I have mentioned a bit before about the importance of dressing properly in Guatemala, tying it into the country’s high uncertainty avoidance and power distance scores as defined by Hofstede’s Value Dimensions. Today I want to explore the idea of attire a little more thoroughly giving special attention to specific do‘s and don’t‘s when it comes to dress in Guatemala.
In Guatemala, how you’re treated will often depend on how you’re dressed. According to Moon Travel Guides, visiting the mall or going to a night club, events that Americans view as very casual affairs, requires a bit more effort than what we would be used to. Heading to a dance club in old tennis shoes, for example, would be a big mistake. You would likely be turned away at the door!
This goes back to the the culture’s high uncertainty avoidance and power distance scores. The clothing is a convenient symbol of where you fit in socially and indicates how much respect a wearer should expect to receive. The basic view is that one should take pride in how they look by being clean and put together. Being unwilling or unable to do so indicates a social aberration.
So how does one dress to suit Guatemalan tastes? Below are some ideas:
- Dress conservatively and avoid tourist attire unless you’re in a tourist area. According to recommendations by the Peace Corps, Guatemalan men do not wear shorts and sandals in most parts of the country. Likewise, women tend to avoid tank tops, tiny shorts, and going out without doing their hair or makeup except for in the tourist hot spots. This is good to keep in mind because if you’d like to move beyond the perception of being a cultural outsider, the first step is to stop looking like one.
- Guatemalan causal and North American casual usually don’t line up. At a casual event in the United States, it would not be surprising to see people showing up in old jeans and t-shirts. In Guatemala, this would be a social faux pas. When told to dress casually, err on the side of caution and wear nice pants or jeans with a polo shirt if you’re a man, and modest blouses and nice pants or skirts if you’re a woman. Always make a special effort with your outfitting and avoid looking frumpy.
- Long hair, piercings, dreadlocks, and earrings on men are styles associated with the drug cartels and are greatly frowned upon. If you want to look like someone other than a criminal in this country, it’s best to avoid this style.
- For professionals, a man should wear traditional business suits, and women should wear either conservative dresses or two-piece skirt or pant suits. Although a cool business casual look may be en vogue for certain places in the United States, (think Google’s dress standards) in Guatemala, it is best to stick with the tried-and-true classics to show that you value and respect the company.