It’s customary to greet people as you pass them in the street, enter and exit a store, and most other initial face to face encounters. The most common greetings are:
Hola, buenos días
(Hi, good morning)
Hola, buenas tardes
(Hi, good afternoon)
Hola, buenas noches
(Hi, good evening)
To respond to this greeting, choose either the Hola or the buenos/nas phrase. Use this
greeting as though tomorrow will never come, and you will be amazed when even the grumpiest of old ladies and “scary” groups of young men greet you in return.
If you haven’t already learned ¡perdón! (sorry!), do so now. If you are a woman, you can throw a little “Aye!” in front of it. Mumble it to yourself repeatedly until it rolls off your tongue. This is what you say when you accidentally bump into someone on the street, step on their foot, knock their purse about, etc. This is the polite and appropriate way to respond. “Aren’t you supposed to say lo siento?” you might be wondering? NO. Don’t do it. “Lo siento” is reserved for much more dire circumstances, e.g., you are telling your neighbor you just ran over her dog.