Saying Hello Around the World

By Cherese Weekes/ August 11, 2014

The waving of the hand or simply saying hello is a greeting ritual we’ve all grown accustomed to, but these variations of salutation are not as global as we would like to think. In fact, other countries have wildly different takes on the standard “hi there” that should be respected by the tourist in order to be socially accepted.


From plenty of kisses to rubbing noses together, in each of the following countries a simple wave just won’t cut it.


“On se fait la bise?” is a question that is typically followed with a cheeky two-sided kiss.

The double cheek kiss is a form of expression we have all grown accustomed to whether on TV or by taking part in the French greeting style ourselves. But before you’re smitten by the kissing-craze, it’s best to know when are the appropriate times to greet someone with a peck on both cheeks.

Faire le bise, which is the French terminology used to describe this friendly gesture, is commonly displayed between buddies, family members, and at times between colleagues during hellos and goodbyes. Of course a country that introduced the passionate French kiss to the world would incorporate not one but two kisses when greeting and leaving as well.

So if you’re beckoned to engage in a faire le bise, you may want to comply by saying, “oui” to salute like a true Frenchman.


Along with shaking hands and planting a kiss on the cheek when someone brushes up against your face, you may witness men in Turkey rubbing their temples together.  But before you begin touching a complete stranger, not everyone is inclined to participate in the eccentric greeting style.

The touching temples tradition is a welcoming tradition generally practiced among loved ones and very close friends. In order to make a good first impression among your Turkish peers, touching temples may be ideal only if the other person initiates the greeting first.

Cambodia and Thailand

Saying hello goes a long way in Cambodia especially if it is done the right way — which is by clasping the hands together in a prayer-like fashion with fingertips placed directly below the chin.  A slight bow is then followed as a form of respect to the person greeting you.

This Cambodian manner of salutation is referred to as Som Pas with the palms raised higher depending on the status of the person being revered. So if you’re exploring the landscape of Cambodia and see locals with their closed palms raised above their heads that means the king is in their presence.

The same procedure of pressing the hands together and nodding exists in Thailand, but in this destination it is known as wai. Centuries ago it was used to indicate opposing individuals came in peace, and since then it has adapted many styles to demonstrate different levels of reverence as well as a way to apologize and show appreciation.

Word to the wise:  In the same way not reciprocating a handshake is deemed as disrespectful, not returning a wai is considered impolite.

South Korea


Bowing is synonymous with the Asian culture, particularly in South Korea. However, bowing to a friend may seem a bit extreme, but showing this highest form of flattery to an elder will earn you extra points in the South Korean community.

Just like most mannerisms, there’s a wrong way to bow, but you will need to adhere to this age-old tradition the right way if you don’t want to look like a complete fool.  In order to put on your best curtsy, it should be done from the waist while maintaining good posture.  And like most gestures, when someone bows to you, graciously return the favor.


Namaste is a word we usually repeat after stretching in yoga, but in India it is term that is expressed upon meeting and valediction. Similar to Thailand and Cambodia, the hands are placed in the praying position with the thumbs held close to the heart as the word softly escapes the lips.

The gesture also takes on different meanings that signify gratitude for a kind act as well as a courteous welcoming of a stranger or friend. What better way to rub shoulders with locals than by familiarizing yourself with their values and respectfully greeting them the correct way; just remember to say Namaste.


Why say “it’s good to see you” when greeting your friends when you can show them how much they’ve been missed?  It is less about words and more about action when it comes to the way Russians greet each other.  That’s because it is customary for women to shower each with at least three kisses per cheek, starting with the left side.

Men also get into the action by partaking in a powerful handshake while looking each other dead in the eye, which seems more like a masculinity test to the foreigner unfamiliar with this painful way of greeting. So the harder the handshake and the more the kisses, the more friends you will make in Russia.

New Zealand

It may seem like no other culture takes their greeting more serious than that of New Zealand’s Maori culture, and it easy to see why. Hongi, an old-fashioned greeting style is practiced with two people pressing their noses together while exchanging souls (breath of life), which is also known as the ha.

This formal salutation is so highly honored many believe that it was sent by the gods. Whether or not this is true, in order to be initiated into this cultural yet spiritual gang you’ll have to ignore your needs for personal space, and follow your nose to the nearest nostril and begin pressing away.