Words and Gestures To Say “Hello” Around the World

Tuesday, May 172 min read

We have plenty of ways to greet one another in English – hey, hello, what’s up, how’s it going. You might shake hands if it’s a new acquaintance, or hug or fist bump if it’s someone more familiar. Unsurprisingly enough, other cultures have their own customs for saying hello, and like us, some are more formal than others. Here’s a taste of what they have to offer:


If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve probably heard the teacher close the class with this expression. In India, however, this is an actual greeting, not just a way to wrap up a spiritually-infused workout. In Sanskrit, it literally translates to “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Typically, one folds both their hands together before saying it, and may even bend down to touch the other person’s feet. There’s a lesson here, for us English speakers, and it’s that we can do a lot better than “sup” – we might want to recognize the divine in one another.

Khleb da sol

This Russian expression – Хлеб да соль – literally means “bread and salt.” While it’s traditional for Russians to greet guests with literal bread and salt, they also just use this expression as a means of communicating good will towards a host’s household. Bread is among the most respected of foods in Russian culture, and salt means “long friendship to them.” It’s also related to the expression “zdravstvuyte” (здра́вствуйте), which relates back to the root expression “to be healthy or well.” This culture recognizes that health and bounty are among our greatest gifts as humans, and greet one another as such.


In the Philippines, one greets their elders using the practice of “mano,” which means “hand” in Spanish. You take one of their hands and gently press it to your forehead, as a means of showing respect.

Faire la bise

In French, this expression means “to do the kiss.” One kisses each cheek to say both hello or goodbye, and there’s nothing romantic about it. It’s merely a common greeting, particularly with family, friends and other loved ones – you might even greet a coworker this way. There are, however, certain unsaid rules that vary by region, so tread carefully.


In many Islamic nations, one greets another with the expression “salaam,” which literally means “peace” in Arabic. Peace is at the very core of the Islamic faith, and the greeting may be paired with certain gestures depending upon who you’re greeting. For family members or those of the same gender, you might include a handshake, hug, or cheek kisses. In a more formal scenario, you might simply place your right hand on your heart, avoiding physical contact as a symbol of respect for personal boundaries.


In New Zealand, many use this traditional Maori greeting, which literally means “sharing of breath.” To perform this greeting, you would press your forehead and nose against that of the person you are greeting and look into one another’s eyes.

Featured image credit: Credit:Lacheev/ iStock

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