As in all of Latin America, time tends to be a loose term in El Salvador, and tardiness is not considered rude. Expect most people to show up about an hour after your scheduled meeting time.
When entering somebody’s home or any commercial establishment, it is expected that you greet everyone who is there with a simple buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon), or buenas noches (good evening or good night), depending on what time of day it is. Failure to greet a person is considered offensive. You can also use these greetings when passing people in the street, and it will always be appreciated as a sign of friendly politeness. You can also use adiós or salud as a way of greeting when you are passing by someone on the street.
When you see people eating, you should say buen provecho, which loosely translates as “enjoy your meal,” and they will say gracias (thank you). And vice versa, if you are eating and somebody says buen provecho, say gracias.
Although Salvadorans are generally very open to talking about most things, there are a couple of topics that are best to avoid when first getting to know someone. Salvadorans are very religious people and don’t tend to question Roman Catholicism too much. If you are getting to know someone, it is best to not broach the subject of religion. Most people are not into theological philosophizing—all of the good and bad things that happen are the will of God, and that’s that. Of course, there are definitely exceptions, especially among younger and more urban Salvadorans, but it’s best to feel it out before launching into a conversation about God and religion.
Secondly, most Salvadorans do not talk too much about the war. It was extremely brutal and touched everyone’s lives in some way, regardless of whether they lived in the suburbs of San Salvador or in the mountains of Morazán. This is another topic that should not be broached lightly, as you never know what painful memories it might bring up. Wait until somebody else mentions it before you ask questions.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon El Salvador.