Venezuelan Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • Venezuelans are generally relaxed in regard to timekeeping. Social occasions may start late and run overtime. However, it is still important to be punctual and respectful of others’ time in professional settings.
  • It is considered polite to dress neatly. Putting effort into one’s physical appearance to meet someone shows respect for that person. Being well-dressed is very important to Venezuelans.
  • It is polite to offer your seat to those who are older than yourself. Men may do the same for women.
  • When paying a bill, men generally pay for women. Otherwise, the person who has invited the others out to dine pays for everyone. In circumstances under which no one was specifically invited, usually the highest-ranking person pays for the others.


Visiting

  • Venezuelans often like to host dinner parties at their homes to socialise with their friends.
  • It is normal and expected for guests to arrive late to dinner parties or events at people’s homes. Consider that your host may not be prepared if you arrive too early.
  • Venezuelans often bring additional friends who may not be invited (plus-ones) when they attend parties or social functions. These people are usually welcomed and accepted, known as ‘arroceros’.
  • Children are often invited to adult parties, even if the event goes quite late. They are often expected to wait until their parents are finished, sometimes falling asleep on the couch while the adults continue to enjoy their night.
  • It is polite to bring a small gift when visiting someone’s house (such as wine, homemade cake or sangria).
  • People do not usually remove their shoes when they enter someone’s house, especially if a woman is wearing high heels.
  • It is rude to rest your feet up on furniture.
  • Coffee is an important symbol of hospitality in Venezuelan culture. It is customary to offer guests coffee during their visit; it may be considered rude to decline it.
  • Expect a Venezuelan host to put on music or fill the space with their own voice. Visits to people’s houses are often highly entertaining and social gatherings.
  • Hosts may place their broom behind the door when they are ready for guests to leave, as if they are ready to clean up once people are gone. This indirectly and politely gives guests the hint that the visit should come to a close. 


Eating

  • Do not begin eating until everyone is seated. The host indicates it is time to start by saying “Buen provecho” (enjoy).
  • The host may make a toast which you can reciprocate with your own. The most common toast is “Salud” meaning ‘to your health’.
  • Some religious families may say ‘grace’ before eating.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating, but do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • Hosts generally cook for more people than what have been originally invited (guests commonly bring other friends).
  • It is important to always offer food to anyone who does not have food if you are eating in front of them.
  • In some households, it is polite to leave a small portion of food on your plate to indicate you are full. However, in others it can lead people to think that you didn’t enjoy their dishes. It is best to observe others to understand what is best practice.
  • It is acceptable to drink a lot at a dinner party, but it is not acceptable to be drunk or a nuisance.
  • Beer, ‘Ron’ and ‘Cocuy’ are popular drinks. Wines and spirits are also commonly drunk among middle and high class circles. 
  • Men are generally expected to pay for women when eating out at restaurants.
  • In some cases, dinner may not be served until late at night.
  • The staple foods in Venezuela are rice, yam, corn and beans. Common sides include potatoes, onions, squash and spinach, to name a few.
  • Some traditional Venezuelan dishes include the ‘Pabellón Criollo’, a traditional meal of pulled meat, rice, plantain and black beans, and the ‘Arepa’, a traditional pancake made from corn or maize dough, that can be eaten with fillings such as ham and cheese. 
  • It is considered unlucky to pass salt at the dinner table. This is thought to bring hostility or conflict between yourself and the person to whom you are passing it to. 


Gift Giving

  • Gifts are given on special occasions such as one’s birthday, Christmas Day, Epiphany, name days, christenings and weddings. Smaller gifts are often given as gestures of friendship when going to dinner parties.
  • Gifts are commonly opened at the time when they are received, however with little fanfare, as Venezuelan people generally don’t want to appear as if they are showing off.
  • Alcoholic spirits and wine can make good gifts to bring to parties and larger social occasions.
  • It is customary to give a gift to celebrate a girl’s 15th birthday. Venezuelans usually celebrate the coming-of-age event with a big party called a ‘Quinceañera’.
  • Do not give knives as a gift. Some superstitious Venezuelans may perceive this to be unlucky because it can be interpreted as ‘cutting the friendship’.
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