Diversity of greetings: Communicating and making that first impression positive

First impressions are important for a variety of reasons; greetings can be culturally diverse and it’s important for youth to be aware of this as they aim to communicate positively.

You may never get a second chance to make that first good impression communicating confidence, sincerity and professionalism. A good first-time greeting can land you an important job as well as be the foundation for international networking. The importance of the perfect business handshake can be found in the 4-H Career Education Handout. Before going to that important job interview or traveling abroad, a little research into some greeting etiquette is important. An example of a good reference for meeting and greeting is Michael Powell’s book “Behave Yourself! The Essential Guide to International Etiquette.” Adding a book like this to your resources will provide many tools for a good first impression.

In the United States, for a good introduction, one gives a firm handshake and looks the other person in the eye. At times, hugs are also acceptable: from the “man hug” with the handshake and then pulled into a one arm hug, to both arms wrapped around for a “bear hug.” When compared to Poland, you will find the same greeting of a firm handshake and eye contact but, women and close friends kiss (a total of three times on the cheeks) or older gentleman will kiss a woman’s hand. They are very friendly in Mexico with a brisk handshake and firm snap. Friends touch on the elbow or bear hug with much back slapping, friendly cheek kissing, winking and even whistling. In contrast, Asian cultures like Japan will bow to expresses respect and humility. The higher a person’s status, the lower a bow should be. In shops or casual interactions, a nod is sufficient. In China they also bow or nod with no smile. The Chinese greeting is solemn, respectful and if you do a handshake, it will not be firm.

Some more good examples of diverse greetings can be found in the 1993 4-H publication “…And My World…: A 4-H Curriculum in International and Cross-Cultural Education”:

  • Paraguay, South America: People say, “Hola” (pronounced “ola”), hug each other and kiss right cheeks first and left cheeks second.
  • Inuit, Alaska: People hug and rub noses.
  • Chinese, China: People take off their shoes when they enter the home, bow and say, “Ne hou.” (hello); “Ne hou ma?” (How are you?).
  • Scandinavian, Sweden: People shake hands heartily and say, “Hej” (pronounced “hay”).

Research like this can transform youth and adults from an ignorant tourist to a welcomed guest. It may also be important in future career connections. Thoughtful communication is a key to success!

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