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How people greet each other in different countries?


If you decide to go to an unfamiliar country, it would be nice to find out something about the customs and norms of everyday etiquette. How to avoid uncomfortable situations and to have proper behavior?


Where? Europe, USA, Australia, some countries of Africa, Asia, Arab countries

Photo by Chris Liverani

Handshake is one of the most common forms of greeting in the world. Even medieval knights held out their hands to each other, as a sign of respect that they have no weapon in their hand. The ancient Greeks shaking hands was an expression of friendliness and hospitality. With such a pleasant meaning, it has survived to the present day. But, do not rush to greet everyone and everywhere in such a way – there are still nuances.

Today, almost all Western Europeans shake hands. The British are slightly different in this matter: they prefer to nod their heads slightly, and only good friends have permission to touch their precious hand. In the UK, it is generally accepted to touch the interlocutor as little as possible.

In the USA, people often shake hands in an official setting or at their first acquaintance. It is not customary to do an office tour to shake everyone’s hands on a normal working day. As well as constantly shaking the hands of all other people whom you often see.

In Asia, for example, this is not a standard form of greeting, but if anyone sees a European, they prefer to greet in a manner known to them.

In Arab countries, men after shaking hands usually press their right hand to their hearts, which show respect and friendliness. Well, if you met very close people – then hug and even kiss twice is useful. Arab women don’t say hello, and forget about kisses and hugs right away.


Where? France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, Latin America, Arab countries

Photo by Dominique ROELLINGER

Welcome kisses are also very different: from hot with passionate hugs to a solid imitation with minimal cheeks applied to each other. Most often, well-known people kiss at a meeting, so don’t hope (or, on the contrary, don’t worry) – no one is going to kiss you on the move.

If you have to greet someone in such a way, it is important not to overdo with the number of kisses. So, in Belgium and Italy, they exchange two kisses, in Spain – three. In the Netherlands and Sweden, kissing three times, but in Germany, social kisses are not accepted. In France, acquaintances (and even unfamiliar ones) release from the air two to five supposedly kisses, touching each other alternately with their cheeks. In general, the number of kisses in France varies so much depending on the region that there is even a special interactive map so as not to kiss endlessly.

In Turkey, at a meeting usually, kiss men who have each other relatives or friends. In Arab countries, welcoming kisses by men are also quite commonplace. But kisses with the opposite sex here, as we have already noted above, are an absolute taboo.


Where? Latin America, possible in Spain, Italy

Photo by Hian Oliveira

Latin Americans usually vigorously express their emotions. This also applies to everyday greetings. So, if you are welcome here, in addition to standard handshakes and kisses, wait for a warm and sincere hug. Most likely, only those whom they see for the first time will not get the hugs.

And yet, remember that hugs are a rather intimate thing, it’s better not to go to hug in other countries the first one.


Where? Japan, China, Korea, and other Asian countries, India

Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo

In Asia, they love all these ceremonial things, and bow here is still an integral part of everyday culture. You can bow differently depending on whom exactly you are going to bow to.

So, the Japanese, seeing a friend or acquaintance, lean forward quite a bit, by 15 degrees. Deeper leaning is usually intended for very respected people. Europeans in Japan usually shake hands, but it is better not to rush to enter into bodily contact first. Personal space is a very important thing for the Japanese, and ignore it on their initiative is not a good idea.

In China, it is not very customary to bow down to everyone – this is considered an exceptionally respectful gesture not for everyone. A Chinese bow for everyday greetings is something like a normal nod of your head. Well, a handshake is becoming more common here, especially if you need to say hello to a person of European appearance.

You can also be greeted with a slight bow in Korea and Singapore. In India, women usually bow, clasping their clasped hands to their chests, but men have mostly switched to handshakes.

If you get confused and forget everything

We understand that remembering the traditions of greeting all countries in the world is difficult. Therefore, if you suddenly get confused – just act on the situation and do not make sudden movements. A friendly smile and a willingness to lend a hand to a new friend will help you get out of most of the awkward situations.

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