How do you greet someone in your culture?

Having met people from various cultures have made me aware that not everyone appreciates or expects the same kinds of greetings.
For instance, in the Netherlands a common greeting is kissing on the cheeks (3 times!, so left, right, left), but when I visited Siiw’s grandmother for the first time, I quite surprised her with that greeting, as giving a ‘klem’ (pressing the cheeks against each other) is more common there.

So, if you meet someone, how do you greet them?
Is there a difference between men greeting other men, men greeting women and women greeting other women?
Is greeting someone you don’t know differently from someone you have met before and is it different from greeting someone you know very well? What about family members?

For instance, I’ve grown up with offering a handshake to strangers.
Family members and people I’ve known for longer can expect a kisses on the cheeks (left, right and then left again), though only between women, or between women and men. Other men are commonly greeted with a handshake or a brief hug / pat on the back/shoulder.

However, in my circle of friends it has become more common to greet each other with a firm hug, sometimes accompanied by 3 kisses on the cheeks.

When I’m in Norway however, I tend to stick to handshakes, or when I know the person better, a ‘klem’, in other words pressing the cheeks together. Though occasionally I try to give a Dutch spin to it by doing this 3 times. :razz:

Especially with international meetings like to occasional LD4all meeting, everyone’s different cultural experiences can give some perhaps awkward situations. So, what are you used to and how would you react in those situations?

Well, my earliest ancenstors probably said Guttentag since they were German, but then they went to Holland, England, Sweden, Basically all around Europe and then to the USA and Canada. But since I am American, a simple Hello and/or a handshake or wave.

Oh boy, is that a point of confusion here in Brazil!

You’ll be safe anywhere more or less urbanized greeting anyone with a handshake. Women will be excused to greet each other with cheek-kisses more or less everywhere. Being a reasonably patriarcal society, in Brazil men will greet women, and they can start a handshake or a cheek kiss depending on area, both are fine mostly everywhere though a handshake is more professional and a cheek kiss less formal.

In São Paulo, a cheek kiss means ONE cheek kiss (lean your head to the left, touch the right cheeks). In Rio, that’ll be two. Elsewhere, it’ll be something from one to three kisses (the “three to marry” trope in some regions making this even more confusing than strictly necessary).

Men can greet men with handshakes, pound hugs (“man hugs”), actual hugs or cheek kisses depending on formality and proximity. A cheek kiss between men is a token of proximity and trust, rather than sexuality, though a few gay men will greet any other gay man with a cheek kiss.

Though this sounds like enough material for an Etiquette manual, it’s hard to get things wrong (especially if you lean towards formal or let the other party start the greeting and just follow along). You’ll know what to do. It’s a cultural osmosis things. Most gringos I host don’t sweat it.

My post at Google Plus also got a reply showing that even within the Netherlands there is a bit of differences in the way of cheek kissing. As the replying poster indicated, to her it is uncommon that the lips actually touch the cheeks; making it more of an air kiss.
I have noticed that in the more ‘upper class’ circles this sometimes seems to go to an even extreme form where not even the cheeks meet and the air kisses are heavily exaggerated accompanied by ‘mwwwoooaah’ sounds.

Oooh, the joys of cultural differences and etiquettes. :razz:

Thanks for your reply too Bruno! “Three to marry” is an interesting one I must keep in mind! o_O

Wow. Come to Aus and you guys will be confused like crazy. It really depends on the person, the culture and the generation. In America, everyone shook my hand, I was so confused! Let’s see if I can explain why:

School chums usually just wave at each other, no real confusion there. High schoolers as far as girls do the cheek kiss, boys will do the “slap handshake” sometimes with the back-pat hug. A girl greeting a boy can go either way, depending on how close they are. I find the girls closer to boys usually join in their funny handshake. Though in high school, we usually wave, too.

Of course, out of highschool and in uni we do about the same thing, but some people will give handshakes. It really depends, business people will always handshake, though (Including professors and the like).

I’m Assyrian, so we do what Fix described as the “klem” to greet women. Men handshake, but they’re more likely to do the klem to girls, except when the girl wants a handshake. (I usually handshake my uncles, but I’ve never seen them handshake a girl unless the girl is close family). With the klem though, everyone seems to have a different amount of times. I’m a one cheek person, but I’ve known people to go left-right-left-right. x_x It’s crazy, and I always just let the other person decide. I generally wave to my cousin’s, though!

In Wing Chun we’re all of different ages and backgrounds, so we mostly wave, do slap-handshakes, or hug. Hugging is usually reserved for close friends in any background, but I tend to hug everyone who doesn’t shy away, because I love hugs.

Oh, and just to add to the craziness that is Aus, I have been bowed to before by an Asian gentleman! Very confusing society, if you ask me. :razz:

FiXato has pretty much covered the Norwegian ways with his experiences, but I’ll add my own.

We always shake hands at first meetings. Both young and old people do that, both male and female. School children don’t do that to each other, they just wave like Eilatan describes.

Most Norwegians don’t touch others a lot, and at least not strangers. Hugs are for family and close friends, and the version that FiXato describes is a formalised version of the hug that is common between women and more distant family members. To make an example, when I saw the owner of the a former workplace greet the newly hired manager in that way, I knew it would mean trouble. :tongue: I haven’t paid close attention to what men do between themselves.

What people say also differs a lot, but a “good morning”/“good evening” is appropriate in most contexts.

Oh, what I also found odd about American greetings was that they always shook your hand and said “Nice to meet you”. They all seemed very formal.

Siiw, why did the greet mean trouble? And I also only hug close family/friends, but I do generally hug anyone I’ve known for a while. I even hug people I’ve known online and have just met, because well, it feels right. :tongue: But I generally can tell when someone is too shy to hug, and tend to give them their personal space.

In England we tend to just shake hands and say ‘pleased to meet you’ when greeting a stranger, or just say hi and/or wave to friends. I personally, however, use ‘Y HALO THAR!’ as a greeting/catchphrase. :tongue:

Bruno discribed what happens in Brazil a lot better than I could. :tongue: I personally feel awkward doing the cheek kiss thing with girls I don’t know, specially if there are many of them :bored: . Mostly because I never know what’s expected of me, so I rather just wave and look at my feet :lol:

In Germany it also depends greatly on aspects like age, situation and social status, not so much on gender though.

The general greeting is the handshake. That you can basically do in every situation and with everyone.
In informal situations you can also find hugs (more among girls than boys, unless close) or sometimes but very rarely cheek-kissing, but that I have only seen between schoolgirls.

But in general Germans like to keep quite some distance between each other and it’s usually a very good idea to rather not engage in physical contact beyond the handshake, unless the other person indicates something.

In general, women and old/respectful people deserve a tiny bit of extra courtesy, e.g. being greeted first, or standing up while greeting them. But that’s not overly important.

It’s fairly simple in America. When first meeting someone, a shaking hands is about the most to expect physically, and then general statements of “Hello”, “Nice to meet you”, etc. We rarely kiss cheeks in America, even among those we know, it’s more a romantic display in our country.

Greeting friends is much more informal. Sometimes there’s just a “hi”, and for younger guys the ever-popular “bro-hug” (starts like a handshake, turns into a hug with pats on the back) is common. I hug all of my female friends, and male friends if I’m close to them and they don’t mind the breach in personal space.

Of course, there will always be variants among the type of people you’re around. When I’m around the elderly or anyone above forty really, I am much more formal. However I like to make first impressions so I’m generally very nice and sweet to anyone I don’t know very well :tongue:

Some interesting fact I forgot to mention about greeting in Germany is that you can also greet people very often. Some colleagues at work like to shake hands every day with people they know and stumble upon. I integrate myself into my surrounding my doing the same. But it’s not the same everywhere, however this is not the first workplace I’m at where such a tradition is kept :tongue:

This can be somewhat irritating, especially since people try to avoid shaking hands more than exactly once per day with you. So basically you have to remember for everyone you’ve met if this is the first time today or not. And having your hands full is also not very often an acceptable excuse for not shaking hands. You’ll need to find a solution how to solve that :tongue:

It’s a lot easier with people you barely know or don’t know at all. For those you just need to pick the right greeting according to the time of the day.

Some memories about my stay in Japan: There people often greet each other with a nod or a short bow, depending on if it’s rather in passing by or properly meeting. When I was led around the department and introduced to the important people, I bowed properly to everybody, which was I think the right thing to do.
The angle at which you bow and all that stuff is also very complicated in their culture, form what I hear, and generally looked more submissive to me (instead of honourable).

Something that I observed, but it might not be true or just coincidence: When people leave office the say goodbye in a small bow too, which seemed to be a very low bow if they leave earlier, and a rather lazy excuse of a bow if they are leaving very late, after having a long working day.

While handshakes are quite common throughout the world, I also know there are some cultures where shaking hands is actually frowned upon (sometimes just between different genders, and sometimes regardless of gender). Does anyone have personal experience with this? Or perhaps even better: does anyone here feel awkward when someone tries to shake hands with them?

I feel awkward with hand shaking. I’m use to it being a formal thing. Before America I had only shaken hands with Principals and Professors or when accepting something like an award. Other than that, I only really know it to be used in business settings, and only when first meeting or first being introduced to someone. I’ve never heard of it being frowned upon, though. o.o

Hugs and cheek-kisses are also standard greetings here in familiar company, although there’s this quaint quirk here in the Philippines where younger people take an elderly person’s hand and press the elder’s knuckles to their forehead. While I did grow up here, I’m very sensitive to physical touch and uncomfortable with my own culture’s greetings, so… I’m personally attempting to bring bowing-from-a-safe-enough-distance-that-you-don’t-knock-your-heads-togethe r here, from Japan. So far waving and smiling and nodding and-- at a stretch-- curtsies, have gotten a pass. Bows have gotten me raised eyebrows, which I think is an expression of suspicion rather than greeting.

Can’t say for Sweden but I can say for me, first meeting is handshake, relatives is hug, friends varies by who it is and when we will next see each other again.

Ok, tiny interesting thing, where I live, if you are out walking for example and meet a stranger you say Hi :wink:

Britain is extremely detached when it comes to greetings. either the handshake and generic “Nice to meet you” Which generally doesn’t actually mean that you are pleased to meet them, it’s more of a judgement thing. If the handshake is limp and weak then it can be assumed they don’t really have a care to be there, if it’s firm then there grows an instant respect and likeness. In a lot of cases as time goes on though I notice that inclination of the head is more common now a days followed by an “Alright mate.”

When friendships are involved girls will generally tacklehug guys and girls alike. Guys will handshake or man hug depending on time between last meeting and closeness.

I had a french buddy who came here once and I swear in that first meeting I kissed her more times than i kissed my girlfriend that day, XD left, right, left, right. According to friends that have seen her since the kissing gets more times each time. XD

So yeah there’s some further insight into the British psychie.

I forgot head nods! And it’s not really a downward nod like the way someone says yes. It’s an upward nod, like you’re pointing your chin to the person. It’s mostly done when you’re greeting someone you know from a distance, instead of close up. We use to do it in school during assembly, with an expression that said “I see and acknowledge that you are actually here today”. But I have seen it done in bars and between men with the “Alright mate” being said, or just expressed in face. The expression with the nod means a different thing but always has direct eye contact.

I don’t think Fixato covered the whole greeting thing here for the Netherlands.

The three kisses are common, but not to people you meet for the first time! When you meet someone the first time you shake hands. If you are being introduced you can simply say hi or something like that. If there is nobody to introduce you you do it yourself. (Hi, I’m Ansie, Wulf’s sister).

When I meet friends I see a lot (from university or so) we don’t hug, we simply say hi. Friends I didn’t see for a long time I hug. Some other people might hug a bit more among friends, but I think that is more for high school.

For relatives it is usually the same. If you see them often enough you just say hi. If you didn’t see them for a while you might hug, or do the three kisses thing.

The three kisses thing is only between two woman or between a man and a woman and it is usually in combination with the handshake. This is not done if you have a more distant relationship with the woman. I suggest that if you don’t know what to do as a man do this: Shake the hands of the men, and do the same thing for women. She can then start the three kissing thing and you just follow. Do NOT just pull her forward to kiss her even when she doesn’t start XD

The most interesting greeting ritual from the Netherlands is during birthday parties. You start out by congratulating the person having the birthday, with the handshake and the three kisses. You then do the same with all the other people in the room, congratulating them with their sister/mother/cousin/girlfriend etc. This is the time that most people do the three kisses thing. At parties for students and high school students you can usually just say hi to the whole group at once though :tongue:

That we do here too sometimes. When you are in the city and you see people everywhere you don’t do that. When you are in a park, forest or small village you do say hi.

I was in Stockholm this year and people there didn’t seem to follow one rule for this. In the forest some people said hi and others didn’t :razz:

Yes, so true! :grin: It is/should be covered in any book for people learning Dutch.

A couple of days before this topic was started I was meeting with my former roommate from Argentina. I hadn’t seen him since I left there (about two years ago) and I was wondering. How do we greet each other :eh:

I really couldn’t remember how exactly we greated in Argentina. I thought something with a hug and one kiss. I just remember it being weird quite frequently with international people. E.g. Do we do it Dutch style (3 kisses), French style (2 kisses) or Argentine style (1 kiss). It sometimes ended up in a weird mixture of all.

Moreover, when I came back to the Netherlands, I still had the habit of just giving one kiss as I did it quite frequently there. So upon re-uniting and seeing these people, it was kind of awkward when they tried to give three kisses and I wanted to stop after one out of habit.

Marvin, that sounds quite difficult to keep track of at your work. And sounds a bit awkward sometimes too.

I have not much to add about the Dutch style by FiXato and Ansie. Especially Ansie pointed out that it is highly contextual, but I guess that counts for everywhere?

The greeting is not only when you meet, but frequently also when you leave. Is that the case everywhere? This is not so much the case with parties, but for instance if you had dinner together or spend a considerate amount of time with a relatively small group, you kiss everybody three times on the cheek when you leave.

Another addition is that with very close people (actually only my mom & dad and only since “recently”) I usually just give one kiss when I leave, close or on the mouth. I do nothing really when I arrive. I’ve noticed this with one of my friends too a long time ago, but I’m not sure if there are many others doing that…

In general it is, in small villages and with “leisure”/“holiday (in nature)” --> say Hi (or the equivalent in the appropriate language). This is the case in all the countries I’ve been to. Of course not everyone says hi, but most people do.