Please note – the views in the following feature are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Safe Travels Magazine. Before travel, we recommend that you always do your own research, read travel advisories and buy appropriate travel insurance.

Jill Chamberlain from TASC24 offers this run through of meeting and greeting etiquette in ten countries around the world. This first appeared on the TASC24 website and is reproduced with their kind permission.


Jill Chamberlain at TASC24


The right hello, the right impression

An important aspect of travel safety is to ensure that you have an understanding of the local culture. Spending a small amount of time learning the correct and accepted greeting will reap many professional rewards and help you to be accepted into the local community. Here is the TASC24 guide to the perfect greeting etiquette in ten countries around the world.

JAPAN – “Konnichiwa”

The Japanese culture is very formal and the ritual of greeting another person is an important way of showing respect. Greetings such as “good morning” or “good afternoon” are very important and you are expected to greet people individually even if you are addressing a group. The greeting of “konnichiwa” (hello) is accompanied with a bow. The angle of the bow being divided into 15deg – informal, 30deg – formal and a deeper bow for very formal situations.

UAE – “Marhaba”

Status is important in the UAE and this must be recognised by using the correct title when addressing someone, for instance Sheikh (Chief), Sayed (Mr), Sayeda (Mrs) etc. In the UAE people are generally addressed by their title and then first name, so John Smith would be addressed as Mr John. It is important that you address the most senior person in the room first. When conducting business, handshakes are always used and can last a long time. Etiquette recommends that one waits for the other to withdraw their hand first before doing the same. Gender plays an important role and one should wait for a hand to be offered before shaking the hand of the opposite sex.


Brazilians are warm, friendly and welcoming people and this is carried into more formal business environments. You should respond to your counterparts in the manner in which they addressed you – if they use your first name you should use their first name. Men will greet other men with a firm hand shake, often lasting a long time and with strong eye contact. Once the relationship is more familiar then this will be accompanied by hugging and back slapping. Women can expect to be greeted by both men and women by exchanging kisses on the cheek.

FRANCE – “Bonjour”

The appropriate greeting in a business environment is a handshake which tend to be brisk and light. Expect a loose grip with only one or two up and down movements – do not take this as the other person is hurrying to get away from you. Kissing cheeks is a greeting adopted by those in a more familiar relationship. Be careful not to attempt this with female counterparts until they make the initial move. It is customary to only address others by their first names but only when invited to do so. Sometimes French people will introduce themselves by their surname first followed by their first name.

INDIA – “Namastē”

When conducting business meeting etiquette requires a handshake. Indians use the Namaste, where palms are brought together at chest level with a slight bow of the head. Using this greeting shows that you are familiar with Indian etiquette and would be well received. When addressing an Indian, always use the appropriate formal title, for instance Professor, Doctor, Mr or Mrs. If you do not know their name then use Sir or Madam.

CHINA- “Nǐ hǎo”

Introductions are quite formal, make sure you address the person with their professional title and surname until advised otherwise. It is likely that you will shake hands with your Chinese counterparts and if they hold on for a long time this is meant well. Make sure you address the most senior person in the room first. The Chinese are very keen on exchanging business cards – make sure you have one side printed in Mandarin and if possible in gold as this is a sign of prosperity. Accept others cards with both hands and a slight bow, study the card for a moment and offer a second bow as a mark of respect.

NIGERIA – “Sannu”

English is widely used as the language of business. The most common greeting is a handshake with a warm, welcoming smile. Men may place their left hand on the other persons shoulder while shaking hands. Smiling and showing sincere pleasure at meeting the person is important. As in the rest of Africa, it is a sign of rudeness to rush this meeting process and you must take time to inquiry about their health and the health of their family. It is a good idea to lower your eyes when meeting someone older or more senior. Titles are very important and you should use these until invited to move to a first name basis. It is important to note that 50% of Nigerians are Muslim, mainly located in the North of the country. They may be somewhat more wary about shaking hands with members of the opposite sex.

USA – “Hello”

The handshake is the most common greeting in the US, with handshakes being firm, brief and confident. In most situations, first names can be used from the beginning and if the person has a nickname they would most likely want to be called by this name. In more formal circumstances, you may wish to use titles and surnames as a courtesy but you will be quickly invited to use first names.


South Africa has 11 different languages but English is recognised as the language of business. Humour is accepted when doing business in South Africa and is mostly used as an ice breaker but be careful with the extent and frequency. The accepted greeting is a firm handshake, keeping eye contact. Sometimes women will just nod their head as a greeting, so it is best for a woman to be offered a hand before proceeding with a handshake. Maintaining eye contact is important and you should look people in the eye while they speak and show that you are listening by nodding.

MYANMAR – “Mingalar par”

The Burmese language is very age-oriented and terms of address reflect relative age. Honorific titles before personal names is the norm. Businessmen will typically greet each other with a handshake. If a business woman offers you her hand accept it but do not offer her your hand – a small bow is sufficient.


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