Seven Unusual Ways to Greet People Around the World

September 24, 2014 by

Asia, Australia & the Pacific, Europe, Places to Go, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Smarter Travel and has been republished here with permission.


Unusual Ways of Greeting People From Around the World. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/iStock

You’d never go to a job interview and greet your prospective employer with a fist bump, so why would you offer up a handshake when traveling abroad? From sticking out your tongue to pressing noses together to breathing on someone way up close, there’s more than one way to say hello around the world. Here are seven of the most unusual greetings from other cultures.

Mano in the Philippines


Your hands please. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/iStock

Greeting someone older than you in the Philippines? You should bow and press your forehead against his or her knuckles. You can say “Mano po” before doing the gesture, if you want to be extra respectful — this means “Your hands please.”

Triple Kiss in Ukraine


Kiss kiss kiss. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Creatas

Don’t pull away too soon from a cheek kiss in the Ukraine — a typical greeting here involves three kisses. Start on the left cheek, then the right, and then end back on the left. Germophobes: Air kisses are fine as well.

Bow in Japan


The traditional bow. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Photick

Bowing can mean many different things in Japan, one of which is a greeting. Be careful about the type of bow you perform — there’s a bow for business (the keirei) and a different bow for apologies or to show gratitude (the saikeirei). As a general rule, the person bowing is showing respect to the person receiving the bow. The Japanese National Tourism Organization has a good guide to bowing.

Kunik in Greenland


Make sure not to use on strangers. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media

A kunik is more of an intimate greeting, so don’t use it with strangers or people that you just met. Save this one for family members, as you’ll have to get close … very close. You’ll need to press your nose and upper lip against the person you’re greeting — and then breathe on them.

Hongi in New Zealand


The Breath of Life. Photo Credit: Kiri Dell via Flickr.

We wouldn’t recommend giving a hongi to a bartender or store clerk in New Zealand, but for the Maori people and at major ceremonies, it’s the equivalent of a handshake. To perform the gesture, two people press their noses and foreheads together (simultaneously) as a way to exchange the “breath of life.”

Stick Out Your Tongue in Tibet


Sticking out your tongue has a much different meaning in Tibet. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media.

You may think you’ve offended someone if they stick out their tongue at you in Tibet, but that’s not the case. Here, it’s a traditional greeting. The practice reportedly dates back to the ninth century, when Lang Darma, an unpopular king with a black tongue, ruled. After Darma died, many people believed that he had been reborn, so they would stick out their tongues to prove that they weren’t the king in a new form.

Double Air Kiss in France


The other French Kiss. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Muse

Not to be confused with a French kiss (unless you want to get really friendly with the other person), this style of greeting is called la bise. Lay a kiss on alternate cheeks as a hello or a good-bye.
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