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How to Greet People (With Awesomely Good Manners) All Over the World

An international meet-and-greet deet sheet? Sweet!

Josey Miller · about 2 months ago

  • travel

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international greetings

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Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web fame says “salutations” is just her fancy way of saying hello. And people around the world have fancy greetings galore — from unique gestures to special words to actual kisses. And all of them are a smart way to make that all-important first impression! Here’s how to say hello, goodbye, and other important “greetings and salutations” — with the very best possible manners — all over the world.

Hi and Goodbye!

hello and goodbye in french, italian

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Some countries have a word that means both hello and goodbye at once — thanks, guys, you’re really making it simpler for the rest of us!

In France you just need to remember salut. In Italy, it’s ciao. In Germany, it’s servus. (That one evolved from the Latin word for servant — sort of like, at your servus! But not really.)

Peace and Love

aloha

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Extra credit for extra-warm greetings goes to Hawaii and Israel. In Hawaii, not only does “aloha” mean both “hello” and “goodbye.” It’s also fellowship and hospitality and positivity — something they’d probably describe as more of a feeling than a greeting, as in, Hawaii puts you in the spirit of aloha. Similarly, “shalom” in Israel means “peace,” in addition to “hello” and “goodbye.”

Give Me a Hand

mano

Phillippine News Agency

Respect your elders! In the Philippines, particularly when you are saying hello to someone older than you, it’s common to greet the other person by touching your forehead to the hand of the person you’re meeting. It’s called “mano,” the word for “hand” in Spanish. And, to take it a step further, ask permission by saying “mano po” before moving in. We’ve gotta hand it to them: It’s a beautiful custom.

The Nose Knows

nose kiss

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Chances are you’ve already heard of the “Eskimo kiss,” more authentically known as a kunik (the term “Eskimo” is considered outdated). The kunik is definitely intimate, but believe it or not, it’s not really considered a romantic smooch — more like an affectionate greeting. 

But did you know there’s a comparable way of greeting a friend in Saudi Arabia? Nose kissing there follows a handshake and the words “as-salaam alaykum,” or “peace be with you.” Aaaand did you know the Mãori people in New Zealand do it, too? There the nose nuzzle is called hongi, or “breath of life.”

One Kiss, Two Kiss, Red Kiss, Blue Kiss

cheek kiss

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Speaking of smooches, in many countries, you’ll see locals greeting each other with a super-glam air kiss on the cheek. Or is it air kisses on the cheeks — as in, plural? Well, that depends. In Colombia, it’s one kiss. In Western Europe, it’s almost always two kisses. It’s usually two, but occasionally three kisses, in Russia. And in parts of Afghanistan, you’re looking at up to — count ‘em — eight kisses.

Bow Wow

bowing as greeting

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Not into touching noses? How about feet? Charanasparsha is a toetally common greeting in India reserved for elders, where you bow so low your head touches the person’s feet. 

Bowing as a greeting is also still practiced in Japan — and at varying depths, determined by social status. And men keep their arms to their sides and women keep their arms clasped in front. (But most likely the only time you’d bow so low that you’d touch the ground is if you owe someone a massive apology and are begging for forgiveness. Note: avoid.)

Tongue-Tied

sticking out tongue

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Ever been told it’s bad manners to stick out your tongue? In Tibet, it might be considered bad manners not to. Here’s the backstory: Over a thousand years ago, there was a horrible king, and he was famous for having a black tongue. After he died, the people were worried he’d been reborn, and of course they needed to prove they weren’t the new iteration of him, so they started flashing their tongues as proof. Black tongue? No? You’re good! And the tradition, well… stuck.

Elbow Bumps Rule

Elbow bump

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Of course, these days the form of greeting that's probably most popular throughout the world is one you do when you see your friends around town or at school: The good old elbow bump. Fortunately, there are as many variations on the classic touchless high-five as there are cool countries to visit and explore. Let's hope the elbow bump is here to stay!