How Do Mexicans Greet? – General Rules and Common Mexican Greetings

If you are learning Spanish and planning to visit Mexico, then you should learn some Mexican greetings. This highly overlooked aspect of Spanish is essential to break the ice and start a conversation with Mexicans. Furthermore, knowing some of the most common greetings will help you avoid misunderstandings. 

In this article, we are going to discuss some of the most common Mexican greetings, the contexts where you can use them as well as some ways you can answer back. Since Spanish is quite different depending on the country you are in, the following phrases and manners may not be the same for other Spanish speaking countries. 

Mexican Slang Greetings

Just as in other countries, in Mexico, we use many slang phrases to greet each other. And since usually these expressions are not taught in courses, many non-native Spanish speakers often have trouble understanding and responding to these informal greetings. When it comes to Mexican informal greetings, you should take into account that a direct translation cannot always be used because these phrases are made of word games that cannot be duplicated in English.

The following list contains some of the most common Mexican slang greetings, as well as some examples that will show you how to respond to them. Although these phrases are very popular among Mexicans, it’s better to use them in informal contexts or with your friends. 

1. ¡Qué onda! – What’s Up?

This is an informal Mexican greeting and is very popular among young people and adults. ‘¡Qué onda!’ is a relaxed way of saying ‘Hello’ or ‘how are you’ and, like other slang phrases, this greeting cannot be translated literally into English. However, the closest expression would be: ‘What’s Up?’.

When do we use it?

As long as the context is informal, ‘¡Qué onda!’ can be used in a variety of situations: when running into a friend on the street, texting them or answering a call.

How do we respond  when someone says ‘¡Qué onda!’

For many new Spanish learners, responding to Mexican slang greetings is not always easy. Like many other greetings, to answer to ‘¡Qué onda!’ you generally have two options.

Option 1

Let’s imagine that you are walking in the street and you run into a friend who greets you with a simple ‘¡Qué onda!’. The best way to answer back is:

Option 2

In the previous example, your friend greeted you with a simple phrase. As a result, you may respond by greeting and asking him how he is. Although this situation is very common, sometimes the conversation may develop differently:

Tu amigo: ¡Qué onda! ¿Cómo has estado? Hace mucho que no te veía.Your friend: Hey, what’s up? How have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while.
Tú: Bien, ¿y tú? Ya sé, he estado ocupado. You: Well and you? I know, I have been busy. 

In a conversation, you cannot answer until you know what the other person is telling or asking you. Greetings are no different. 

Take Note: Just as ‘What’s up?’ can be used as a greeting or as a question to find out what a person wants, ‘¡Qué onda’ works the same way. Determining if this Mexican phrase is working as a question or greeting will depend on the context.

Greetings that you can use instead of ‘¡Qué onda!’

As mentioned earlier, one of the main characteristics of Mexican greetings are rhymes and word games. These characteristics can be seen in some variations of ‘¡Qué onda!’. Although the following examples work just like ‘¡Qué onda!’, something that sets them apart is their degree of informality. The following are some Mexican slang greetings that you can use instead of ‘¡Qué onda!’.

  1. ¡Qué hongo! Because of their similarity in sound, Mexicans use this phrase as a synonym for ‘¡Qué onda!’. 
  2. ¡Qué Honduras! This Mexican slang greeting is probably the most informal variation of ‘¡Qué onda!’. It is usually used among young men.
  3. ¡Qué hondón! As with ‘¡Qué hongo!’, many young Mexicans use this phrase instead of ‘¡Qué onda!’.
  4. ¡Qué rollo! Although the sound of this greeting is completely different from ‘¡Qué onda!’, it is used and translated in the same way. This Mexican slang greeting is used between men and women.
  5. ¡Qué show! Just as ‘Qué rollo!’, this greeting doesn’t have a phonetic similarity with the variations of  ‘¡Qué onda!’. However, it is also used in the same way with the difference that ‘¡Qué show!’ is slightly more informal.

Mexicans also use the peace and love sign as a non-verbal way to say ‘¡Qué onda!’ and just as the verbal greetings, this sign is very popular. One of the keys to choosing a good Mexican slang greeting is to think about both the situation and the people with whom you are going to use it. Although ‘¡Qué onda!’ is a slang phrase, it’s not as informal as its variations. Therefore, if you are with your friends or people with whom you have a close relationship, you can use any option you want. However, if the person you greet is only an acquaintance or someone you haven’t seen for a long time, it is best to use ‘¡Qué onda!’.

2. ‘¿Cómo andas?’ – How are you doing?

Although this Mexican greeting is extremely popular among natives, for new speakers it isn’t well known and it can be confusing because of the presence of the verb ‘Andar’. Like many other Spanish verbs, this verb has many meanings and functions in Spanish, which cannot always be translated directly into English. In this case, the greeting ‘¿Cómo andas?’ is translated as ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘How are you?’.

When do we use it?

Mexicans use this phrase to kill two birds with one stone: as a way to greet a person and ask him how he or she is. Although ‘¿Cómo andas?’ is a slang phrase, people of different ages use it as long as they are in an informal situation.

To use this greeting, you have two options: use the phrase alone or accompany it with another greeting, for example:

Andrea, ¿cómo andas?

Andrea, how are you doing?

Hey, ¡qué onda! ¿Cómo andas?

Hey, what’s up? How are you doing?

How do we respond  when someone says ‘¿Cómo andas?’

You can answer with the following words:

Here is an example of how Mexicans would use and respond to this greeting.

Tu amigo: Hey, ¿cómo andas? Your friend: Hey, how are you doing?
Tú: Bien, ¿y tú qué onda? ¿Todo bien?You: I’m doing fine, what about you? Everything okay?

Notice that in the previous example ‘¿Que onda?’ doesn’t  work as a greeting.. In this case, its meaning is similar to ‘What’s up with you’ or ‘What about you?’. In an informal situation, this type of response is very common among Mexicans.

Greetings that you can use instead of ‘¿Cómo andas?’

As mentioned earlier, ‘¿Cómo andas?’ is a phrase that has two functions: to greet and ask the other person how he or she is doing. Although this greeting does not have many variations like ‘¡Qué onda!’, Mexicans often use this phrase instead:

  1. ¿Cómo estanques? Mexicans use this informal phrase as a synonym for ‘¿Cómo estás?’. As a result, its direct translation is ‘How are you?’. Although it is very popular, this expression has a greater degree of informality, for this reason, it is only used in very casual contexts or with friends.

3. ‘¡Qué tranza!’ – What’s Up?

‘Tranza’ is a very popular word in the Mexican vocabulary and, although it generally has a negative meaning, it is also used as a greeting. Like ‘¡Qué onda!’, ‘¡Qué tranza!’ is close in meaning to ‘What’s up?’.

When do we use it?

‘¡Qué tranza!’ and ‘¡Qué onda!’ are very similar. However, ‘¡Qué tranza!’is even more casual than ‘qué onda’.. In addition to being common in informal situations, this greeting tends to be more popular among men.

How do we respond  when someone says ‘¡Qué tranza!’

Since this greeting is very casual, many non-native Spanish speakers may not know it until they hear it in a conversation. As a result, they don’t always know the best way to respond to it. 

Many Mexicans use only the phrase ‘¡Qué tranza!’ to greet and wait for the other person to continue the conversation. In these instances, you can respond with any of the greetings we have mentioned in this post, including, of course, ‘¡Qué tranza!’. 

It may also be the case that you or the other person not only greet each other but also ask more questions that allow you to start a conversation. As you can imagine, your answers will depend on the situation you are in.

Greetings that you can use instead of ‘¡Qué tranza!’

As mentioned earlier, ‘¡Qué tranza!’ is a very informal greeting that is often used among men. As a result, the variations of this greeting maintain the same characteristics. In other words, its use is limited to very casual situations and, in general, they are only suitable among men.

  1. ¿Qué trampa?
  2. ¿Qué transita por tus venas? This phrase is even more informal than ‘¡Qué tranza!’ and, in general, Mexicans use it with the intention of causing laughter or fun in their interlocutor. The popularity of this phrase is due to the similarity of sounds that it has with ‘¡Qué tranza!’ and the fact that it is considered a little bit tacky.

4. Quiubo – How is it going?

This is a very popular greeting not only in Mexico but also in other Latin American countries. ‘¡Quiubo! ’ is a contraction of the expression  ‘¿Qué hubo?’ and, when used as a greeting, this phrase is translated as ‘How is it going?’.

When do we use it?

‘Quiubo!’ is a greeting that is not only popular with young people, but is also used by adults. However, its use should be limited to informal situations.

How do we respond  when someone says ‘¡Quihubo!’

In previous examples, we could see that one way of responding to a greeting is by repeating the same expression that you or the other person used. However, this is not the case of ‘¡Quiubo!’. And, although it is not a written rule, when using this expression  Mexicans usually respond with any other greeting.

Tu amigo: ¡Quihubo! Your friend: Hey, how is it going?
Tú: ¡Qué onda! ¿Cómo andas?You: What’s up? How are you doing?

Remember that, just as in English, greetings can be very short or may contain questions that facilitate a conversation.

Take Note: Although one of the most popular functions of ‘¡Quiubo!’ is to greet, it can also be used as a synonym for ‘What’s going on here?’ or ‘What’s going on?’. Although these meanings are very different, the contexts in which they are used are easy to identify. Generally, when used as a synonym for ‘What’s going on?’ people are often angry or upset and asking for an explanation of a certain event. 

Greetings that you can use instead of ‘¡Quihubo!’

Although ‘¡Quihubo!’ is an extremely popular informal greeting in Mexico, it also has some variations. Something that characterizes the following greetings is the similarity of its sound. However, not distinguishing perfectly which greeting is being used is not a big problem since they are all used in the same way.

  1. ¿Qué hubo? Although ‘¿Qué hubo?’ is the correct phrase from which the popular greeting ¡Quiubo!’ comes from, this expression is not usually a very popular greeting.
  2. ¡Quiúbole!  This variation of ‘¡Quiubo!’ is very popular among Mexicans. Using one option or another depends on each person.

5. ¡Qué pedo! – What’s up?

Just as ‘qué chido’, ‘¡Qué pedo!’ is one of the most popular Mexican phrases. Like many slang expressions it lacks a direct translation but is similar to “what’s up”?

When do we use it?

Although this greeting is very popular among young Mexicans, ‘¡Qué pedo!’ is very informal and some people may consider it a word course. As a result, Mexicans use this greeting only with their friends or people they trust.

How do we respond when someone says ‘¡Qué pedo!’

When used as a greeting, it is usually accompanied by a phrase like ‘¿Cómo andas?’. Therefore, the answer to this greeting should match the question. In addition, it is also possible to respond to ‘¡Qué pedo!’ using some of the greetings discussed in this article. Here’s an example.

Tu amigo: ¡Qué pedo! ¿Cómo andas?Your friend: Hey, what’s up? How are you doing?
Tú: ¡Todo bien! ¿Y tú qué tranza?You: Everything is fine! What about you?

Greetings that you can use instead of ‘¡Qué pedo!’

As mentioned earlier, ‘¡Qué pedo!’ is a greeting that, depending on the point of view of each person, can be slang or a word curse. For this reason, there are other informal variations of this greeting that can be used to avoid such problems.

  1. ¡Qué pex! This is the most popular variation of ‘¡Qué pedo! ’and is not considered a curse word.
  2. ¡Qué pez!  This phrase is a variation of ‘¡Qué pex!’ and ‘¡Qué pedo!’. However, it’s more informal than‘¡Qué pex!’. 

Common Mexican Greetings that You Should Know

Although Mexican slang or casual greetings are perfect for use among friends and acquaintances, there will be contexts in which you cannot use them. For this reason, it is important that you familiarize yourself with some common greetings that you can use on any occasion and with anyone. In addition, these greetings are part of a more standard Spanish, which means that you can also use them in other countries.

¿Qué tal? – How is everything going

Just as ‘¿Cómo andas?’, this expression works as a greeting and a synonym for ‘How are you?’. One way to respond to this type of phrase is:

¡Hola! Muy bien ¿y tú qué tal?

Hi! Very well. What about you?

¡Qué milagro! – Long time no see

Mexicans use this phrase as a greeting when they have contact with a person they had not seen in a long time. In English, this expression is translated as ‘Long time no see’. Responding to this greeting will depend on each person since it can lead you to have a longer conversation.

¡Qué milagro! ¿Cómo has estado? Hace mucho que no nos vemos

Long time no see! How have you been? We haven’t seen each other for a long time

Some General Rules about Mexican Greetings

In Mexico, when talking about greetings, you also need to consider the physical contact. Here are some social rules that Mexicans follow and that you should keep in mind. 

A kiss on the cheek

Just as in other countries, in Mexico, it is very normal for people to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. Although this type of greeting is very common, depending on the context or the person we are greeting, we may or may not use it. Here are some unwritten rules about this type of greetings:

  • When two women greet each other, the greeting consists of a kiss on the cheek. The same happens between a man and a woman.
  • The greeting among two men consists of a handshake or a fist bump. 

Generally, Mexicans tend to greet a person with a kiss on the cheek if they are friends, family or acquaintances. However, this greeting may be inappropriate with, authoritative figures or people with whom you do not have a close relationship.

In addition to a kiss on the cheek, when people have an important friendship bond or have not seen each other in a long time, the greeting is complemented by a hug, which will vary in intensity and duration depending on their relationship and gender. For example, when they greet each other, the physical contact among Mexican men is not as long as when greeting a woman. 

How do I greet a person that someone introduces me to?

Although in this situation the greetings depend a lot on the personality of each person, usually when you are in a formal situation and someone introduces you to a person, the best thing is to greet them with a handshake. However, if you are in an informal environment and with people of your age, the greeting may consist of a kiss on the cheek.

Wrapping Up

Greeting a person is not only a matter of etiquette and manners but also a way to start off a conversation on the right foot. In this article, we talked about the most common Mexican greetings, their most popular variations and how to respond to them. In addition, we also discussed some etiquette rules that Mexicans follow when greeting each other. Remember that, although all greetings are well known, choosing one or the other depends on each person and the context in which they are in.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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