, interesting, and also way more typically Peruvian. The culture of a country is often expressed best through its informal vocabulary, and this is especially true for Spanish-speaking countries, since it’s where the linguistic and cultural differences between them really come to light. Not sure if the below greetings will be too informal for the setting you’re considering using them? Perk up your ears and analyze the register in order the gauge whether an informal greeting or even slang is appropriate.
The culture of a country is often expressed best through its informal vocabulary
Common informal greetings in Peru
¿Qué tal? (Pronunciation: khe TAL / Translation: What’s up?
There’s also a slang version of this: “¿Qué talco?”
¿Cómo vas? (Pronunciation: KOH-mo bahz / Translation: How are you doing?)
Much like how ¿Cómo estás? is used.
¿Qué cuentas? (Pronunciation: khe KWEN-tahs / Translation: What’s up?)
¿En qué andas/estás? (Pronunciation: ehn khe AN-dahz / Translation: What are you up to?)
¿Qué haces? (Pronunciation: khe ah-says / Translation: What are you doing?)
¿Qué novedades? (Pronunciation: khe noh-beh-DAH-dez / Translation: What’s new?)
The slang adaptation is this would be “¿Qué novelas?”
¡A los años! (Pronunciation: ah lohz AH-nyoz / Translation: It’s been years/ages!)
¡Buenas! (Pronunciation: BOOWEY-nahz / Translation: Good (afternoon/evening!))
This is a slightly informal, abbreviated way of saying buenas tardes or buenas noches.
¿Qué es de tu vida? (Pronunciation: khe ez deh too BE-dah / Translation: What’s been going on in your life?)
¿Allillanchu? (Pronunciation: ah-yee-YAHN-choo / Translation: How are you?)
Ok, we’re cheating here, this is Quechua, not Spanish. But it’s essential to at least know this greeting in case you’re travelling to a region where they predominantly speak Quechua.
Slang greetings in Peru
Knowing your slang is the key to really being able to integrate into all levels of society in Peru. Of course you do have to be careful not to use the slang in an inappropriate setting, but with some careful listening you should be able to work out which expressions are pertinent for different social situations. It’s important to know that the expressions below are much more common among young people and in coastal cities, not so much inland.
¡Habla! (Pronunciation: AB-lah / Translation: Speak!)
Habla is often used with: causa (pal) / barrio (neighborhood) / and even the English word “brother”
¿Qué hay? (Pronunciation: KHE a-eeh / Translation: What’s up?)
¿Qué fue? (Pronunciation: khe FWEH / Translation: What happened?)
¡Esa gente! (Pronunciation: ehs-ah HEN-teh / Translation: You peeps!)
¿Qué onda? (Pronunciation: khe ON-dah / Translation: You peeps!)
¿Y? (Pronunciation: EEH / Translation: And?)
¿Y tú? (Pronunciation: eeh TOO / Translation: And you?)
Let’s look at a couple of sample conversations using these greetings:
|Spanish Version||English Version|
|Señora Peralta: Buenas tardes, señor Quispe. ¿Cómo le va? |
Señor Quispe: Muy bien, señora Peralta. Y usted, ¿cómo ha estado? Señora Peralta: Excelente, gracias. ¿Y con la familia todo bien?
Señor Quispe: Si, gracias. Todos estamos muy bien.
|Mrs. Peralta: Good afternoon, Mr. Quispe. How are you doing? |
Mr. Quispe: Very well, Mrs. Peralta. And you, how have you been?
Mrs. Peralta: Excellent, thank you. And is everything ok with your family?
Señor Quispe: Yes, thank you. We’re all very well.
|Pedro: Juan, ¡a los años! |
Juan: ¡Pedrito! ¿Qué fue?
Pedro: ¿En qué andas?
Juan: Aquí pués, dando una vuelta por la plaza. ¿Y qué es de tu vida?
|Pedro: Juan, it’s been ages! |
Juan: Pedrito! What happened!
Pedro: What are you up to?
Juan: Just here hanging out at the plaza. What’s been going on in your life?
Test Yourself Worksheet
Now it’s time to put your newly learnt vocabulary to the test! Have a look at the following social situations and choose the best greeting for each one. (You can find the answers at the bottom of the page.)
- Lorena is at university and runs into one of her classmates.
- ¿Cómo se encuentra usted, Ricardo?
- ¡Habla barrio!
- ¿Cómo vas, Ricardo?
- Inti is at work. He runs into a co-worker that he has only met once before.
- ¿Cómo ha estado, Srta. Susana?
- ¿Qué novedades?
- ¿Y tú?
- Marcela is at the bus stop near her house. She sees one of her closest friends from the neigborhood.
- ¿Cómo le va?
- ¡Esa gente!
We have to admit that this list is by no means complete, since Peru is a country with many different cultures spread across its highly diverse geographical territory. But we can assure you that the greetings above are common in most of the country. If you want to learn more regional ways of greeting someone, ask your Peruvian friends and they’ll probably be delighted to share their local linguistic gems with you.
¡Hasta la próxima!
(Answers to the questions: 1-C, 2-A, 3-B)