Kiss, hug or shake hands? The rules for saying hello can be very complicated and quite different from one country to another. Over much of the planet, people shake hands when they meet. In many other cultures, they also kiss. Some kiss on one cheek, some on both, yet others kiss three times! Beyond the formal greeting, which may involve a verbal acknowledgment and sometimes a hand shake, facial expression, gestures, body language and eye contact can all signal what type of greeting is expected.
Greetings in Brazil
Friends in Brazil traditionally greet one another in one of two ways: the 'beijinho' (little kiss), or the 'abraco' (hug), and a greeting such as 'Bom dia'('Good morning or day'). Other greetings used include 'Como vai?' ('How are you?') or if meeting someone for the first time 'Prazer em conhece-lo' ('Its a pleasure to meet you'). Appropriate responses to 'Bom dia' would be to answer the same thing back, and to 'Como vai?' to answer 'Tudo bem, e voce?' ('All is well, and you?').
When two men who are friends meet one another, they will typically shake each other's hand while at the same time patting each other on the back in a manly fashion - the abraco. When two women greet one another, they will use the beijinho. This typically consists of brushing the cheek on either side once for married women, and adding a third for unmarried girls. The third beijinho is to wish the single girl good luck in finding a husband. If you are unsure of the marital status of the woman you are meeting/greeting, you may forget the beijinho and just use a standard hand shake. This same beijinho rule applies to when a man and a woman meet each other, this kind of greeting is usually used by the younger crowd, but is used by all when they know each other well. The beijinho is often used when a young man and woman are meeting for the first time as well. When parting company, a typical thing to say would be 'Ate logo' ('See you soon'), or 'Tchau' (pronounced 'chow', which means 'good-bye' or 'bye').
Greetings in Lebanon
Greetings in Lebanon are an interesting mix of both the French and Muslim/Arab cultures. A warm and welcoming smile accompanied by a handshake while saying 'Marhaba' is a greeting that can be given without causing offense. Close friends greet each other with three kisses on the cheek, alternating cheeks in the French style. Take time when greeting a person and be sure to ask about their family, health, etc. Some Muslim women prefer not to shake hands with men; it is best to see if a hand is extended to you first, if not, refrain from extending yours.
Man greeting Man - Men usually greet one another with a warm handshake (always use the right hand). Handshakes usually linger a bit. When greeting a good friend or someone familiar, a series of three kisses (alternating cheeks) will be included in the introduction. When greeting those of Islamic descent, using the phrase ‘Salaamu Aleikum' (peace be upon you) or 'Salaam' accompanied by a handshake or nod of acknowledgment is most common.
Woman greeting Woman - Women greet each other in a similar manner to men. Handshakes (always use the right hand) and kisses (three kisses alternating cheeks) are common. During initial meetings, a verbal greeting and/or nod of acknowledgment is also acceptable for many people.
Greetings between Men and Women – In most areas, a handshake is the norm in formal and business situations. When greeting a good friend or someone familiar, a series of three kisses (alternating cheeks) will usually be included in the introduction. In Islamic societies, social interactions between non-related members of the opposite sex are not as frequent, so as a result the handshake/kiss will usually not be included in the introduction. You will be able to tell if the person you are being introduced to is leery of a handshake as they will most likely fold their hand up and across their chest to let you know they do not intend to shake hands. Always wait for the woman to initiate, if at all.
Greetings in Japan
Upon meeting each other for the first, second or umpteenth time, Japanese men and women usually bow, although the more cosmopolitan may shake hands. Often, people will bow and shake hands simultaneously! When in doubt, always ask someone, preferably older than you, for advice about how to greet people who are older and younger than you, your peers, and other categories of people you will meet in Japan.Bowing is nothing less than an art form in Japan, respect pounded into children's heads from the moment they enter school. For tourists, a simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist will usually suffice.
The duration and inclination of the bow is proportionate to the elevation of the person you're addressing. For example, a friend might get a lightning-fast 30-degree bow; an office superior might get a slow, extended, 70-degree bow. It's all about position and circumstance.
The depth to which the Japanese bow marks their respect for that person. They must always bow deeper to their boss than he does to them. Babies are carried on their mother's backs in Japan and learn these subtleties automatically. Sometimes you'll see people parting in a bowing contest where both want to be the last person to bow – they'll keep it up at 50 metres.
In addition to bowing, addressing someone properly is key. Just as a 'Dr. Smith' might feel a little insulted if you were to refer to him as 'Smith', so would a Japanese if you do not attach the suffix 'san' to their last name, or 'sama' if you are trying to be particularly respectful. Usually children are content with just their first names, but you can add the suffix 'chan' for girls and 'kun' for boys if you like.
Greetings in Spain
When someone introduces you to someone else in Spain, you should shake hands with the other person, whether that person is a man or woman. If the other person is a woman and offers you her cheek, then you can exchange two kisses, the first being on the woman's right cheek followed by the other cheek. The kiss is not really a kiss, but is the touching of the cheeks, and the kiss is to the air.
It is more common for a man to exchange kisses with women in social occasions. Males and females can hug women friends lightly. Male friends can hug or embrace (the abrazo) each other or touch each other's arms or kiss each other, depending on how good their friendship is. In Spain this is not a sign that one is gay. Never touch, hug or back slap a Spaniard you do not know well, unless a friendly Spaniard touches you first. On leaving, you should shake hands again.
When greeting friends on the street or elsewhere, you should first ask about your friend's health and his immediate family, including your friend's parents. This is a must before you converse about other topics. If you do not do this, you are breaking etiquette rules.
Greetings in Germany
In Germany, when under more formal circumstances, a firm handshake should be used when meeting and greeting. Germans like to shake hands when they meet. This applies not only to the first time, but almost every time they meet. So, when you're visiting people make sure to keep your hands out of your pockets and make eye contact with the person you are shaking hands with.
This type of greeting is acceptable between both men and women, but make sure that during introductions, you allow for a degree of personal space.
Man greeting Man - Men shake hands when greeting one another while maintaining direct eye contact. A firm but fairly brief handshake is the norm. With friends, a simple hello will suffice.
Woman greeting Woman - At a first meeting, women generally shake hands while maintaining direct eye contact. Between good friends and family kissing on one or both cheeks is common.
Man greeting Woman - At a first meeting a regular handshake will do. Good friends and family may engage in a light hug or a kiss on one or both cheeks.
Note: When dealing with groups of people, it is best to take the time to shake hands with everyone individually when arriving and departing.
Greetings in Canada
It is customary to shake hands when being introduced in Canada. It is not usually considered objectionable to lightly touch someone on the shoulder or elbow during a discussion. Most Canadians do not often kiss or hug when greeting friends.
Formal Greeting to a Stranger: "Hello Mr. Martin. I am very pleased to meet you. My name is Yuri." Informal Greeting to a Friend: "Hi Thomas. How are you?"
The rules for reacting and displaying affection and emotions are quite similar in offices (private or public sector). Decorum is highly valued and this implies limits on the types of displays of affection. The greeting is a handshake, irrespective of the rank or gender of the persons. Well-acquainted colleagues may permit themselves more open expressions of affection, including kisses on the cheeks (Canadians - if and when they kiss - usually would give two kisses, one on each cheek).