Special Report

The Art of Saying Hello: Traditional Greetings in 40 Countries

What do you do when you see close friends, acquaintances and colleagues, or when you meet complete strangers for business meetings? You greet them. It’s just an instinct. How you greet people, however, is where things can get complicated, and even confusing.

Nowadays a handshake is acceptable for almost all occasions, but traditional greetings, some of which are rarely practiced anymore, vary from country to country, region to region, and tribe to tribe.

Culture, history, rumors, superstition – they all play a role in how customs such as sticking your tongue out when you meet a stranger or rubbing noses originate. But what they all have in common is the intention; none are meant to be offensive and most are actually meant to show respect.

In some ways greeting with a gesture is easier than trying to pronounce a word you don’t know and risking getting it completely wrong. An unsuspecting traveler may even end up offending a person by, for example, not asking about family and health while still holding hands. Also, nobody knows how many languages are spoken in the world because they constantly evolve. A gesture is a more straightforward way of saying hello or goodbye.

24/7 Tempo looked into how people around the world do to say hello. The following list includes traditional and formal greetings, as well as gestures acceptable among close friends and family that go beyond the standard handshake, kiss on the cheek or wave.

Click here to read about how 40 countries around the world say hello

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