This is the first in a new series of collaborative posts, where we explore different social situations from the point of view of our contributors around the world.

Today’s topic: how to greet people in different countries.



What to say

When we meet someone in Argentina we say:

¡Hola! ¿Como estas? (Hi, how are you?)
¿Que hacés? (more informal, the equivalent to What’s up?)
¿Todo bien? (You all right?)
Bien y ¿vos? (I’m fine and you?)

Or more formally:

Buenos días/Buenas tardes (Good morning / afternoon) or
Hola, ¿Qué tal? (which doesn’t make much sense grammatically to me but I say it anyway! This greeting is more general and somewhat friendlier.)

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

In Argentina, people are fairly tactile: we hug and kiss and hold hands all the time. We give one peck on the check when we greet friends and family and even acquaintances. When we’re introduced to new people, say at a party, we tend to kiss too, especially women. Men hug and kiss their friends too (both male and female). In a more formal situation, we shake hands (at least the first time we meet.)

This men-kissing-men (on the cheek) takes a lot of getting used to, especially for Anglos. It’s been my experience that they take to kissing girls like fish to water but having to kiss other men freaks them out, although it eventually comes naturally to them.

By Ana, Regional Contributor in Argentina.


What to say

In Brazil, we can be pretty formal in greetings in a business setting, like “Olá, prazer em conhecê-lo” (Hello. Nice to meet you).

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

Brazilians are really well-known for the warm, latin-american-like greetings, very effusive, festive with lots of kisses and hugs. Among men, if they are friends, there’s generally a light hug and a tap on each other’s back. Among men and women or women/women, kisses are the norm.

How many? Well, that’s where the problem comes in! It will depend on the region. In Brasilia, my hometown, we kiss twice on the cheek. If you go a bit farther, more to the south of Brazil, let’s say, São Paulo, then one kiss is the routine. So, you’d better check in advance how many kisses and how tight you should hug a Brazilian! Anyway, with Brazilians, everything will do, kisses, hugs, taps. Leave shaking hands only to formal situations.

By Carla, Regional Contributor in Brazil.


Great Britain

What to say

Our main greeting (used at all times of the day)

Hello, how are you?
Fine thanks / Very well, thanks

At this stage in the conversation you should always pretend to be fine, even if you are not. This is the expected answer. You can only break this rule with a really good friend.

Different areas of the UK sometimes have regional greetings. For example in Yorkshire it’s common to say Alright! instead of “hello, how are you?”.

In more formal situations we say “Good Morning’’, “Good Afternoon” or “Good Evening”. These are commonly used more when speaking on the telephone as well.

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

We British are usually not very tactile, although we’re getting better at it. On meeting someone for the first time, we would normally shake hands if it’s a formal situation (at work for example), or even just smile at each other. If it’s a friend or casual acquaintance, we would hug or (between two women or a man and woman) make one kiss on the cheek.

By Lucy, editor



What to say

To a certain point, the way we greet each other in Romania resembles that in the UK. We say:

Buna dimineata! (Good morning!) or Buna ziua! (Good afternoon!) or Buna seara! (Good evening!) in the more formal situations, with people we meet for the first time, or with our boss, our clients, etc

And we can add: Ce mai faceti? (How are you).
The answer on this occasion is Bine, multumesc ( Fine thanks).

But when we greet our colleagues, friends or close people things change a little. We say:

Buna, Ce mai faci? / Salut! Ce mai faci ? (Hi, how are you?) –Bine (Fine) or Nu prea bine (Not too well) followed by details of the problem.

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

As for hugging and kissing: people hug and kiss on the cheek often – women with women, women with men or even men with men, but less frequently – if they are very young or if they are close. And sometimes if they are colleagues (for example on Martisor day, the 1st of March, when men in our office bring us Martisoare). Older men used to kiss a woman‘s hand instead of shake hands when they were introduced or when they met for example in the street.

If a man wants to impress a woman or to show great respect he usually says Sarut Mana! (which, in a word for word translation, means Kiss Your Hand!)

By Carmen, Regional Contributor in Romania.



What to say

In India, greetings are indicators of the relative position of individuals in the social hierarchy.

Put in simple English, it means that I will greet someone older differently from someone in my age group or someone younger. This also changes with the gender of the person I am addressing.

Here are examples from Hindi:

How are you? (Greeting an older male/female)
Kaise hain aap / Kaisi hain aap (aap is the respectful ‘you’)
Bahut Badhiya, aur aap? (Very fine, and you?)

Greeting an equal
Kaise hain aap (formal) / Kaise ho tum (semi-formal) / Kaisa hai tu (informal)
Bahut Badhiya, aur aap? (Very fine, and you?)

Greeting someone younger
Kaise ho tum (formal) / Kaisa hai tu (informal)
Bahut Badhiya, aur aap? (Very fine, and you?)

All these are greetings directed towards men. When I greet women or girls, Kaisa changes to Kaisi.

To use the Namaste greeting you add a word defining the person’s relationship with you after the Namaste.

Greeting someone older
Namaste Uncle/Aunty/Bade bhai (Big Brother)/Bhabhi (sister-in-law)…

Greeting an equal
Namaste ji (formal) / Namaste bhai /bhabhi (brother/sis-in-law) (semi-formal)

Namaste is not generally used to greet someone younger than you as it is considered a formal, respectful greeting.

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

Close friends hug. Man hugs man, woman hugs woman. Older uncles and aunties hug younger children.

Grandparents are not to be hugged, you are supposed to touch their feet and receive blessings for a long life, a speedy marriage, numerous children, etc. Kissing is a big no-no. Only infants are to be publicly kissed.

The touching feet business, especially in large family gatherings leads to funny situations. Within the space of a few seconds, I have to decide whether the beaming relative headed my way is my senior or junior in family hierarchy. Age has got nothing to do with it. I have got ‘uncles’ who are half my age. So, I watch his body language, is he bending forward to touch my feet or is he preparing to raise his right arm in benediction. Most of the times this works. When it fails, I just move on to another pair of feet I am sure of!

By Sanjay, Regional Contributor in India.


Singaporean Chinese

What to say

I’m from Singapore and I refer to myself as Chinese, because that’s my ethnic race. Our main greeting (used at all times of the day) is:

你怎么样? (A very casual way of saying ‘How are you?’)
很好 (very good) / 不错 (not bad) / 马马虎虎 (an idiom literally translated to ‘horse horse tiger tiger’, means ‘so so’)

Unlike usual English greetings, we Chinese are more casual. It is ok to say that you’re not doing too good, even on the first encounter.

In more formal situations, we say ‘你好吗?‘ (how are you?) to which we reply the same way. However, these greetings are not used that often in China. We usually nod our heads and simply say ‘你好.’ (hello).

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

We Chinese tend to be more conservative. On meeting someone for the first time, we would usually nod our heads and smile or shake hands (in formal situations). Kissing on the cheeks might make those who are not used to Western practices rather uncomfortable.

(My parents blushed when they came to Spain for the first time and my boyfriend’s parents kissed them on both cheeks! ha!)

Thanks to Nellie for joining us as a guest contributor on this post. Find Nellie on her blog WildJunket.


The Philippines

What to say

The first thing you should know is that in the Philippines we have loads of languages and dialects (more on this in a future post). English is widely spoken here and we also have the vernacular Filipino with Tagalog as its base.

We often greet each other with: Magandang Umaga (morning); Magandang Hapon (afternoon); or Magandang Gabi (evening).

It’s not really “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening”. It’s more than that. It’s a “Beautiful Day” or “Magandang Araw” to accurately describe what’s ahead for you and me. Sadly, something gets lost in translation.

There’s also “Magandang Tanghali” for noontime, which probably has no direct translation in English. This may have something to do with the time of the day in taking meals (breakfast in the morning; lunch at noon; snacks in the afternoon; dinner in the evening). We just love to eat.

Then it’s followed by something borrowed from the Spanish, “Kumusta?” (from como estas).

If one would talk to younger/trendy folk, one will probably get an answer like “Okay naman.” Notice that it’s a mixture of English and Filipino.

The standard reply would be, “Mabuti naman. Ikaw?” (”I’m good. You?”)

Kiss, hug or shake hands?

These rules on physical contact are conservative, but guaranteed not to get you into any trouble!

Kissing (on the cheek) is only for family and close friends. Hugging is for family, close friends, or a friend you haven’t seen for a long time. You shake hands when you’re formally introduced or you just got acquainted.

There’s also the customary beso-beso (placing one’s cheek to the other or air kisses as my wife told me) between women in some circles. Between men and women, this has been adopted over time but beso-beso between men in the Philippines is a no-no. A firm handshake would do just fine.

The explanation behind this is quite simple: it’s just not ‘manly’ for most Filipino men. Macho, right?

By Bryan, Regional Contributor in the Philippines.



What about you? How do you greet people in your country?

Read more:
How to say hello in 20 languages
World cup updates from around the world
Want to write about your country? We’re looking for contributors

About the author

Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.