People here aren’t scared to express themselves,” said James.
Latin America, though, is rightly renowned for its fiery passions and beautiful people, and to miss out on this side of the region’s culture through fear is far more unforgivable than embarrassing yourself with culturally inappropriate body language.
While the relative calm of a laid-back cocktail bar might appeal, the best approach is to head towards the sound of a pounding salsa beat and shuffling couple feet, according to James Flood, a 30-year-old British who has had numerous romantic (or so he claims) dalliances with local Latinas in his travels in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba and Colombia.
Salsa Dance “Get a couple of basic salsa lessons – seriously,” he advised.
Is that hand on your knee a flirtatious come-on, or a culturally distinct approach to personal space?
Is splitting the bill a nod to equal gender relations, an unforgivable challenge to your date’s masculinity or the sign of an incorrigible tight-wad?
Love, whether a life-long partnership or a night-long fling, is never easy.
Throw in a language barrier and culture gap and you’re lost in a strange new game with strange new rules.
“A good way to meet people, because of the dancing culture here, is just to pick a partner and ask her to dance with you.” Even if you don’t have time to squeeze in salsa classes, it is still worth the effort to at least try and get your rusty hips and leaden feet moving, according to James.
“Your foreigner inability can be charming to the right person,” he added.
So, to guide you through this minefield, Nearshore Americas caught up with some American and British expats, currently living in Latin America, to seek their advice on the ways of cross-cultural Latin love.
For the business-tripper looking for love, the first challenge is knowing where to look.