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How to greet people around the world

· French Etiquette

After the first popular article about « La bise », the special French cheek-kissing greeting, Hedonia continues to explore the world of etiquette to give you the keys to successful introductions.

In all parts of the globe, greeting customs are well established but vary greatly across countries and cultures. Visitors seen to be making an effort to observe them will undoubtedly win favor from the locals ! Follow our guide and avoid confusion during your next trip abroad :

North America

Hugs, handshakes, highfives, fist-bumps… Modern Americans and Canadians show great diversity in their greetings, which can lead to pretty awkward situations when two people decide to go for different types of greetings. Anyhow, chose the formal handshake withstrong eye contact whenever you are meeting someone for the first time, even though some are comfortable giving a big hug to someone they hardly know. It all comes down to having a good sense of who you’re interacting with and the context. Also remember to introduce yourself when meeting someone for the first time.

Latin America

Argentine football players Messi and Mascherano greet each other with a kiss on the field

Argentines kiss each other on the cheek when greeting, sometimes even if the person is a stranger, usually once on the right cheek. This is true for woman to woman, woman to man and even man to man. While the latter is common, a firm handshake is also a usual greeting, combined with slight touches on the arms and/or elbows.

One kiss is the norm when greeting friends or relatives in Venezuela and this is true for woman to woman, woman to man but never for man to man.

Greet with a firm, slightly longer handshake, mixed with strong eye contact. Women may kiss on both cheeks and repeat when departing. Hugging and back slapping are also common among friends.

Handshake lasts usual longer in Mexico. For men, the handshake might also accompany a brief hug. For women, one kiss on the cheek is usually performed, especially between friends or relatives.


Alibaba Founder Jack Ma shakes hands upon signing contract

Chinese will prefer the handshake to any other type of physical contact. Eye contact should not be too strong and the handshake may be combined with a light bow especially when greeting elders or people with a higher status. Between friends, it is usually not necessary to shake hands and simply waving « hello » will be enough. A casual « Ni chi le ma ? » (« Have you eaten ? ») is a common thing to ask upon greeting.

The norm there is bowing, informal and informal situations. When bowing, hands should be placed on the sides of the legs above the knees. Feet should be together. Bows are carefully calibrated to show different levels of respect. A short, clipped bow of about 20 degrees is used for service people or acquaintances. This bow should last no more than a second. A slower, deeper bow is used for one's boss or department head. The deepest bows are reserved for the company president or member of the board of directors. Avoid heady eye contact which could appear aggressive. Accept headshakes if the other person offers it, but refrain from offering it, as physical contact is considered a taboo in Japan. In the case of friends, simply waving « hello » is a common greeting.

A simple headbow is common when meeting someone for the first time. The more you go down, the more respect you show. Handshakes also commonly accompany bows. However, it’s more common for Korean men to offer a handshake than women. Friends will wave « Hello » in a casual way.

President Barack Obama participates in a traditional greeting with former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in 2015

The traditional greeting is made with folding hands, bowing the head along with saying « Namaste » (« I bow tothe divine in you »), and always starting with greeting elders first. Men might as wellshake hands with other men when meeting or leaving, but physical contact between men and women are usually avoided.

When greeting an elder in the Philippines, take his or her hand (usually the right hand) gently and press it to your forehead. This gesture is called "Mano" and is used to show respect.

Greet others with a simple « Halo! »and « Apa kabar? » (« How are you? »). However, unlike Westerners, Indonesians don’t show contact between genders in public. Even a simple hugging and kissing between a husband and wife in public would be considered uncommon. Shake hands for a formal meeting. Or, if you want to be a little bit casual, do a waving instead.

In Thailand, the standard greeting is the « wai ». To « wai », press your palms together and lean forward in a slight bow. The height of the hands and the depth of the bow depends on your own age, gender, societal standing as well as how much respect you want to show the person receiving your wai. Always return the gesture at someone doing « wai » at you. If a wai is not offered to you, shake hands with men and smile and nod to women.

The typical greeting is a firm, almost bone-crushing handshake while maintaining direct eye contact. When men shake hands with women, the handshake is less firm. When female friends meet, they kiss on the cheek three times, starting with the left side. When close male friends meet, they may pat each other on the back and hug. One last thing, never shake hands over a threshold, always do so once you are inside the room !


Moroccans are very fond of shaking hands everytime they meet someone familiar or meet someone new. At work, they are expected to shake each of their colleagues’ hands. If a Moroccan has full or dirty hands, the other person will grasp his/her wrist instead of the hand. After shaking hands, it is common to touch the heart with the right hand as a sign of respect. « Bises à la française » or hugs can also be performed between same-sex friends, however male/female contact in public is usually limited to hand-shaking.

Greetings are based on both class and religion. It is best to follow the lead of the Egyptian you are meeting. Handshakes are usually prolonged along with direct eye contact and a smile. Once a relationship has developed, it is common to kiss on each cheek while shaking hands, men with men and women with women.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes hands with President Patrice Talon of Benin

The most common greeting is the handshake, and it will be prolonged when greeting friends. During or after the prolonged handshake, it is of good manners to ask questions about health, family or business. If greeting elders or high-status individuals, grasp the right wrist with the right hand.

In general, most South Africans dealing with foreigners will shake hands while maintaining eye contact and smile. Some women do not shake hands so it is best to wait for a woman to extend her hand.

Middle East

Emirati men touch their noses after they performed the Eid al-Fitr prayers in Dubai

Emirati men greet each other by rubbing their noses, a traditional Bedouin greeting which is sign of deep respect. Women do it as well but only in the privacy of their homes. It is also not uncommon to see two men holding hands and it is nothing but a sign of friendship.

Jordan can be regarded as a typically Arab country as its people are very warm, friendly and hospitable. Men usually greet each other with a warm handshake and a series of three to five kisses. The same would be observed between two women, however the Islamic culture there limits social interactions between non-related members of the opposite sex. As a result, handshake will usually not be included in the introduction and a man should always wait for the woman to initiate, if at all.


Similarly with Emirati, the "hongi", the traditional Māori greeting in New-Zealand, is performed by two people pressing their noses together. The greeting is used at traditional meetings among Māori people, and at major ceremonies. It may be followed by a handshake.

How do people greet each other in your country ?

Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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