Greetings Differ Around the World

How we say "hello" , what accompanying gesture(s) we make and what we talk about when greeting someone depends on culture:

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United States

In the United States it is customary to shake hands (if a formal situation), look at each other and smile when we greet someone. We only hug or kiss someone when we know them well or we are relatives. Men traditionally don't kiss each other but women can kiss each other (on the cheek) and men and women can kiss (on the cheek) when they are close friends or related.

What do American's say after hello? We often comment on the weather - saying something like "It's getting cold. Looks like summer is over." or "What a beautiful day - I am going to try to spend time outside today."

In other countries, the conversations are very different.

For example, my students from China tell me that the conversation after an initial greeting usually revolves around food. Asking if someone has eaten, what they have eaten and if they have plans to eat are often asked.

I found a website with contributors from around the world that have explained greetings in their culture. They can be seen at . I have copied and pasted some of their entries - but you may want to look at this website on your own.

-¡Hola! ¿Como estas? (Hi, how are you?)
-¿Que hacés? (more informal, the equivalent to What’s up?)
-¿Todo bien? (You all right?)
Bien y ¿vos? (I’m fine and you?)
Or more formally:
-Buenos días/Buenas tardes (Good morning / afternoon) or
-Hola, ¿Qué tal? (which doesn’t make much sense grammatically to me but I say it anyway! This greeting is more general and somewhat friendlier.)
In Argentina, people are fairly tactile: we hug and kiss and hold hands all the time. We give one peck on the check when we greet friends and family and even acquaintances. When we’re introduced to new people, say at a party, we tend to kiss too, especially women. Men hug and kiss their friends too (both male and female). In a more formal situation, we shake hands (at least the first time we meet.)

In Brazil we can be pretty formal in greetings in a business setting, like “Olá, prazer em conhecê-lo” (Hello. Nice to meet you).
Brazilians are really well-known for the warm, latin-american-like greetings, very effusive, festive with lots of kisses and hugs. Among men, if they are friends, there’s generally a light hug and a tap on each other’s back. Among men and women or women/women, kisses are the norm.
How many? Well, that’s where the problem comes in! It will depend on the region. In Brasilia, my hometown, we kiss twice on the cheek. If you go a bit farther, more to the south of Brazil, let’s say, São Paulo, then one kiss is the routine. So, you’d better check in advance how many kisses and how tight you should hug a Brazilian! Anyway, with Brazilians, everything will do, kisses, hugs, taps. Leave shaking hands only to formal situations.

Great Britain

Our main greeting (used at all times of the day)
-Hello, how are you?
-Fine thanks / Very well, thanks
At this stage in the conversation you should always pretend to be fine, even if you are not. This is the expected answer. You can only break this rule with a really good friend.
Different areas of the UK sometimes have regional greetings. For example in Yorkshire it’s common to say Alright! instead of “hello, how are you?”.
In more formal situations we say “Good Morning’’, “Good Afternoon” or “Good Evening”. These are commonly used more when speaking on the telephone as well.
Kiss, hug or shake hands?
We British are usually not very tactile, although we’re getting better at it. On meeting someone for the first time, we would normally shake hands if it’s a formal situation (at work for example), or even just smile at each other. If it’s a friend or casual acquaintance, we would hug or (between two women or a man and woman) make one kiss on the cheek.


To a certain point, the way we greet each other in Romania resembles that in the UK. We say:
Buna dimineata! (Good morning!) or Buna ziua! (Good afternoon!) or Buna seara! (Good evening!) in the more formal situations, with people we meet for the first time, or with our boss, our clients, etc
And we can add: Ce mai faceti? (How are you).
The answer on this occasion is Bine, multumesc ( Fine thanks).
But when we greet our colleagues, friends or close people things change a little. We say:
-Buna, Ce mai faci? / Salut! Ce mai faci ? (Hi, how are you?) -Bine (Fine) or Nu prea bine (Not too well) followed by details of the problem.
As for hugging and kissing: people hug and kiss on the cheek often – women with women, women with men or even men with men, but less frequently – if they are very young or if they are close. And sometimes if they are colleagues (for example on Martisor day, the 1st of March, when men in our office bring us Martisoare). Older men used to kiss a woman‘s hand instead of shake hands when they were introduced or when they met for example in the street.
If a man wants to impress a woman or to show great respect he usually says Sarut Mana! (which, in a word for word translation, means Kiss Your Hand!)


In India, greetings are indicators of the relative position of individuals in the social hierarchy.
Put in simple English, it means that I will greet someone older differently from someone in my age group or someone younger. This also changes with the gender of the person I am addressing.
Here are examples from Hindi:
How are you? (Greeting an older male/female)
-Kaise hain aap / Kaisi hain aap (aap is the respectful ‘you’)
-Bahut Badhiya, aur aap? (Very fine, and you?)
Greeting an equal
-Kaise hain aap (formal) / Kaise ho tum (semi-formal) / Kaisa hai tu (informal)
-Bahut Badhiya, aur aap? (Very fine, and you?)
Greeting someone younger
-Kaise ho tum (formal) / Kaisa hai tu (informal)
-Bahut Badhiya, aur aap? (Very fine, and you?)
All these are greetings directed towards men. When I greet women or girls, Kaisa changes to Kaisi.
To use the Namaste greeting you add a word defining the person’s relationship with you after the Namaste.
Greeting someone older
-Namaste Uncle/Aunty/Bade bhai (Big Brother)/Bhabhi (sister-in-law)…
Greeting an equal
-Namaste ji (formal) / Namaste bhai /bhabhi (brother/sis-in-law) (semi-formal)
Namaste is not generally used to greet someone younger than you as it is considered a formal, respectful greeting.
Close friends hug. Men hugs men, women hugs women. Older uncles and aunties hug younger children.
Grandparents are not to be hugged, you are supposed to touch their feet and receive blessings for a long life, a speedy marriage, numerous children, etc. Kissing is a big no-no. Only infants are to be publicly kissed.
The touching feet business, especially in large family gatherings leads to funny situations. Within the space of a few seconds, I have to decide whether the beaming relative headed my way is my senior or junior in family hierarchy. Age has got nothing to do with it. I have got ‘uncles’ who are half my age. So, I watch his body language, is he bending forward to touch my feet or is he preparing to raise his right arm in benediction. Most of the times this works. When it fails, I just move on to another pair of feet I am sure of!

Singaporean Chinese

-你怎么样? (A very casual way of saying ‘How are you?’)
-很好 (very good) / 不错 (not bad) / 马马虎虎 (an idiom literally translated to ‘horse horse tiger tiger’, means ‘so so’)
Unlike usual English greetings, we Chinese are more casual. It is ok to say that you’re not doing too good, even on the first encounter.
In more formal situations, we say ‘你好吗?‘ (how are you?) to which we reply the same way. However, these greetings are not used that often in China. We usually nod our heads and simply say ‘你好.’ (hello).
We Chinese tend to be more conservative. On meeting someone for the first time, we would usually nod our heads and smile or shake hands (in formal situations). Kissing on the cheeks might make those who are not used to Western practices rather uncomfortable.


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