Hello vs. Aló

I’ve made a lot of compromises to live in harmony – it’s a necessity for any household, especially a bi-cultural one. Most of the compromises cease to even feel like compromises because I’ve embraced them to the point that they’ve become second nature, but there is one thing that still makes me a little crazy.

The phone rings, I answer it.

“Hello?” I say.


“Hello?” I say again.

Nervous shuffling. Someone is there but they aren’t answering me.

I sigh, knowing what I must do.

“Aló?” I say – as if English is not my native language.

Suddenly the caller comes to life speaking rapid-fire Spanish, now confident that they haven’t accidentally called a gringa’s house.

The next time the phone rings, I sigh.

“Aló?” I say, cutting to the chase.

On the other end, I hear my Anglo mother giggle.


  1. What’s funny is there is a very small difference between ‘hello’ and ‘alo’. But I can kinda get it because I know if I have to make a call and someone answers with, “Buenos!!” I’m gonna freak out and my Spanish will suck from being nervous. But if they just say, “Hello?” then I’ll feel better.

    • Being caught off guard does make one tongue-tied. I just generally hate telephones to begin with, so any added nuisance makes it that much worse!

  2. Jajajajajaj!!!! I love it! I can totally relate! My wife (who’s anglo) tells me i say alo/elo instead of hello when I pick up the phone knowing it’s a relative. I never thought about it till she mentioned it. You should combine the 2 greetings of Bueno and Hello and throw anyone for a loop by saying “Vuelo”, that should get a que/what response from the caller.

  3. That is too funny! I guess that’s the plus of only having a cell phone. I know when it’s my family or friends and I know when to say “hello” or “alo”. It makes such a difference I know!

    Since I’m such a clown when my sister calls me I answer the phone with a simple “Talk to Me!”

  4. First of all….I love your blog. I have experienced the same thing numerous times, and it’s funny to see someone else put it in print. :) My husband looks at the caller ID and answers BUENO if he knows who it is, and ALO if he doesn’t. Then he typically tosses me the phone if it isn’t for him. Lucky me.

    • Caller ID definitely helps eliminate some of this problem, but there are always those dreaded “Unknown Caller” ones.

      Thanks for reading my blog and for your comment :)

  5. Believe it or not, we as english speaking people have the same problem. I admire people who can speak two or more languages. Love the blog and keep them coming.

    • Hi Dot :) I’m curious by what you mean about having the same problem? Do you mean the situation is reversed – like you call some place expecting a “Hello?” and a non-English speaker answers? LOL.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Aisha, I don’t know the origin of the word “Aló” for certain. One would assume it’s a pidgin version of “Hello” – but some unconfirmed stories say that the word actually came from the Hungarian “hallod.”

      The story goes that Edison and a Hungarian were testing the long distance on the telephone when it was invented. The Hungarian kept saying “hallom” which means “I hear you” – and it caught on from there.

      Other ways to answer the phone in Latin America and Spain: “Buenos días”, “Buenas tardes/noches”, “Bueno”, “Sí” “Díme”, “Hola”, “Digame” or “Diga”.

      • “Mandame” is the usual within my family/friends, but still “bueno” if we don’t know who it is. English speakers seem more likely to respond in english anyways, whereas if I say “hello” I get the awkward silence from hispanohablantes.

  6. I can so relate! Funny how a slight change in intonation is all my husband’s relatives need to launch into conversation. (We became used to hearing “Alo” when we visited Guatemala and it somehow stuck). And on the reverse side, when I lived in Mexico (where I did not have Caller ID), and my mom (Anglo) would call and I would say, “Bueno”, she would go, “Bueeeeeeeennnnnnnooooo” in amused response. My stepmother in Mexico would always answer the phone “Bueno? Hello?” really fast and while it seemed cumbersome at the time but I guess it was in hopes of the speaker feeling comfortable.

  7. haha. We all answer “hello” at my house but every now and then my dad surprises us with a “bueno” The first time that happened I paused for a good ten seconds. Was that my (gringo) dad and did he just say a word in Spanish?!

    My abuelita is very respectful and answers each call with “Buenos Dias” “Buenas Tardes” or “Buenas Noches”

  8. Lol! I’ve experienced this as well. You describe it so perfectly. You may find it amusing to know that my gringo parents sometimes call me and leave me voicemails in Spanglish. They don’t really speak Spanish but they know enough to be funny. ;)

  9. Qué interesante la historia del “Hello”. Yo ya me acostumbré a contestar Hello! Pero cuando sé quien me habla (sp) contesto “Qué Pasiones Champiñones” “Jelou” “Eeeloo” or “Aloooo”!

  10. We go between “hello” and “bueno,” but it’s hard since we don’t have caller id any longer. We do like to mess with telemarketers, though, by speaking whatever language they don’t!

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