Belizeans are generally welcoming and accustomed to tourists, though it’s important to remember that the country is, on the whole, quite conservative. Dress, except among professionals, is usually casual, though tourists – especially women – who wear revealing clothing will probably be looked down upon, particularly in Belize’s many churches.
Shake hands when meeting and greeting. Foreigners are expected to shake hands with everyone in a group. Kissing on the cheek is not common, except among foreigners and close friends. Avoid touching someone’s head or shoulder when greeting.
Business Cards Etiquette
Business cards in Belize are exchanged upon first meeting.
When receiving a business card, read the card slowly and carefully. Never put down or throw away a business card; it’s viewed as disrespectful.
Hand your card to the recipient with two hands and watch to see that the recipient looks at the card. Show respect and recognition to the person by tilting your head to the left. Don’t keep the card in your hand too long; hand it back as quickly as possible.
Eye contact. Foreigners in Belize are expected to look the person directly in the eyes when talking, as these are considered signs of honesty. Be careful not to stare.
After exchanging business cards, it’s customary to shake hands.
If the person with whom you should be talking is not present, wait for him or her to arrive.
Should you need to leave the room, it’s proper to ask permission to go: “Do you mind if I step out for a moment?”
When you have to leave a meeting or conversation, even for a second, it’s important to excuse yourself.
Maintain friendly conversation; finish your business later.
Belizeans are very personal people and we are upfront, open and very friendly. Being a friendly country doesn’t mean not having etiquette. Belizeans believe that good manners are very important to show respect and courtesy for others. You will find that in the way we treat each other – we are welcoming but we have a level of formality; this is reflected in the way we interact with others.
Foreigners should know that when a Belizean knows you or if you are a close family friend they will tend to be more open and share their feelings and opinions. It is important when initiating conversation to know how cosmopolitan a person is.
Insight into Belizean Culture
In Belize the ideas of time, punctuality and schedules are different. Generally, things progress at the speed they progress – or they don’t. Haste is not a virtue in Belize. It’s a trait many locals tend to share.
The five-minute schedule is usually off by at least five minutes with Belizeans. It doesn’t matter if it’s your boss or the bus driver, they all tend to be behind schedule. You must always allow for delays and don’t be surprised if travel time is longer than the schedule states.
Many Belizeans are just now getting used to the idea of punctuality and the concept of time. Certainly this is true of government officials, clerks and businesses in general. Our leaders have not resolved the problem of corruption, which tends to frown upon punctuality. It has become a serious hinderance to the country’s progress.
Belizeans like to engage in long social conversations, which will inevitably take much longer than anticipated. If you are from the United States and have been socialized to “get down to business,” you must rein in this habit in Belize. One of the advantages of having developed good relationships is to be able to enjoy these conversations.
The concept of “face” in Belize is very important. To the Belizean, if you don’t show respect or proper manners, you will “lose face.” This concept is something to be vigilant about.
If you are from the United States and have been socialized to “get down to business,” you must rein in this habit in Belize. One of the advantages of having developed good relationships is to be able to enjoy these conversations.
The concept of “face” in Belize is very important. To the Belizean, if you don’t show respect or proper manners, you will “lose face.”
Belizeans are very friendly and engaged in social conversation. Asking someone how he or she is feeling is not taboo and will garner the same response in return.
Talking on a cell phone in public is not common in Belize.
At parties and gatherings, eyes will be on you as you mingle. You’ll be judged as to how you handle yourself and according to your speech pattern, your comportment, and the way you dress. For example, Belizean patrons are particularly fond of people from the Caribbean Islands, how they dress and how they speak.
Hand and Foot Gestures
Belizeans usually shake hands with the right hand and shake with the left hand.
Belizeans do not like to point with their hands.
Most Belizeans do not touch their head, but will touch their chest and stomach.
Babies are not usually kissed on the head or kissed; cheeks are usually used.
Babies are not usually touched directly, except by their parents, siblings or close relatives.
Old women are never kissed on the cheek, not even by their own children.
Talking with the hands is normal in Belize.
Facial expressions indicate disdain or acceptance in Belize.
Kissing a baby on the belly is very common in Belize.
When shaking hands, give the right hand.
When being introduced to someone, three kisses on the cheek is usual for Belizeans.
Men and women always shake hands on greeting and departure.
It is appreciated when two women shake hands even if they are not acquainted.
Minors should not shake hands, as this is considered disrespectful.
Do not bow your head to anyone, except when sitting with others. This is considered being condescending.
When being introduced to someone, ask this person to shake your hand.
This is considered a sign of respect in Belize.
Use family names when greeting people.
It’s proper to say the person’s nickname (if known) as well as first name when greeting someone.
It is customary to introduce yourself as you would a close friend or family member.
The first request for an introduction must be made by the person you want to meet.
If you have just met someone and the person wants to introduce you to another person, it is customary for him or her to say your first name first.
Belizeans display their feelings through gestures. Emotion is very important in Belize.
Never frown at anyone or use your fingers to point someone out.
While talking, raise your hand slowly so as not to be rude.
When you have had enough, put your hand under your chin, tilt your head and shake it from side to side, and turn away.
In public, a Belizean will rarely stand with his arms crossed, and if he does this, it is best to take it as a signal to end the conversation.
If you don’t want to end a conversation, you may turn your body and back away from the person you are talking to.
Expect people to touch your elbow, shoulder or hand when making a point.
The typical greeting gesture in Belize is a “thumbs-up” when you see an acquaintance on the street; however, the traditional greeting is to offer a kiss on the cheek.
In public, a girl could sometimes kiss a girl and a woman could kiss another woman on the cheek or forehead. This is affectionate, so it is not something to be alarmed about.
Body Piercings and Tattoos
In Belize, ears are acceptable to be pierced.
Piercings are not as common as in the United States.
If you are from the United States, you might be required to get a medical certificate when entering the country.
A tattoo is acceptable in Belize as long as it is not too large.
Belizeans tend to like tattoos of religious or symbolic significance.
At restaurants, you must always greet those present and throw your greetings over your shoulder as you leave the table.
Be sure to say goodbye to the host and hostess as well as any persons you may have met at the table you sit at.
Do not keep your menu more than five minutes.
Do not open your menu first to stare at it.
Do not open your menu to study it. Simply ask the waiter or waitress for the “prize” (item) of the day.
Belizeans will have a large selection of drinks at table, but they expect you to drink the local beer with lunch and after dinner.
In restaurants, a common practice is to order Coke or Pepsi with lunch and dinner.
It is best to have local beer when eating local food.
Never order any soft drinks at lunch and dinner; they will assume this is for your child.
Never order a strong drink before 5 pm. This is an evening drink.
Whenever you make a request to order beverages, make it clear that you want one for yourself and one for another person.
Gratuities are included in the cost of the meal in Belize.
If you receive excellent service in a restaurant and feel that a gratuity has been left out, tip at the table so that it will be seen by the waiter or waitress.
You will be expected to leave a tip when you have a drink after dinner. This tip will be any amount that is left in your pocket.
At a local store, prepare to have the cashier add the tax to your purchase.
If you are a group of more than five people, you will have to wait for a table.
Men may be served the bill for a table of men and the woman can pay for herself.
In some Belizean restaurants, the most expensive item on the menu is considered to be the host’s treat.
Tipping and Splitting the Check
Tipping is customary at a restaurant in Belize.
In Belize, a tip is not expected for small meals.
Waiters may ask for a tip when you are done. If you are satisfied with his service, you will give him a small tip.
When dining with two or three other people, you will be expected to pay for half of the meal.
You will be considered disrespectful if you don’t pay for your tab. Take note of this if you are on a date.
You will be expected to pay for the whole meal if you have a small family with you, unless the host insists.
Business Meetings Etiquette
If you arrive early, a Belizean would not mind waiting.
When officially meeting a Belizean, it is best to shake hands first.
Follow up with four kisses on the cheek.
You will be expected to give a gift, such as snacks or bottled water, when you first meet.
If you are a visitor to Belize, you may be expected to tip business associates with a “prize.”
This amount is usually equivalent to your bottle of rum or brand of all-in-one shampoo.
When meeting business associates, it is best to dress smart casual in a shirt with ties.
When attending a wedding or funeral, do not take pictures unless invited to do so.
If you are invited into a Belizean home, you are required to remove your shoes at the door.
How to Say “Excuse Me” in Popular Belizean Dishes
- Jerk Chicken
- Fried Fish
- Fish Stew
- Chicken Curry
- Prize zuk (escoveitched fish)
- Prize (escoveitchéd fish)
- A dessert like Crema Delicia (rice pudding)
- Prize (white pudding)
- Fig (fig)
- Jam (rye)
When arriving at a restaurant, you can inform the host that you do not have reservations, as far as you know, the host is required to wait.
In Belize, waiters and waitresses should be tipped when you leave.
If you have a bottle of whiskey or rum, you will be expected to pay a gratuity of 10%.
Belizean Culture: How To Say “Thank You” In Belize
How would you express your appreciation to someone in Belize? Learn how to say “Thank you” in Belizean with this helpful cheat sheet!
Thank you (my dear).
Staying Safe in Belize
There is no reason to be afraid of crime in this beautiful country.
Belize has one of the highest tourism ratings in the world and is ranked the lowest in crime.
There is a police station every hour. In most cases, you always have a police station a five-minute drive away.
If you feel uncomfortable, you should immediately approach the police station.
It is very easy to arrange for a taxi or booking a flight or shopping online.
Belize is very safe when it comes to internet and shopping. It is said to be the safest place to bank online in the whole world.
However, if you plan on using a camera or recording device, you should have a permission letter from the Ministry of National Security.
When walking, be aware of your surroundings and help avoid the little hassle that you might find in the street.
Important Contact Numbers in Belize
In case of emergency – 911 or 102
Police – 222
Fire department – 208
Ambulance – 209
Customs – 211
Country code – 501
When in need of a hospital- 224
Belize Police Force – 223
Belize Fire Service – 211
Emergency services – 101
Belize City Police Station – 223
Belize City Fire Station – 212
Belize City Medical Center – 221