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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Guyana


Hospitality is important to the Guyanese and it is quite common for the visitor to be invited to their homes. Informal wear is widely acceptable, but men should avoid wearing shorts.

The Guyanese place more emphasis on people and relationships than to the strict adherence of set schedules in social situations.

The Guyanese value equality and work opportunities for women are varied and available yet earnings may still be lower. It’s best for women to avoid dining, going to local bars and clubs unaccompanied. Women are not often seen drinking in local rum shops or bars. Again, this differs in Georgetown. If a woman is drinking in public and out of a bottle, it will be accompanied with a straw and that definitely applies to foreign women as well. It is not really acceptable for women to smoke. Women are mostly seen and expected to do laundry, clean and cook.

A kissing/sucking sound is often made when someone is trying to get your attention. It is most commonly heard from men directed toward women.

Many market vendors and taxi drivers will attempt to charge foreigners more. Be knowledgeable and stand your ground. If you know the taxi is supposed to be G$300 around Georgetown, have G$300 ready and hand it to the driver, or ask for the exact amount of change.

Prices vary more from market to market. Shop around. It is possible to bargain, but not necessarily expected. Often vendors throw in an extra something if treated well.

Meeting & Greeting

A man shake hands when greeting another man and maintain direct eye contact. At a first meeting a warm handshake will suffice and is sometimes combined with slight touches on the arms and/or elbows. Handshakes may linger a bit. Good friends and family may engage in a light hug. A fist to fist style of handshake is common for younger men.

At a first meeting, a woman generally shake hands with another woman. Friends and close acquaintances may share a light hug with a kiss on the cheek.

As for greetings between a man and a woman at a first meeting, a regular handshake will suffice.

Communication Style

The Guyanese are known to be very direct and to the point. Honesty is appreciated and expected, e.g. being called “fat” is more a compliment. If your hair is shaggy, it’s “ugly;” time for a haircut. Humour plays a big role in communication. Public displays of anger and affection are common among the Guyanese.

The Guyanese tend to be most comfortable at arms lengths from one another. Two and half to three feet is normal. While conversing, there is a fair amount of touching between men and men, and women and women, but not so much between men and women.

A gentle hand grab on the arm or hand may be used to get attention/when being spoken to. A good slap on the leg happens as well. Innocent touching is pretty common.

People tend to get very close, depending on the situation. Families do hug, but on rare occasion it seems. This may be different depending on ethnic background: African, Amerindian, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese or European.

The Guyanese tend to favour direct eye contact over indirect. Avoiding eye contact can be viewed as suspicious behaviour.





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