Puzzled about why some Maoris greet travellers with a nose-to-nose rub? Confused about how and when you should bow in Japan? Don't be. Learning the local greeting is the first step for travellers looking to get to know a country's culture. Our friends at Hotels.com have compiled the top 10 most unique greetings you'll come across abroad.
The centuries-old traditional Maori welcome is called the hongi
, which involves rubbing or touching noses when two people meet. It symbolises the 'breath of life' from the gods, and once you've done it you are considered not just as a visitor, but as a person of the land.
Believe it or not, poking your tongue out is like saying 'hello' in Tibet. Dating back to the ninth century, the tradition came about from the Tibetan people's fear that their black-tongued King Lang Darma would be reincarnated. They started greeting one another by sticking out their tongue to prove they weren't evil. Tongue-poking continues today, often accompanied by placing palms in front of one's chest.
This Polynesian island's greeting involves pressing one's face against another's cheek, followed by a deep sniff. See, not so rude?
Anyone travelling to a rural area may be greeted with an ancient welcome: the presentation of a hada
(normally a white strip of silk or cotton). Upon receiving it, the guest must hold it gently in both hands while slightly bowing it's a sign of mutual respect.
The Japanese love to bow! While a small head nod will do, a bend at the waist or even at the knees signifies higher respect.
If you're lucky enough to see Kenya's Masaai tribe, you may see a lively welcoming dance called the adamu
. The circle dance begins with a story before essentially turning into a jumping competition between the warriors.
The Eskimo nose-rub is one of the best-known greetings of the world. In Greenland, and elsewhere in the Arctic, the Inuit people greet loved ones with what's known as a kunik
; one person presses their nose and upper lip against another's skin and breathes.
The traditional kowtow
, originally performed before an emperor or during a ceremony like a wedding, involves folding hands and bowing. The kowtow
isn't widely used nowadays, although folding of the hands is still widely used as a sign of respect.
Many Australian travellers would've come across the Thai wai
: a slight bow, a hands-together prayer motion and the saying "Sawaddee". The closer the hands are to the face, the more respect is being shown. Initially, the gesture was used to show the absence of weapons; now it's a widespread address.
When a younger person greets an older person they bow, grab the elder's right hand with their right hand, and bring their knuckles to touch the younger person's forehead. The younger person says 'Mano Po', 'mano' meaning 'hand', and 'po' meaning 'respect'.
What greeting customs have you encountered in your travels? Share with us below!