Even the slackest traveller learns how to say hello in the local language, but for every bonjour, hola and guten tag, there’s just as many physical greeting to master, depending on where you are in the world. Below are a few of our favourites.
All in the hands
While the west has the good old-fashioned handshake, Malaysians like to greet one another by stretching out both hands, palms facing forwards, and gently touching them before bringing them back towards their hearts. Not quite so Zen, they clap hands with their friends in Zambia and squeeze one another’s thumbs. And in the USA, even the former president Barack Obama and his wife like to bump fists when they bump into someone they know.
While they love a bow in Japan, over in China they go a step further – at least in a formal setting – and kowtow, which is the act of kneeling down and touching their forehead on the ground to show their respect. Similarly, in India, it’s not uncommon to greet older people by dropping and touching their feet in a gesture called Pranáma.
While poking your tongue out at someone in Australia would be considered rude, it’s a polite gesture in Tibet, where it proves you’re not the black-tongued king, reborn.
While they’re oceans apart geographically, some Arab men in the Middle East and the Maori of New Zealand share a similar greeting – they both press their noses together, with a slight variation being that the Maori like to press their foreheads together at the same time. Elsewhere in the world, Greenland locals have a tradition called Kunik, where they place their nose and top lip on the cheek or forehead of loved ones and breath in. And while poking your tongue out at someone in Australia would be considered rude, it’s a polite gesture in Tibet, where it proves you’re not the black-tongued king, reborn.