Honduras cultural insights
The following cultural insights are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. The content in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.
On this page
Local and Canadian perspectives for the following subjects:
- Communication styles
- Display of emotion
- Dress, punctuality & formality
- Preferred managerial qualities
- Hierarchy and decision-making
- Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender
- Privileges and favouritism
- Conflicts in the workplace
- Motivating local colleagues
- Recommended books, films & foods
- In-country activities
- National heroes
- Shared historical events with Canada
- About the cultural interpreters
Generally, when meeting someone shake hands, and say the phrase ‘mucho gusto’ which means nice to meet you. In the cities, people hold eye contact with no problem. However, the people of Honduras (hondurenos) in the in the country side tends to lower their heads as sign of respect.
Good Topics of conversation are the family, the landscape, the food, the weather, and football clubs. Avoid topics about politics and religion.
Good discussion topics include:
- Football (soccer): Hondurans are dedicated to the sport and their national team. The team’s chances to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as well as regional championships such as the Central American Cup are good starting points. It is best to avoid discussing the merits of the city-based teams in the national league as loyalties run deep.
- Family: Honduras is a family-centred, child-friendly society. Talking about family is the most common topic. Families start early in Honduras, so do not be surprised if a 35-year-old has a teenager.
- Weather: Like Canadians, Hondurans are always talking about the weather. Cold fronts, heat waves, drought or the arrival or delay of the rainy season permeate daily conversations. Hondurans often ask about Canadian weather.
- Traffic: Traffic in major cities has become a headache for many. Talking about traffic is often an ice-breaker since everyone, regardless of class, gender or religion, suffers through the traffic.
- Travel and your country of origin: Hondurans are curious to hear stories about a person’s experiences and life in Canada, other countries and cultures. They will likely Share about their own travels as well as the travels of their own family members or friends who have gone abroad. Speaking about Hondurans points of interest such as Copan, Tela, the Bay Islands (Roatán), Amapala or others is another way to engage with people, particularly those who have not travelled abroad. Hondurans are happy to talk about their country, its flora and fauna, and places of interest.
Bad discussion topics include:
- Work: In Canada, a common first question when meeting someone is, “What do you do?” In Honduras, people rarely ask this question or talk about their work in casual conversation, especially with strangers. Asking this question could be considered poor form and off-putting to Hondurans.
- Avoid talking about partisan politics, such as the Honduran coup of 2009 which still divides families and communities and continues to shape contemporary politics. Similarly, avoid talking about the many difficulties facing Honduras unless it is part of your work. Let Hondurans introduce these topics in their own time.
- Be cautious in conversations about narco-trafficking, criminality and corruption as it can be difficult to distinguish whether the person with whom you are speaking is involved with these activities or has suffered a related traumatic experience. People of all walks of life have likely experienced first or second-hand violent or psychologically damaging criminality; people may not want to talk about it before they know a person much better. It would be unwise to ask people if they have been the victim of a crime or if they have seen illicit activities. It is best to let people offer this information when they feel comfortable to do so, which could be never.
- Hondurans are private people and have become even more so with increases in extortion, narco-trafficking and criminal infiltration into the private and public sectors. Basically, no one knows for sure if a person is good or bad, so they share less information with acquaintances and strangers.
Hondurans are very expressive and use a lot their hand gestures. During a meeting, you may touch someone with your elbow when you want the person to pay special attention to what is being discussed. It is common to point someone or something out with the lips.
Hondurans are generally friendly, helpful people who like to meet and talk to foreigners to provide directions and other casual conversation. At times, they stand close during conversation, often leaning in to emphasize a point, which can be uncomfortable for Canadians. When it comes to asking for directions, always ask multiple people as Hondurans make an effort to be kind and helpful but will sometimes provide misguided directions.
People who live in poverty, that are lower-level employees or otherwise perceive themselves to be subordinate to you for whatever reason (including you being a foreigner), will avoid making eye contact, listen, agree with everything you say, and wait for instructions. At times, it can be difficult to get people to respond, give feedback, provide information, or be critical of your ideas or the situation at hand. The more educated a person is, the more likely they are to interact with you as an equal; however, habits of deference are hard to break.
Due to the fear of extortion, Hondurans at work and at home rarely answer the phone from a number they do not know. One way to get past this reluctance is to send a text message by cell phone and/or email introducing yourself with your phone number, and when you are planning to call. Honduras has embraced mobile phone culture with Whatsapp and Facebook being the most popular messaging tools; some companies only use a Facebook for their online media. Using them might be the best way for a person to get in touch with people.
Men always firmly shake hands when greeting each other. In a business setting, men and women will shake hands as a greeting. At an informal level, greetings with members of the opposite sex usually include lightly kissing the cheek (or air-kiss beside the cheek). Foreigners are often offered a hand by Honduran women instead for the first greeting.
Perhaps the most common hand gesture is the thumbs-up, known as “cheke”, which means everything is good or the job is done or people are OK with the situation. Drivers will give a person this sign when that person lets them in front of their car. (An arm extended out of a car window, pointing downward is the driver trying to tell someone to let them in the lane.)
Hondurans point with their lips to people, things or places, especially when they are engaging in gossip about another person.
Pointing at people can be offensive to people or appear rude. It is better to gesture with an open hand in the general direction of the person or thing being discussed. To ask a person to come closer, it is best to reach out at waist level with your palm down and move your fingers toward yourself.
Among their peers, Hondurans frequently touch each other, pat each other on the shoulder, and hold hands. Hondurans also feel free to tousle the hair of children or pat them on the back or say hello, even of children they do not know, which can surprise Canadians.
Display of emotion
Public displays of affection are acceptable. The noise level is high in Honduras. People use their horns all the time, even if it is not necessary. People greet each other loudly. During a meeting, it is normal that everyone speaks at the same time.
Hondurans often express themselves with a wide range of emotions, dependent primarily on their comfort levels and who they are with. Among their peers, they can be loud and boisterous, angry or crying, and generally freely express themselves. Emotional blow-ups do occur, but once they are done, people seem to move on and not dwell on it. However, repeated angry outbursts could tarnish one’s reputation and make people wary of the person, given the context of violence in Honduras.
People perceived to be of a higher social class are more likely to repress their emotions. In workplace environments, emotions are usually quite repressed, which can create significant personnel problems. There is a sense of fatalism that leads people to accept difficult circumstances, rather than attempt to speak up and change them. Employees will often avoid conflict at almost all costs as there is considerable fear of being fired in Honduras, given the high unemployment and the poor wages offered for many jobs.
Road rage happens in the major cities and aggressive and incautious driving is common. It is best to avoid confrontations with other drivers as they may be armed with a knife or gun.
Dress, punctuality & formality
Appearances are very important. In cities like the capital, men and women generally dress fashionably.
Meetings generally do not start on time. It is also common that meetings start by talking about family, football game and taking coffee.
Degrees are very important. Generally, people are address by their title: doctor, lawyer, attorney, etc. Mr. and Mrs. are often changed by «Don or dona». When talking to a senior in authority it is better to say ‘usted’ instead of ‘tu’ or ‘vos’. Vos is more used between friends.
For your superiors, always address them by their last name preceded by Don (male) or Doña (female) or Licenciado or Licenciada, which is a Spanish word for university graduate. For example, Don/Licenciado Rodriguez or Doña/Licenciada Lopez. If the person being addressed is an engineer, use the title, Ingeniero (male) or Ingeniera (female). Using these titles shows respect.
Hondurans dress conservatively and as well as they can afford. Employees in any kind of office job are expected to wear formal clothes: a suit and tie for men, suit pants or knee-length or longer skirts or dresses for women. Shorts or casual clothes are only seen in lower level employees in work environments (handymen, maintenance, etc.). Women usually wear a substantial amount of make-up and men generally have their hair gelled to perfection.
Punctuality is very important at a job. Being late could result in dismissal. However, managers do provide some leeway for reasons of traffic and family emergencies.
Preferred managerial qualities
Lead by example when working with a team. Present your qualifications, experiences and degrees or diploma from the start. It is appreciated when a foreigner try to speak Spanish. Employees appreciate a superior/manager that congratulates team effort.
Managers who are friendly, competent and well-organized are well regarded. However, given the culture of deference and people’s general unwillingness to be direct in terms of feedback, makes it difficult to know what staff think. Look for visual cues and body language when talking to people to determine people’s comfort levels.
Employees appreciate a manager who can be intuitive or able to deduce their needs and help provide the necessary support, largely when it comes to flexibility to take care of the needs of their family or as it relates to traffic. Employees value a manager who will mentor and teach them new skills and will back them up when they stumble while they learn a new skill or job. Unfortunately, few employees will provide direct feedback to their supervisor. If they do so, it will generally be good or neutral. Staff tend to share their concerns with their colleagues or another supervisor in the hopes the third party will intervene on their behalf. Once there is a bit more trust, employees may provide neutral comments which can often be their attempt to provide negative feedback.
Employees will appreciate a manager who makes an effort to speak Spanish and works hard at improving it. They will feel more comfortable speaking with him/her in Spanish than English.
Hierarchy and decision-making
It depends on the organization, but usually an authoritarian style is used, and the boss is the one that has the last word and makes the final decision. Something common is that the boss wants to take credit for the team’s decisions and ideas.
Honduras and Honduran workplaces are hierarchical. People would rather do nothing than take the initiative and risk doing the wrong thing. People are much attuned to receiving orders. Employers rarely trust subordinates with decision-making powers, and this practice extends from the lowest level of employees up to middle management. As a result, employees rarely question rules, even if they may not apply to a particular situation or if they don’t appear to make sense. They have been taught to comply with the rule and not adapt to circumstances.
Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender
The majority of Hondurans claims to be Catholic. However, few visit the church. The Protestant religion is taking great importance, and major Protestant churches are full, even in the workplace religious music is heard. Politicians increasingly consult with religious leaders to influence their decisions. In some private companies if an employee is Catholic or Protestant is well seen.
Wealth is poorly distributed in Honduras. There is much poverty and there are many rich. There is a huge gap between poor and rich with the middle class is starting to disappear. There is discrimination by social class. Discrimination is present when selecting an employee based on the candidate’s last name and the name of the school where the person studied.
More than 7 million persons living in Honduras: The vast majority (90%) of the Honduran people are mestizo, a mixture of white and Amerindian. About 7% of the population is Amerindian, the largest proportion being in the Copán area near the Guatemalan border. Blacks, about 2% of the population, live mostly along the north coast. Perhaps 1% of the population is white, chiefly of Spanish origin.
More frequently we see more women involved in politics and in leadership positions in the private sector, even though the man is the one who has better opportunities in the labor area. With a couple, even if both men and women are working 8 hours per day, women are responsible for housework and family.
Honduras is a patriarchal and sexist society. Most leadership positions in society – political, economic, cultural and religious – are dominated by men. There are women in positions of power, too, such as in media, managers in the public and private sector, and as politicians. Women in such positions or working in male-dominated environment usually endure being called “honey” or “baby” by men in positions of power: it is considered ‘cute’ and ‘courteous’, not offensive or degrading. For women, attaining executive and leadership positions and retaining them is a constant and difficult struggle. Verbal, physical and sexual violence against women and girls is deeply engrained in society and victims rarely see justice done. Fathers are often excluded from decisions about their children and school activities as the assumption is that the mother is in charge in this area and the father is not interested. Some Honduran parents are changing this dynamic, but there is a long way to go.
Class distinctions are deeply engrained and are usually established from pre-primary school, especially in the middle and upper classes. Children go through school together and establish networks that become networks in the private sector. There is a general sense that class is immutable and people in lower classes accept their fate and search for opportunities to engage in patronage relationships with people in the upper classes, often accepting low-paid work if the employer provides other perks such as food parcels, second-hand clothing, etc. The upper classes generally have little contact with the lower classes apart from providing employment. For example, some upper class children are unaware that Honduras is the poorest country in Central America.
The Roman Catholic Church is the most established and respected religious institution. It is now facing a challenge by a strong protestant evangelical movement in Honduras that wields growing influence among believers. Billboards urging people to stop sinning and pray to God for salvation are everywhere. Meetings in the government and private sector sometimes start with a prayer. Aside from Christianity, there are small Jewish and Muslim communities in the major cities. Awareness of other religions is low.
Hondurans are largely “mestizo”, a mixture of Spanish and Indigenous Peoples that developed since the Conquest and colonization. Honduras has a variety of ethnic groups, the largest being the indigenous Maya, Miskito, and Lenca peoples and the Afro-Caribbean Garifunas. Each group has their own culture, including food, dance and art as well as their concerns about industrial and tourist development in their traditional lands. Discrimination against Garifuna and Indigenous Peoples remains a barrier to opportunity and education.
Many business deals are closed around a table with a coffee or lunch. It is common to go for business lunches where the conversation is more relaxed with topics like family, sports, etc. If a Canadian invites someone it is expected of him to pay, whether for a client or a colleague.
Business cannot be done effectively with Hondurans without building rapport. Trust, especially in the Honduran context of persistent violence and corruption, must be won. A person can do this through sharing personal stories about his/her family, life, interests, and travels. Expect to talk about anything but business for 15 to 30 minutes with someone new as you develop a working relationship. However, when speaking with people who are busy (high-level officials, etc.) it is most important to begin with your name, job title and who provided the contact’s phone number so they can assess the value of talking with you.
Privileges and favouritism
The most commons favors people would ask is for help to get a job for a relative or friend, or help with information about the way to come to Canada.
Colleagues and friends with whom a person often socializes with outside of work, may well expect the person to turn a blind eye to a mistake or give them a break on something at work or back them in a conflict. Building rapport while maintaining a professional distance is a critical challenge. Employees may sometimes ask a friend/colleague to recommend someone for a job; this is fairly common employment strategy.
Conflicts in the workplace
Generally if a Honduran is upset about something, he/she express with the non- verbal communication or a change of attitude, it is best to talk to this person in private.
Keep calm and talk directly and in private with the person. Avoid accusatory remarks, rather focus on what you have observed without asking direct questions. Have a clear idea of what needs to be changed and how it can be achieved. Listen to the other person’s concerns and ask them for ideas on how to fix the problems. Look for common ground and try to come to agreement. If the person refuses to do so, raise the issue with their friendly manager for advice and/or intervention, while informing your manager.
Motivating local colleagues
A good working environment where the boss recognizes team efforts with words of encouragement or congratulation is a good motivator.
Colleagues perform well when they know that managers trust and support them. Building inter-personal trust among a team is essential to having the morale to make colleagues highly productive. Local colleagues are often looking for opportunities for better or more pay, whether it is through overtime or a promotion, but those in lower level positions tend to forgo looking for other jobs for fear of losing their current real or perceived benefits.
Recommended books, films & foods
There are over than 10 emblematic books in Honduras, in all disciplines. It is recommended to read valuable works of Honduran authors, either for their historical values or to be familiar with the country and its people.
- Blanca Olmedo (White Olmedo) byLucila Gamero de Medina. This is the first novel by a woman in Honduras. The novel itself is very well written and is considered one of the most important novels in the country. The author was the first liberal intellectual challenging and questioning the moral, social and political values ??of the time.
- Tierras, mares y cielos (Lands, seas and skies) by Juan Ramón Molina. Every Honduran who loves poetry reads this formidable work and it is recognized as a foundation of Honduran poetry. For his style of writing, Juan Ramón Molina is considered to be ahead of his time.
- Tierra de pan llevar (Lands of carrying bread) by Rafael Heliodoro Valle. This book has few stories about Honduras, with a mixture of myths and legends, usually so optimistic and full of colorful passages.
- Prision verde (Green Prison) by Ramón Amaya Amador. This book is key to understanding the hard life of workers subjected to degrading working conditions by transnational banana companies before the strike of 1954.
- Un mundo para todos dividido (A world for all divided) by Roberto Sosa. This is one of the mostly carefully written and creative poetry on social issues and commonly recommended to read in Honduras.
- Mas allá de una esperanza (Beyond hope) documentary film by Francisco Andino
- Anita, la cazadora de insectos (Anita, the Insect Hunter) directed by Hispano Durón
- Almas de la media noche (Souls of midnight) directed by Juan Carlos Fanconi
- Amor y frijoles (Love and Beans (2009) by Mathew Kodath.
- Unos Pocos con Valor (A Few with courage) directed by Douglas Martin
Honduras has always had a wide variety of rhythms and musical genres. To choose the best songs as varied musicology is not an easy task.
The song El encarguito by William Anderson expresses the desire of many Hondurans that had to leave for other courses but always longing for the tastes of their land. La potra by Polache reflects the passionate culture of football in every sense of the way and also uses a peculiar language of Honduras. Sopa de caracol by White Band has received international success. Vaya pues by Moises Canelo is one of many alternate hymns that Honduras has.
The typical Honduran food is very rich and varied with a mix of pre-Hispanic culinary elements, Creole, Spanish and African. Typical Honduran dishes are made from corn, followed by others such as rice and beans. Hondurans eat lots of meat and carbs, vegetables and salads are to decorate the plate, any table in Honduras also has tortilla , beans, rice, cheese or butter. The preparation of the typical Honduras food includes the use of milk products, sausages , flour, eggs , vegetables , fruits, meats , fish and seafood .
Cuentos y Leyendas is a radio show of Honduras folklore which recently released a feature length horror film.
La oveja negra y demás fábulas, Augusto Monterroso, children’s fables.
Return of the River: The Selected Poems of Roberto Sosa.
Hondurans likes hanging out with friend, for a coffee, beer or sharing a meal, which is why you can find restaurants and food stands on almost every corner.
Embassies of different countries established in Honduras organize many cultural activities, including films festivals, theater, exhibitions, etc. In the countryside or villages festivals alluding to the saints, the corn festival, and Easter are organized. It is worth taking a trip to the country side to witness the great festivities.
For lovers of sports and outdoor activities, there are cycling clubs, swimming clubs, and many marathons are organized in favor of some charitable work. Football (soccer) is also another activity; it is almost like a religion.
Tourist attraction sites include the islands of the bay, Lake Yohoa, El picacho, the ruins of Copan, and more. The ideal way to enjoy the Honduran activities is to find a Honduran who can recommend and show you around the best and safest areas.
Honduras holds within it many cultures and they can be explored in the different parts of the country. Copan on the border with Guatemala hosts an amazing set of Mayan ruins. Tours can be arranged to go to Lenca pottery centers in the countryside. In Danlí, cigar factories, originally established by Cuban exiles and now hailed as the makers of some of the world’s best cigars, offer tours during the work week. On the Caribbean coast and islands, such as Tela, La Ceiba and Roatán, there are lovely beaches, snorkeling, nature reserves and Garifuna communities to visit. Outside of Tegucigalpa are hiking trails in La Tigra park, a cloud forest.
Honduras has relatively few cultural venues, although the ones that do exist offer excellent cultural programming. These include:
- Chiminike, www.chiminike.org, is a top-class children’s museum with a history of Honduras exhibit in the basement.
- El Museo de la Identidad Nacional, www.min.hn, the Museum of National Identity has extensive displays on the pre-history, geology, flora, fauna, peoples and history of Honduras. It frequently hosts excellent exhibits and has a monthly program of activities for all ages.
- CCET – Centro Cultural Espana en Tegucigalpa, ccet-aecid.hn, is a Spanish government-sponsored cultural centre that offers a strong weekly program of events, talks, exhibits and presentations.
- Alliance Francaise, aftegucigalpa.hn, is the French language school which offers events and activities for adults and children.
Honduras also has a National Gallery in Tegucigalpa and a Philharmonic Orchestra which frequently play affordable concerts.
Honduras’ men who fought for the country's welfare, brave men who served the country each filled with great civic virtues , moral , intellectual as well as great courage , strength, loyalty and love of country are associated with Precursors Independence. These include, Lempira, Dionisio de Herrera, Francisco Morazan, Jose Cecilio del Valle, Jose Trinidad Cabanas, and Jose Trinidad Reyes.
The most frequently mentioned national heroes in Honduras are Lenca chieftain Lempira and President Francisco Morazán.
Lempira, whose image is on the one lempira bill, is hailed as the country’s first freedom fighter against Spanish colonization. He rallied thousands of Lenca warriors and villages, routing the Spanish. Hondurans are taught that the Spanish only won the war by killing him using a rifle during a peace talk.
President Francisco Morazán is revered as the Honduran who united the bickering countries of Central America into a united republic and introduced reforms, including free speech, religious freedom and freedom of the press, and reducing the power of the Catholic Church. Conservative elites and the church eventually undermined the republic and provoked mass secession. Years later, he was betrayed by an ally and executed by firing squad.
Shared historical events with Canada
There are no events that could affect the work between Canadian and Honduran. There are two important events between the two countries:
- The Free Trade Agreement between Honduras and Canada was ratified by parliament and was already royal approval to take effect in October 2014.
- Honduras National Team achieve the classification to hex the North, Central American and Caribbean Confederation of Football ( Concacaf ) , heading to the World Cup Brazil 2014. The classification was achieved through a historical result 8-1 to Canada, at the Olympic stadium in San Pedro Sula.
Canada has had diplomatic relations with Honduras since 1961 and has had a long history of providing development assistance to alleviate poverty. Honduras is currently a priority country for Canadian development assistance and has provided over $134 million in the last ten years for programs related to education, health, water and sanitation, sustainable resource development, civil society support, and gender equality. Canada is also providing financial support for Honduras’ efforts to fight narco-trafficking and gangs.
Canada supported negotiations through the Organization of American States to restore democracy after the coup that removed the Honduran president in 2009.
Canada played against Honduras to qualify for the World Cup in 2012, and will play Honduras again in September 2016.
Canadian companies have a significant presence in the country, with textile manufacturer GILDAN as the large single private sector employer in the country. Canadian mining companies have also been identified as engaging projects that have received criticism from civil society organizations and affected communities.
Canada signed a free trade agreement with Honduras and it came into force on October 1, 2014, which is a source of pride for Honduras. Labour and environmental side agreements were also signed to address concerns expressed by civil society groups and Indigenous Peoples in both countries about the impact of free trade.
Hondurans in general are very warm and friendly to foreigners. They consider Canadians very respectful and peace seekers.
Canadians’ general perception that Hondurans and all Latin Americans in general, are essentially Mexicans with different flags. Canadians need to think beyond the burrito and sombrero stereotypes offered by Tex-Mex restaurants in Canada and recognize that Hondurans have their own history, food, culture, language and are proud of it. Hondurans are very proud to be Central Americans, but would take it badly to be lumped together with nationals from other Central American countries.
About the cultural interpreters
Your cultural interpreter was born in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. I have a Bachelor in Administration and a Certificate in Human Resources, and in Microcredit. My work experiences are as project officer and marketing and human resources manager. Before moving to Canada, I worked in Honduras in an NGO which allowed me to travel to the 4 corners of my country and meet a lot of people. In 2008, I moved to Gatineau. I currently work for a project that helps immigrants from all over the world in their socioeconomic integration for jobs search and open their own business. I travel at least once a year to visit my family in Honduras.
The subject matter expert has lived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for nearly three years and travelled throughout the country by car and plane during that time. He was born in Alberta, and most recently lived in Ontario with his three children and wife, who is a civil servant. He speaks Spanish fluently. He has worked in the Canadian government, private sector, and non-profit sector in communications, translation, journalism, public engagement, foreign policy and international development.
Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.
You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.
The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.
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