The Venezuelan accent and language structure are similar to that of Canarian Spanish. The Caracas dialect and accent in particular is considered to be ‘true’ Venezuelan Spanish and is used primarily by the media. Venezuelan Spanish also incorporates words of African origin (due to the history of slavery in the country) and has some Portuguese and Italian influences.
- Direct/Indirect Communication: Venezuelans tend to be very open about their emotions. This means you can generally take what they say at face value as what they truly mean. Venezuelans generally expect similar honesty from their conversation partner, and hence may fail to read into understatements. However, they often take a long, roundabout approach to convey their point. For example, it is common for people to take a tangent, weaving in multiple stories and examples to answer a question. This communication can draw out conversation. Negative opinions, criticism or bad news may also be delivered more indirectly and privately so as not to be overly critical.
- Conversation Style: Venezuelans can be quite expressive when making their point heard. One typically finds that the biggest personalities dominate as multiple tangents of conversation can be conducted at once. Conversations are often loud and accompanied by animated body language. There may also be multiple conversations occurring at once. There are rarely moments of silence in which more timid voices can interject. Although they can be quite energetic, Venezuelans are usually sensitive and attentive listeners. They will often communicate in a quieter tone of voice if they are conversing with someone of higher social standing.
- Hierarchy: Venezuelan communication is quite hierarchical depending on the circumstance. There are different forms of expression in Spanish that communicate varying levels of courtesy and formality to recognise people’s status and relationship. The informal ‘you' (known as ‘tú’) is generally used between people who know each other very well and among the youth. The polite form of speech is to address people in the formal form of ‘you' (known as ‘usted’). This puts a social distance between the speaker and their counterpart. It should be used when addressing someone of a higher status (e.g. elderly) or people you don’t know (e.g. waiter).
- Volume: Venezuelans may raise their voices significantly when excited or highly engaged in the conversation topic. The volume can be very loud if there is a group. This is the norm and does not usually indicate aggression or agitation.
- Humour: Venezuelans are often very good at weaving humour into conversation. Dark sarcasm can be common, whereby people make light of bad circumstances. Some jokes shared between friends may be quite crude, but these are rarely told in the company of strangers or family members.
- Inverted Question Marks: In the Spanish language, questions are written with an inverted (or upside-down) question mark at the beginning of the sentence. For example: ¿Cómo está la vaina? (How is everything going?).
- Physical Contact: Physical contact is common and expected between Venezuelans of the same gender. Venezuelans are generally very people. They may nudge your arm or leg to reinforce their points in conversations, put an arm around your shoulder in camaraderie or hold both your shoulders to show deep appreciation. However, some men may prefer not to touch one another if it can be avoided.
- Personal Space: The distance of appropriate personal space is generally quite close in comparison to the English-speaking West. If you are conversing with a Venezuelan, avoid the temptation to move away from the person with whom you are speaking, even if you feel they are standing too close. This would be considered standoffish and rude. In a business setting, men and women should stand about an arm’s length apart.
- Eye Contact: It is important to maintain eye contact in Venezuelan culture. This conveys respect and attention.
- Gestures: Venezuelans generally gesticulate a lot while talking, using lots of hand movements to give theatrical emphasis to their stories and points. To gesture as if you are blowing a kiss to someone is known as ‘lanzar besitos’, and is very common. To indicate a desire to go outside to smoke a cigarette, you can imitate a smoking gesture with two fingers near your mouth. To make a cross (cruz) indicates you are trying to ward off bad thoughts. This gesture may be done towards another person to scare off or dispel negative thoughts.
- Obscene Gesture: The gesture for “okay” (making a circle with your thumb and index finger) has homophobic connotations and is very rude in Venezuelan culture.
- Pointing: It is considered rude to point with the index finger. It is more polite to use the entire hand. People may gesture towards something by pursing their lips (as if to kiss) in the direction of the person.
- Beckoning: It is inappropriate to beckon people with your index finger alone. If beckoning, wave towards yourself using the entire hand.