One of the best feelings you can get while abroad is that moment when you are lost, confused, or just making a fool out of yourself and a kind stranger approaches you to help out. Whether you’re looking for a street name or trying to decipher the bus chart like it’s an ancient pharaoh’s tomb, the kindness of those who help stands out more when you’re travelling. Acts of kindness from foreigners have even been the subject of old tales such as ‘The Good Samaritan’, and it gets me thinking on why is it that we notice kindness more when it’s in a strange place? Maybe it’s because we feel lost, or maybe it’s because we don’t expect it. Either way, I see it as an opportunity to appreciate how most people are willing to help out regardless of where you come from.
Latinoamérica has a culture that holds religion and family in high regard. I’m sure most Latinos will say familia is on their top 5 things they’re grateful for. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s relevant to point out that this holiday is not yet celebrated in most Spanish speaking countries. There are a few exceptions, though. In my case specifically, I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with my coworkers from the US, since they usually organize a dinner with friends to keep their traditions alive even when living elsewhere. Here are some of the ways we express gratitude in Spanish!
Non-verbal ways to express gratitude
Just as we are a family-centered culture, we’re also a food-centered culture. Most, if not all of our celebrations involve food, and this includes displays of gratitude! One of my best friends saved my bacon a couple of weeks ago. She went out of her way to print my essay and hand it in on time while I was running late in a panic because the teacher was about to leave. To say thanks, I bought her a candy bar on the campus vending machine to express my gratitude. Inviting someone to dinner, coffee, or a snack is a very Latino way of saying thanks! Just make sure it’s someone you’re friends with since most of the time we only do this at a more personal level. Some people in our culture will refuse when you ask them to pay back, so this is often an alternative that’s easier to accept – and more fun too!
Another way to express gratitude is through the written word. In our modern era where technology has facilitated communication in ways we’ve never experienced before, a written letter is something that still holds power and conveys meaning through the ink itself. Culturally, letters are given as birthday gifts, love letters, and as gifts to loved ones who are about to leave for a while. These can also work as nice mementos of people you meet along your travels, so writing a letter to a host family, or the lady that sold you breakfast on the streets during your stay in Guatemala is a nice way to thank them for their hospitality! Here’s an example letter so you can write a letter in Spanish to someone you care about.
Querida familia anfitriona,
Quiero agradecerles por su hospitalidad mientras estuve viviendo en su casa. ¡No sé qué hubiera hecho si no me hubieran ayudado cuando me dejó el bus en mi primer día como voluntario! Nunca voy a olvidar nuestro viaje a Cobán, estoy seguro que a mis hermanos les va a encantar el ceviche que me enseñaron a cocinar.
Les deseo lo mejor y espero poder venir a visitarlos pronto.
Dear host family,
I want to thank you for your hospitality while I was living here with you. I don’t know what I’d done if you hadn’t helped when the bus left me behind on my first day as a volunteer! I’ll never forget our trip to Cobán, I’m sure my siblings will love the ceviche you taught me how to cook.
I wish you all the best and hope I can come visit soon.
As you can see, we have different words to say ‘dear’, one is formal, and the other one isn’t. Also, take into account that te quiero and ‘I love you’ carry two different meanings. In short, te quiero is less serious than ‘I love you’. You can read about this concept and more in our blog about Spanish concepts not found in English! So now you’re ready to go out there and express your gratitude! If you want to learn Spanish, take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy today.Read More