Even if Venezuela is on your list of must-visit destinations, you might be hesitant to travel now.
I’m sure you realize there’s a great deal of political unrest in Venezuela at the moment.
It’s a darn shame too, because the country is filled with warm people, beautiful culture, delicious food, rich historical elements and a unique linguistic flavor.
And with Angel Falls (the highest uninterrupted waterfall on the planet), the incredible Catatumbo lightning phenomenon, colonial architecture and the breathtaking hiker’s paradise, Mount Roraima, Venezuela has enough attractions to keep any traveler busy.
Why It’s Important to Learn Venezuelan Slang
If you are traveling to Venezuela in this climate, you must be prepared and take precautions to protect yourself. Communicating well goes a long way, so you can’t forget to pack your local lingo. It’ll help you blend in and understand the people around you on a whole new level.
Having a strong relationship with the lingo of any country will give you a leg up in understanding, being understood and just fitting in, whatever the situation.
These terms will come in handy outside Venezuela too, as the local language and culture has made its way around the world.
Maybe you’re just looking to learn more about the country or to chat with Venezuelan friends and loved ones.
Maybe you’re planning to eat your body weight in tequeños at a local Venezuelan restaurant. That’s okay, too. Many of us could eat ourselves into a stupor with these Venezuelan treats.
Now, take this popular Venezuelan expression, for example: “El mundo es una caraota, y vivimos en la parte blanca.”
Literal translation? “The world is a black bean, and we are living in the white part,” which is a colorful way of saying “the world is a small place.”
Learning this expression doesn’t just mean you’ll understand Venezuelans when they use it. It also means you have a window into the Venezuelan worldview—which in turn will help you better understand and communicate with the people you meet there. (Which in turn will indeed make the world seem that much smaller!)
Venezuelan Spanish is a clear dialect and therefore easily accessible to learners. Still, slang fills in the cracks!
You’ll definitely need some to converse with locals before you feel the black bean thing!
You might already know some super cool Spanish phrases but adding a few that are common among locals is muy beneficial.
¡Epa! Learn This Venezuelan Slang to Speak Like a Local
Basically, it means “dude,” except it can become a feminine word, too. A nod to gender equality, no?
This is one of the phrases heard many times each day, so learn it and use it. And feel free to use it with friends, acquaintances and even children, but maybe not so much with your employer or your grandmother!
Want someone to catch the latest film with you?
¿Quieres ir al cine, chamo? (Do you want to go to the movies, dude?)
And there—you’ve got a date! Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
This means nice, good, great, awesome—it’s a word to express a positive thought about a person, place or event.
Want to express how you feel about… ah, everything good?
There’s a positive vibe among Venezuelan amigos, so this word is used all the time. Like, all the time.
The movie you just saw? Chévere. The black bean tacos you just inhaled? Chévere. The person sitting across the table in the restaurant? If you’re lucky, they’re chévere.
We all know that giving authentic compliments is a sure way to make new friends, so use the word often.
3. Tengo ratón.
Literally, “I have a mouse.”
Don’t worry—there are no mice involved!
This tidbit is slang for “I’m hungover,” so if you’ve downed too many cervezas (beers) the previous evening and are battling a monster hangover, everyone will understand if you say, “Tengo ratón.”
4. ¡Está peluo!
“It’s hairy”—minus the hair.
If you claim ¡Está peluo! (the fast version of ¡está peludo!) you’re saying that whatever you’re trying to do is difficult. This could apply to changing your currency, getting your coffee the way you like it or trying to cross the street before getting run down by one of the speeding motorbikes that are so popular in Latin American countries.
So if it’s not easy, feel free to mutter, “¡Está peluo!”
Here’s a fun example of elevating something pretty ordinary to a place of linguistic honor.
What does chivo mean? Well, if you’re up on your farm animals, you’ll know that it literally means “goat.” That’s right, the animal notorious for head butting and can-eating.
But don’t look for a bale of hay if you hear, “El chivo tiene hambre.”
Used this way, chivo refers to a person in power. A boss. So this statement means the boss is hungry.
How skilled are you at finding the best restaurant in town?
This expression isn’t used only in Venezuela, but it’s so widespread and used so freely on the streets that it deserves a spot on this list.
¡Coño! translates to “Damn it!”
Okay, I can’t lie. We’re all adults here, right? Sometimes, it means a little worse.
If you want the nitty gritty on this colorful slang and a load of others, check out Gritty Spanish. It’s a really fun resource for common—and sometimes, a bit vulgar—Spanish expressions that your high school teacher never taught you.
Gritty Spanish gives you texts and audio of real-world Spanish so you’re prepared to use new words in the right ways (let’s face it, if you don’t know when it isn’t and isn’t okay to shout ¡Coño! you’ll get yourself in trouble!)
In Venezuela, the currency is bolivar. So bolo is a slang term for money.
It’s best to have some in your pockets—currency exchanging can be dicey in a country experiencing upheaval.
Note that in Spanish countries outside Venezuela, this word has many different meanings. In some places, saying “Voy a mi bola” means “I’m going to go it alone,” which can be seen as antisocial.
Also, bolo is a slang term for “penis” in many Spanish-speaking countries, so be certain you’re referencing your wallet correctly when you use the term.
In a market, let the merchant know you have enough cash to pay for an item by saying, “Tengo bolo para pagarlo.” (“I have enough money to pay for it.”)
Don’t, however, call him the term.
This bit of lingo is so versatile, you’ll use it several times each day.
It’s the casual greeting English speakers know as “Hey!” or “Hi!”
In a restaurant and need to grab the waitress’ attention? Wave your hand, meet her gaze and say, “¡Epa!”
Walking down the street and see a friend? A smile and “¡Epa!” does the job.
“¿Tienes hambre de desayunar?” (“Are you hungry for breakfast?”) makes the slang request for perico—or scrambled eggs—perfectly acceptable.
In a café, your waitress will probably serve your eggs with a side of toast and some jam.
However, requesting perico on the street could get you into trouble because you’d be looking for cocaine.
So, in the café? All good.
On the sidewalk? Nope.
It’s a strange slang word because perico literally translates to “parakeet”—which has nothing to do with eggs or cocaine!
10. Echar los perros
So, literally, this expression means to “throw dogs at a person,” which makes no sense… but as a slang term, it means “to flirt with someone.”
If you’re in a club and your friend leans close, points to the person across the bar who’s giving him the eye and says, “Le voy a echar los perros a esa chica” (“I’m going to flirt with that girl”) you can bet he’s going to do his best to make himself attractive to her.
As in other languages, it just goes to show that sometimes a dog is more than a dog!
This is an all-purpose exclamation that expresses the fact that you’re annoyed that you have to do a certain thing.
Don’t want to catch the next bus? Tired of carrying your buddy’s backpack because he broke an arm? Miffed at the super-long line to get into Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Caracas?
This is your best slang go-to expression in any of those cases! It works for just about anything, so add it to your slang vocabulary list and give it a workout.
Venezuela is an intriguing country filled with incredible people who have a very definite method of expressing themselves. They can turn a phrase in a heartbeat and make an oath sound like a love song.
Some of these words and more can be found on YouTube videos—and are very entertaining!
Fitting in is fun and easy—if you get the basic slang words under your belt and use them! Chat with everyone! Use the words and phrases as much as possible. Remember, even if they don’t feel natural at first, some of them are sure to grow on you—especially when you hear them thrown around by the locals.
Enjoy the sights and sounds—soon you’ll hear your new friends say, “Chévere!” when they see you!
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