How to Greet People Around the World

| Featured in the Summer 2017 World Ark

By Jason Woods

October 3, 2019

Last Updated: July 14, 2017

How to Greet People Around the World

Should you bow or just pat that belly? Here's a quick primer on how people greet each other in the countries where Heifer works.

Infographic illustrating different greetings around the world.
Click the image to download!


United States
In the United States, shaking hands is usually a pretty safe bet.

Latin America
If you're headed to Latin America, get ready for some kissing. Standard practice is for men and women to greet women with a cheek kiss to the left. Men usually greet other men with a handshake.

In Haiti, tradition mirrors its French colonial past–Latin American rules apply here, but with an extra kiss on the right cheek. Good friends of the same sex might hold hands while they walk and talk.

Andean countries
One notable exception comes from Peru and other Andean countries. A man there might greet a good friend first with a handshake and an arm around the shoulders, then rest the right hand on a buddy's stomach for a bit while they chat.

In Asia, variations of bowing are common where we work. The most common practice is probably a small bow of the head with hands pressed together and placed in front of the chest.

In China, there's a little bit of bowing and then hand shaking. If you're close, you might hold both hands. Do not make eye contact, and execute the handshake lightly and with constant shaking.

In the Philippines, younger people bow slightly and then place the right hand of their elder on their forehead. There might also be a pat on the shoulder for good measure.

It might be OK in Kenya and Tanzania, but do not touch anyone's head in Cambodia. That's really disrespectful.

India and Nepal
Although Namaste is the more familiear greeting for yoga practitioners, Namaskar is as common in India and Nepal. The latter is the more formal of the two.

Kenya and Tanzania
In Kenya and Tanzania, children and youth bow their heads so their elders might tap their head or place their hand on their head. For everyone, handshaking is done with the right hand, with your left hand holding the right elbow. Never shake with the left, as that hand is reserved for bathroom duty.

Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal
There's a lot to keep straight in Africa: In Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal, bow slightly when you come into the room and wait for elders to extend a hand first. Sometimes you might clap three times for the elder instead. Greetings are never rushed.

Zimbabwe and neighboring countries
A couple of handclaps are a good way to greet somebody.

Zambians might include a thumb squeeze when saying hello.