Nose To Nose

Making a good first impression is something most people strive to do especially in business. Various factors can influence how people are perceived including personal appearance, attitude, body language and their message. All that being true but the initial greeting is key. Since greetings differ from culture to culture, intercultural trainer such as myself will try to impress upon their clients the importance of determining and using the appropriate greeting for the people with whom you will be meeting.

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge(Prince William and Kate) arrived in New Zealand they were treated to traditional warrior’s dance called a Haka and they greeted local dignitaries with a Māori greeting known as a Hongi, Hongi involved the touching of noses and foreheads. Most reference material advises visitors to New Zealand that a hand shake is correct. However, as evident by the royal visit, when interacting with other cultures, exceptions frequently need to be considered.

In many Arab countries men will not shake the hand of a woman. As a liberated woman, I’ve struggled with this custom. However, after observing the greeting the Queen of Belgium received from a royal member of the Saudi family, I’ve soften my stance. This man used a formal Salam, touching his chest (heart), lips and then forehead. The greeting was very respectful and can remind us that there are multiple ways to show respect.

Kissing, bowing or shaking hands still remain the most common methods of greeting but even these are not without their nuances. How many kisses on the cheek should be given, one, two or three? How well do you have to know the person? When bowing, how low and long should your bow be? How firm should the handshake be? Is the other arm gripped? And what do you do with your other hand? Bill Gates learned the hard way when he shook the hand of the South Korean president, that his second hand shouldn’t have been in his pocket.

The subtle differences of greetings can affect the impression you make. Do your research or ask someone in the know.

Share a  story about greeting in another culture.


4 responses to “Nose To Nose”

  1. Helene Toye says:

    Interesting post. Greetings can be tricky indeed.

    It took me about two years to master the ‘hugging’ in the US.

    Whereas hugging in Belgium is usually an intimate action, I learned Americans often hug people they don’t know that well.
    But beware; when hugging someone you don’t know that well, your hug has to be ‘distant’.
    Make sure only one shoulder touches, the other should be slightly turned away. Also, in the heat of your hugging enthusiasm, never give the other person a peck on the cheek! In fact, your face should be slightly turned away, just like that one shoulder.
    Light tapping on the other person’s back can accompany your hug, but is not required.

    My early clumsy responses to hugs — a sudden kiss on the cheek or an intense embrace involving my entire upper body — were often met with a sudden withdrawal from the other person and followed by an awkward silence…

  2. You are so right about the nuances of hugging in the United States and kissing is considered quite initimate. Did you notice that before the hug, women simply give a slight wave or nod of the head when they first meet people? Shaking hands isn’t really an option either. While shaking hands is common for both genders in business, only men tend to shake hands with each other in social situations. Getting the greeting right isn’t always easy.

  3. nose kissing says:

    I known as nose kissing in modern western culture is loosely based on a traditional Inuit greeting called a kunik. A kunik is a form of expressing affection.

  4. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about a unique greeting. I didn’t know the Inuit tradition was referred to as kunik. Is kunik still used in Inuit communities?

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