Knowing how to say goodbye in Peru -- vocally and physically -- is an important part of nearly all everyday interactions, both formal and informal.
Chau and Adiós
There are a few different ways to say goodbye in Spanish, but by far the most common -- at least in Peru -- is a simple chau (sometimes written as chao).
Chau is the same as a straightforward “bye” in English, being informal but also subject to various intonations that can change the emotional weight of the word (happy, sad, gloomy etc...). Despite its informal nature, you can still use chau in most formal situations, but perhaps in combination with a more formal address, such as "chau Señor _____".
A more formal way of saying goodbye is to use adiós. You’ll see this listed as “goodbye” in many phrasebooks, but it’s an oddball word. Saying adiós is like saying “farewell” in English -- it’s formal but normally too melodramatic for use in standard social situations.
Adiós is more appropriate when you are saying goodbye to friends or family before a lengthy or permanent absence. If you make good friends in Peru, for example, you would say chau at the end of the day, but you might say adiós (or adiós amigos) when the time comes to leave Peru for good.
If you get tired of chau and want to mix things up a little, try some hasta goodbyes:
- hasta mañana -- until tomorrow
- hasta luego -- until later
- hasta pronto -- until soon
- hasta entonces -- until then
Think of the “until” more as “see you.” For example, hasta pronto (lit. “until soon”) is like saying “see you soon” in English, while hasta luego is like saying “see you later.”
Oh, and forget about Arnold Schwarzenegger and “hasta la vista, baby.” While it can be used as a legitimate Spanish farewell, most Peruvians would consider hasta la vista to be a strange, antiquated or a just plain eccentric way to say goodbye (unless you're about to terminate someone, which hopefully you are not).
Other Ways of Saying Goodbye in Spanish
Here are some more fairly common ways of saying goodbye in Spanish (and one not so common):
- nos vemos -- literally “we (will) see each other,” but used to say “see you later.”
- te veo -- “I’ll see you."
- buenas noches -- “goodnight.” You can use this at night as both a greeting and as a goodbye.
- ¡vaya con Dios! -- “go with God!” Somewhat antiquated and not often said, but you might hear it used among particularly religious people.
Kissing Cheeks and Shaking Hands in Peru
Once you’ve got the local lingo down, you’ll still need to get to grips with the physical side of saying goodbye. It’s easy enough: men shake hands with other men while one kiss on the cheek is a customary goodbye in all other social situations (men do not kiss other men on the cheek).
The whole cheek kissing thing can feel odd if you're not used to it, especially when you're leaving a room full of people.
Do you kiss everyone goodbye? Shake every hand? Well, kind of, yes, especially if you were introduced to everyone on arrival (you don't need to kiss everyone goodbye if you're in a room full of strangers, that would just be weird). But it's a judgment call, and no one will be offended if you decide to say bye in your own way.
Non-social situations, such as interactions with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, government workers or anyone else working in a service capacity, do not require handshakes and certainly do not require kisses (a kiss would be overstepping the mark in such instances). A simple chau will suffice, or just say “thank you” (gracias).
Saying Goodbye in Quechua
Quechua is spoken by about 13 percent of the Peruvian population, making it the second most common language in Peru and the most widely spoken native language.
It is most widely spoken in the central and southern highland regions of Peru.
Here are three variations of “goodbye” in Quechua (spellings may vary):
- rutukama -- bye
- huq kutikama -- goodbye (see you later)
- tupananchiskama -- goodbye (so long)
Most Quechua speakers love it if you say hello or goodbye in their language, so it's worth trying to remember the words -- even if your pronunciation is far from perfect.