Understanding Greeting Customs aroud the World

A Traveller's Guide to Basic Greetings

An Everyday Happening

When you start a new day by greetingAnimal WavingCredit: spaghettilanguage.com your friends, family or work colleagues have you ever thought how many people all over the world are repeating their daily greeting. There are millions of people saying, 'Hello', in almost three thousand different languages.There are both formal and informal greeting customs. There are also different greeting customs for different times of the day. Some speak, others shake hands, some shape their hands together in different ways, some rub noses, some bow, some hug each other, some kiss and some do a combination of some of these greetings. So giving the right greeting to the person you are meeting can be quite difficult to understand if you are a visitor to a particular country. It is easy to offend by being ignorant.

Here are some greeting customs from around the World

German handshakeCredit: germany-insider-facts.comShaking hands is one of the most widely used forms of greeting custom. It is used in business regularly as a formal greeting, is used to meet someone for the first time, or in Europe, particularly in Germany, it is an everyday action, even between family members.Often it is used as a symbol to strengthen a relationship or agree a 'deal'. The firmness of the handshake can often tell you something about the character of the person. A strong handshake is likely to reflect a strong, honest person.

As well as shaking hands, men, but not women, may also put their other hand on the person's shoulder, as a kind of more familiar greeting.


Kissing begins earlyCredit: lonelyplanet.com


Kissing is a popular form of greeting, particularly by women to women or with friends you know well and is a greeting custom that has found it's way across the Channel to the United Kingdom. In Europe different regions have different kissing customs. Some may be on one cheek, some on both cheeks. People have adopted this form of greeting in the United Kingdom, particularly after seeing celebrities on the television making a great show of this act. Now it is an accepted form of friendly greeting between people who usually know each other well.

Other Continents

On other Continents, customs can be quite different. In Asia, the way the hand is shaped is significant.

In India, the palms are put together as though in prayer. This form of greeting is called 'namaste'. It is a form of greeting used by children.An Indian 'Namaste' GreetingCredit: exotic-nepal.com

In Japan the depth of the bow is important. The deeper the bow, the more respectful the person is.

Japanese GreetingCredit: buzzle.com

In New Zealand, the Māori tradition is to rub noses.

Maori GreetingCredit: casondraradford.theworldrace.org

So Many Words to Use

In every country there are so many choices even for the same situation. Many regions have their own popular greetings. In English, Good Morning, Good Day, Good Afternoon, Good Evening are more polite forms of 'Hello'. Similarly, in Spain there are different forms of greeting for the time of day. 'Buenos dias' is 'Good Day' whilst 'Buenas tardes' is 'Good Afternoon'.

Informal ways to say 'Hello' may be 'Hi', 'Hiya' or in the USA, ' Hi, how y'all doin'?

Each continent has vast differences and it would be easy to choose the wrong greeting and offend. There are so many words, it is advisable to do your own research before you set off on your travels. It might be a good idea to just smile until you've learnt the proper greeting custom!