Sunday, 10 June 2018

Marriage and Family

Most Paraguayan girls have a party at age 15 to celebrate becoming a señorita. Young people get to know each other at local fiestas, large family gatherings, dances, and so forth. Parents generally expect to approve of any marriage partners. For a marriage to be legal, a civil wedding must be performed, but couples may also have a church wedding. Many couples enter into common-law relationships, while others have children but do not live together.

Three or four generations of the extended family might live in one home or on one farm. Children expect to care for their aging parents when they are themselves adults. The father is considered the head of the family; the mother takes care of the household. Most women in rural areas, like the men, are involved in agriculture. About 29.8 percent (1999) of the urban labor force is female.

Families in rural areas have few modern conveniences. They live in wooden homes with dirt floors and grass or tin roofs. Urban homes are made of concrete with tile roofs. Nearly all homes in Asunción have running water and electricity.


The most important staple foods include cassava, sopa Paraguaya (maize bread baked with cheese and onions and sometimes meat), chipa (hard cheese bread), tortillas, and empanadas (deep-fried meat or vegetable pockets). Small rural gardens provide campesino families with tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, squash, watermelon, cabbage, and other produce. Fruit is obtained from surrounding trees and bushes. Beef forms a major portion of the adult diet, and Paraguayans also eat chicken and pork.

Breakfast usually consists of cocido (a type of maté with cooked sugar and milk) or coffee, bread and butter, and rolls or pastries. Lunch, the main meal, is generally eaten around midday and is traditionally followed by a siesta. 

Dinner is often served after dark when work is finished. But mealtimes and eating habits vary according to region and family. In rural areas people often eat when they can, and do not necessarily sit down to a daily family meal. In urban areas families usually eat their main meal together.

When guests other than relatives are invited, children might eat before the guests arrive or are served. It is generally considered rude for guests not to finish their food. On more formal occasions, a person should rest his or her hands on the table's edge, not the lap, and should wait for the hosts to begin eating. Most people, especially those in rural areas, do not drink until after the meal. At rural parties or celebrations, women eat after men, or at separate tables.

Street vendors sell food in the cities, and eating or drinking in public is common. Because of the custom of sharing food or drink, it is normal to offer food to anyone who is around when having a snack or small meal; it is not impolite to decline the offer.


Spanish greetings, such as ¡Mucho gusto! ("Pleased to meet you!"), are often used with strangers or in formal situations. Acquaintances might use less formal Spanish, such as ¿Hola, cómo estás? ("Hi, how are you?"), but friends and relatives more often use Guaraní greetings. The most common phrase is Mba´eixapa?, which means "How are you?" The reply is almost always ¡lporã! ("Just fine"), often accompanied by the "thumbs-up" gesture. In the countryside, it is normal to call out Adiós to a friend passing one's house.
Except in the workplace, men and women always shake hands when greeting, even if for the second or third time in a day. When a woman or a man greets a female friend for the first time in a day, they may kiss each other on each cheek, as well as shake hands. Women in rural areas are more likely to just pat the other's arm rather than kiss. When parting, most people repeat whatever gesture was used in greeting.
Urban men are respectfully addressed by the last name, often accompanied by Don. For women, it is customary to use Doña with the first name. Professional titles are also used to show respect. 

Young people refer to each other by their first names. In rural areas, campesinos (farmers) often address one another by the first name, preceded by Na or Karai for women and men, respectively. Paraguayans often greet respected elders by holding their hands in prayer position, waiting to be blessed.

Paraguayans visit one another frequently, usually without calling ahead. Refreshments such as a soft drink (in the city), coffee, juice, or water are usually offered, and if the hosts are eating a meal or drinking tereré (tea), visitors are likely to be invited to join in. Otherwise, tereré is offered to unexpected visitors only if the host wants them to stay awhile. The tea (called maté when made with hot water) is often drunk from a common guampa (a container usually made of wood, cattle horns, or gourds) through a bombilla (metal straw). The host passes it to one person, who drinks and returns the container to the host, who makes another portion for the next person. These teas have been part of the culture for hundreds of years.

In urban areas it is common for friends to be invited over for a meal, while in rural areas invitations are usually extended only for special occasions. Paraguayans are relaxed about punctuality and do not mind if guests are late. Some people take a gift of wine or beer when invited for dinner.


Socializing takes up a large part of Paraguayans' leisure time, with many hours spent relaxing and talking while drinking tereré or maté. Soccer is the most popular spectator sport, while volleyball is the most common participation sport. Urban men often play volleyball in the evenings, but women generally do not play sports. Cities offer opportunities for attending the theater and cinema.

*culled from

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