A certain formality permeates life in Puerto Rico . It’s customary to acknowledge one another, including shop owners, with a greeting: buenas dias for good day, buenas tardes for good afternoon, and buenas noches for good evening. If you approach someone to ask the time or for directions, preface your question with perdóneme (excuse me). When a waiter delivers your meal, he or she will say buen provecho, and it’s customary to say the same to diners already eating when you enter a restaurant.
Traditionally Puerto Ricans are exceedingly cordial. Even in San Juan , rudeness is rarely encountered. If you’re lost or need help, they will cheerfully point you in the right direction. But Puerto Ricans don’t typically display much interest in fraternizing with tourists. Americans who venture into bars catering primarily to the local dating scene may get a chilly reception if they’re perceived as romantic rivals. The exception is bars that depend on the tourist dollar or that are in towns with a large U.S. expatriate population, such as Rincón or Vieques , where you’re likely to know everybody’s name by the time you leave.
Dress appropriately for the occasion. Although most upscale restaurants don’t necessarily require a coat and tie, some do, so inquire. Otherwise, a well-groomed, nicely attired appearance is expected. And never wear beach attire, skimpy halter tops, or short shorts anywhere but the beach or pool. Although young fashionable Puerto Rican women may sometimes dress provocatively, visiting American women are advised to use some modesty or risk attracting unwanted male attention.
To the relief of nonsmokers, smoking has been banned in all restaurants, lounges, clubs, and bars in Puerto Rico , with the exception of establishments with outdoor seating. Public drinking has also been banned.