6 Life-Affirming Practices We Should All Adopt From Latin American Culture

April 20, 2023

I love Latin Americans. They are a fun-loving, big-hearted, fierce and fabulous people. I am always inspired by the way my Latin American friends live. At first I found them a bit too loud, too open, too… much? But working near them for years made me realize how much good there is in this attitude. A bit more open, and taking up a bit more space. By comparison, the rest of us tend to worry too much about how we look in front of strangers that we hold back everything.

I personally used to be like that and the way Latinx approach life cracked the ice for me. My mood and view on life has changed for the better since adopting many of the following ways of living by the Latinx.

I collected six of their practices that I think we could all benefit from if we’d incorporate more of it in our lives.

a Latin American woman in a white halter top and white skirt is leaning against a wall, smiling.

6 Inspiring Latin American ways of living

Slower pace of life

Somehow everything takes longer with Latin Americans, like dining at a restaurant, or even getting to it. My amigos will take their time and linger around longer for a chat before departing and they seem to be so caught up in the moment. They wouldn’t notice the waitress taking long to arrive with the menus or that it took longer than usual to receive the food because they are involved in conversations, being present with what happens around them, just enjoying all it has to offer. There is more mindfulness and appreciation for la vida. (Though you don’t need to go far in Europe to find similar way of approaching life, just think of Italy’s la dolce vita feeling or how Spanish take their siesta.)

A new definition of time

It might have something to do with the previous point, but I learned that most things in Latin America do not start on time. If the party starts at 10 p.m., no one will show up until midnight. When my friends say “five minutes” that can be an hour or more. We could all benefit from a new definition of time, instead of forcing ourselves to stick to a clock and rush everywhere, only to become stressed and anxious about everything that, if you really think about it, most of the time it doesn’t even matter.

Being more affectionate

I was never a big hugger and I always hated this Hungarian custom of kissing your relatives on their cheeks whenever you meet them (and sometimes other people too). But Latin Americans are great huggers. They will wrap you in a big, warm bear hug. Also, they are even bigger kissers than Hungarians. Not only with regard to hot-and-heavy romantic kissing but also kisses on the cheek accompany just about every hello and goodbye, even when meeting for the first time. Over the years I grew to like hugs (still not entirely used to it), but we should normalize hugging a bit more. Hugs reduce stress by showing support; help boost our immunity and heart health; generally make us happier; reduce fear and pain; and enable us to communicate our compassion and care for others non-verbally.

The strong bonds between families

Latinx family bonds seem super strong for me, like gorilla glue. I always envied how their families get together. I have fond memories of annual family reunions as a kid, but through the years we got to a point where by now we don’t even visit each other for birthdays even if we are in the same village. In “developed nations,” we so often move our elderly into retirement communities and nursing homes to live out the last years of their lives. The way that inter-generational Latinx family units stay so closely bound together and care for one another is both practical and inspiring for me.

Stronger sense of community in general

I learned that when you show up at someone’s house for a visit in Colombia, pretty much at any hour of the day or night, they will offer you coffee or hot herbal tea, with a delicious sweet or savory bread. Even the “poorest” people will invite you to a delicious dinner of corn tortillas and black beans. Neighbors help each other out when needed, and you can always count on your close community.

In the Western world we often don’t even know our next door neighbors. Many of us can be wary of suspicious of the people living around us. It could be argued that the lack of community and increase in isolation in our modern times is the foundation of mental illness. And loneliness is called a “public health emergency,” so much that both Japan and the U.K. have ministers of loneliness.

This sense of community is what I take with me wherever I go. I used to live in co-ops in Scotland and when I do work-away or tree planting I always live with 3–8 other people in the same house. Life gets easier for everyone if we actually think of ourselves as a community and open up to others. This can be as simple as asking others if they’d love a cup of tea or coffee or inviting someone over for dinner. Though I also learned not to force this as for some people this might be so alien that it’s better to keep things slow and at distance for a while, but I’ve made connections much more quickly since adopting this habit.

Fiesta in the streets

My Latin American friends are great dancers and love to play vivacious music at every opportunity. I listened to so many of their stories like how salsa dancers in public parks are a common sight. While I’m not a fan of people blasting reggaeton from their speakers, in general I do appreciate the musical sense of Latin Americans. They have rhythm to life and aren’t afraid to  show it off on a randomly generated dance floor. I often find that Europeans can get so stagnant in our energies, that we should really benefit from letting loose a little more, even if it’s only in the comfort and privacy of our own home.

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Photo: Jonathan Borba via Unsplash

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Imola is a Hatha and Ashtanga yoga teacher, tree planter and writer and editor of Raised by the Wolf, an online magazine for Wild Women, with a passion for exploring and life outdoors. Originally from Hungary but currently planting trees and rewilding the enchanting forests of France. Hop over to RBTW magazine, and blog and follow her on Instagram @yogiraisedbythewolf


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