In the US, shaking hands is standard if you’re meeting a friend or being introduced to someone. It’s so ingrained that we hardly think twice when extending a palm.
And while a handshake is the go-to greeting in many different cultures, there are actually a number of ways people say “hello!” through body language. Read on!
Among members of the Maori community, the proper way to salute one another is with the hongi. The hongi is a greeting in which two individuals gently press their noses and foreheads together. During the hongi, it is said that two individuals exchange ha, or the breath of life.
In some Mongolian regions, individuals might sniff one another as a form of greeting. It is especially common in families, and more specifically, between older and younger relatives. In Tuvalu, on the other hand, one may press their cheek against another person’s and take a deep whiff. In certain Inuit traditions, it is not unusual for close friends or relatives to sniff one another as a gesture of affection.
Head to Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, or India, and you’ll find that a respectful bow is par the course for saying hello. Each region has its own specific customs and mannerisms. In Thailand, one may perform the wai, which involves pressing the palms together and offering a slight dip of the head. In Japan, however, various bows are reserved for different audiences. A deep 70-degree bow, for example, is performed only for the most revered of guests.
Those who visit many European and Latin American countries may notice that saying hello often involves a quick kiss or peck! As with bowing, kissing customs vary according to the country. In Greece for example, one may give a hearty back slap after kissing each cheek. Whereas in Brazil, two kisses are standard, but it’s not unusual for single women to throw in a third.
In Persian Gulf countries like Qatar and the UAE, it is common to see individuals touching or rubbing noses. However, this custom is reserved for men only. Women may touch noses as well, but it is only between family members and usually done in the home.