Each country has its own unique customs and rituals, and sometimes interpreting these situations can be quite confusing, particularly when greeting gestures are involved.
Each country has its own unique customs and rituals, and sometimes interpreting these situations can be quite confusing, particularly when greeting gestures are involved. Often we’re facing an unknown language, and an unknown culture.
The simple words ‘hello’ and ‘hi’ are the most common greetings used in informal situations in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Men in the United States will usually shake hands when greeting each other, but it’s not usual for them to kiss when greeting. However, with both British and English people in the United Kingdom a handshake is the normal form of greeting when meeting someone new. A quick kiss on the cheek is used in informal situations between both men and women, and for women who know each other well.
Other Countries’ Greeting Customs
So let’s have a look at some of the customs in other countries – like continental Europe. Hungarians kiss each other on the cheeks: they generally kiss from the right to left cheek; but when men are being introduced to each other it’s usually acknowledged with a firm handshake. The typical greeting in Russia is a very firm handshake – and we’re talking firm here! Men also shake hands with women, but with less pressure. It’s considered quite gallant to kiss females three times on alternate cheeks; whilst a kiss on the hand is appropriate for older women. French nationals, and this includes children, often kiss their friends on both cheeks upon meeting them and when leaving. In Belgium, people kiss on one cheek when meeting, regardless of whether they’re male or female and regardless of how well they know each other.
In Albania it depends on how well the men know each other, but generally they shake hands when greeting each other; a kiss on the cheek is also acceptable. When meeting a female relative a man will give her a kiss on each cheek, or even two per cheek. A light handshake is saved for friends or colleagues.
Greetings Without Physical Contact
You’ll rarely find greetings that involve physical contact in Asia. For example, in Japan the common greeting for both sexes is to bow to each other: it’s very rare in Asian cultures to see a handshake or hugging. China is definitely not a touchy society; it’s probably the most conservative country in Asia. When first meeting someone they might nod their head and smile, maybe wave politely, or if in a formal situation they might shake hands.
In Vietnam women don’t shake hands with anyone, either men or women. It’s not common to see physical contact between adult friends or relatives, of either sex: they may greet each other by bowing slightly, or they might join hands. Generally higher ranking people, like the head of a family, are greeted first.
When an interpreter is dealing with foreign clients they require a lot of experience about a specific culture; from initial greetings right through to in-depth communication.
Spanish to English Greetings
Let’s finish off this article by having a look at some Spanish to English translations. Before we start though, it’s interesting to note that many greetings in both Spanish and English have no literal meaning: many greetings contain questions which are not meant to be answered. Another interesting fact is that in English we use the word ‘Dear’ when beginning a letter, and we use it even when we’re writing to someone we don’t like – be assured this would never occur in Spanish!
Spanish to English Greetings: Saying Hello and Goodbye
Buenos días: Good morning
Buenas noches: Goodnight
Buenas tardes: Good afternoon/Good evening
Hasta luego: See you later
Hasta mañana: See you tomorrow
Hasta pronto: See you soon