Sometimes I find myself thinking “should I kiss, hug or wave” when I meet someone for the first time?
The life of a traveler is full adventures, but also full of funny and embarrassing situations. Simple things like greeting others can be a bit tricky if you’re unfamiliar with the culture. A handshake is common but not universal, therefore you should be prepared to greet local people in the correct way when you travel abroad.
Some cultures are more tactile than others, while others are heavily shaped by religious or superstitious beliefs.
If you are a fellow expat who just moved to a new country or are doing business abroad, you could find yourself shaking hands, kissing on the cheek, bowing or rubbing noses whenever you meet someone.
So how do we greet around the world without offending people and feeling completely awkward? To simplify things, a smile and a verbal greeting like “hello” or “good morning” will go a long way, however if you truly want to be treated like a local, you must learn the local greetings. Mind you, some of them might seem slightly odd or peculiar for us foreigners. Here are a few:
Their simple greeting means “happy”. No wonder Iceland has been nominated as the fourth happiest country in the world. Despite the long and dark winters, Icelanders constantly remind each other of happiness.
In some regions of India, it is not uncommon to see men holding hands. It is not a greeting as such but a sign of friendship. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but a sign of respect.
In China, the first thing people ask you when they see you on the street is “have you eaten already?” Mind you, this doesn’t mean that they are inviting you for lunch or dinner, it’s just a greeting like “how are you”, therefore you can just say “I’ve eaten, thanks” in Chinese.
In Oman, people use the right hand for greeting, eating and passing items. After a handshake, men might kiss on the nose.
- New Zealand
The “hongi” is an ancient Maori tradition, and involves the rubbing or touching of noses when two people meet. The literal meaning of “hongi” is the “sharing of breath”.
In the United Arab Emirates, nose-rubbing is a common greeting between men from the Golf region. It is an act of friendship and deep respect and it has been passed down from generation to generation. But why the nose? According to them, the nose is a valuable symbol as it is in the centre of the face.
In Tibet sticking out your tongue is not considered rude, on the contrary, it is a customary way to welcome people.
- Switzerland, the Netherlands and Ukraine
Triple kiss. A typical greeting between friends involves three kisses. Start on the left cheek, then right, and then back on the left.
In the Philippines, when a younger person greets an older person they must bow a little, grab the elderly person’s right hand with their right hand, allowing their knuckles to touch the younger person’s forehead. As they do this, the younger person will say “Mano Po”, which means “your hand please.”