When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Here’s a look at nine different greetings from around the world for friends, acquaintances and people you meet.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, they say. Though to discover the customs and traditions that distinguish a people, it is necessary to spend time getting to know the culture of a place. There is a custom with which we immediately connect as soon as we get in our first taxi, or meet someone in a restaurant, and that is the greeting. The way we greet friends, acquaintances or people we meet says a lot about us and our culture. So, here’s a look at how people greet each other around the world.
1. France, Italy, Portugal
These three nations share a very affectionate greeting. When you meet a friend or a person you know, you give each other two kisses on the cheeks, in France as many as three (and even five in Corsica!). When introducing yourself to someone new, a simple handshake is enough. Italians and Portuguese must be careful, however. Italians start on the right then go left, while the latter, like the French, go in the opposite direction.
2. South America and the Middle East
In Latin American and Middle Eastern countries, you introduce yourself with “kisses” that are more of a “cheek to cheek” motion instead of a proper double kiss. In Arab countries, it is compulsory between men but forbidden between a man and a woman.
In Russia, a handshake is enough for greeting someone. It should be very, very firm and happen inside the house, not on the doorstep.
In India, a handshake must be very delicate. You cannot just shake hands with anyone you meet–only people of the same sex can shake hands with each other. When you meet an older person, tradition dictates that you should bow and touch their feet.
Speaking of bowing, the Japanese use three bows that correspond to three different types of occasions. The eshaku is a 15-degree bow to be used on informal occasions while the keirei is a 30-degree bow that is used when you meet someone who is higher on the social ladder. Lastly, the saikeirei is a deep bow that is used on special occasions for important personalities, such as the Emperor.
6. Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia
In Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, handshakes and physical contact between strangers and acquaintances is also avoided. It is customary to bow with your hands joined at the center of your chest.
In Malaysia, greetings are very poetic: touch the fingers of the person you meet with both palms of your hands and then bring your hands to your heart.
8. New Zealand
In New Zealand, people greet each other making “nose-nose” contact. The Maori people have a special greeting that is called hongi, which is a bit of a revisited version of the New Zealand greeting. While shaking the hand of a person you’ve met, look them in the eyes and slowly approach them until your nose and forehead come to touch. At that point, you close your eyes and you stand for a few seconds.
9. The Philippines
The pagmamano is the typical greeting the Filipino people use to show respect to the elderly. You bow your forehead towards the back of a person’s hand, then press your forehead against it. The gesture is seen as a blessing, and that is why you must ask for permission before performing.