Question from a student:
– I would like to know how a person knows when to switch from Ud. with a stranger to tu. OR when traveling what’s most appropriate with the many people we encounter (lavanderia, taxistas, conductore, duenos, etc.
Response from Caro:
The general rule for a foreigner is to use usted until the other person asks you to use tú. The main reason for this is that it really varies from country to country (region to region as well) and you can’t go wrong with usted.
For example, in Costa Rica they use usted with practically everyone, including with children. In Colombia usted is typically used with men, but tú with women (gasp!). In Chile we’re very informal and tend to use tú in most social situations, although usted is used more in professional situations and with your other half (once it gets serious).
The reality is that this is a fascinating subject and there is no “one size fits all” answer. So here is my recommendation:
1 – Before you travel, read up on the region you’re visiting. If you know people from that country, ask them as well. If not, observe people and follow their lead.
2 – Anytime you’re not 100% sure if tú is appropriate, use usted. People will let you know if they want you to use tú.
Here are a few articles and a video on the subject:
FYI: From now on the Weekly Tip and the Weekly Homework will be posted on different days. When I post the optional homework on Thursdays, many students end up doing the wrong assignment 😦