There’s one thing all travelers have in common and that’s our passion for learning about different cultures. While some expressions can have a universal meaning, like a smile or crying, there are countless ways in which people greet each other in different countries. In one country a kiss on the cheek would be appropriate, even welcomed, where in another country a kiss on the cheek would be offensive or taboo. No matter where you’re traveling it’s important to know the customs and norms of the culture, otherwise you could find yourself in a very awkward situation.
Here’s a short list of some countries who have greetings that you might not normally see in America:
Europe (most of it anyway)
Usually a kiss on the cheek or both cheeks is the way to greet someone. Whether it’s a stranger or someone you’ve known for years. As an American, when I first traveled through Europe and met new people I would put my hand out to shake and introduce myself. Although most of my fellow travelers knew that this was customary in America I did get an odd look here or there or simply an unexpected kiss on the cheek.
Like Europe, Brazil is also a place of cheek kisses. Although in this Latin country it’s mostly women who do the cheek kiss greeting. The greeting can be anywhere from one to three kisses and often single women favor the three kiss rule.
In this Southeast Asia country a kiss is not the typical greeting. What the Thai call a “wai”; in this greeting you place your hands together like you’re praying. The higher your hands are, the most respect being shown.
Although most people have seen in movies or read in books that a typical greeting in Japan is a bow, there are variations in this type of greeting. There’s a bow appropriate for business interactions, a bow for gratitude and a bow for apologies. Make sure if you’re bowing to show apologies at a funeral you don’t get confused and bow for gratitude, I don’t think that would go over very well.
For a more extensive list on greetings here’s an article published by Viator with pictures and explanations for various countries. Click the link below.