In many Western countries (at least before current events), the handshake dominates as a physical ritual people perform when they meet each other. Are there countries with an alternative physical ritual that people perform when meeting each other?

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    Obviously, planet Vulcan is not in scope! 🖖 But rather appropriate for pandemics Jan 11, 2021 at 15:58

6 Answers 6


In France, kissing is quite common, esp. between two different genders. In some Asian countries, bowing is also quite common. There exist many other habits, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greeting, such as:

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    I can't image a more complete answer. Thanks Franck! Jan 11, 2021 at 4:41
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    And of course there is now also the Wuhan Shake: youtube.com/watch?v=jeQXeRO6rJc
    – Hilmar
    Jan 11, 2021 at 13:17
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    If you are unsure which greeting is most appropriate, play it safe and perform all of them at once. Jan 11, 2021 at 14:38
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    @GrzegorzOledzki Anjali Mudra is the hand gesture (mudra means something along the lines of gesture). Namaste is the verbal greeting. It's like waving vs saying hello. They are often used together, but can also be used separately. Jan 11, 2021 at 17:18
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    @dim Depending on how close you are, kissing can also be done between two men.
    – Sacha
    Jan 13, 2021 at 12:50

In Japan, you bow. Handshaking is rare; bowing is many times a day.

Interestingly a lot of the stuff the world is doing now because of COVID was commonplace in Japan long before. In Japan, even before COVID, you wouldn't go out of your way to make physical contact with most other people - generally no hugging or handshaking, though exceptions existed. You bowed instead.

(As was referred to in the comments, sometimes physical contact was still pretty unavoidable, due to crowding, particularly when using public transportation.)

They were also already wearing masks part of the time, being extra careful to sanitize things with alcohol, that kind of thing.

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    "You wouldn't go out of your way to make physical contact" in the land where railway employees push and shove to get more passengers packed into the trains? I guess you don't have to go out of your way, they do it for you.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 11, 2021 at 19:33
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    @FreeMan I have lived here for over three years now but I haven’t actually witnessed any shoving by railway employees in person. I strongly suspect that it is an issue only on a small number of very busy stations on very crowded lines in and around Tokyo. (I don’t live in Tokyo but even when travelling to Tokyo for business reasons and taking rush hour trains there I did not experience pushing.)
    – Jan
    Jan 12, 2021 at 4:19
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    @Jan Things have also improved a lot with new train lines, faster frequencies, more doors, etc. Most of those really crazy videos were filmed in the 1980s or earlier: amusingplanet.com/2016/08/subway-pushers-of-japan.html Jan 12, 2021 at 9:13
  • Same experience here as with Jan. I never really saw that in person. However when living in the capital of a rural, agricultural prefecture, it was still sometimes difficult to avoid bumping into people on the bus, at least. Not always - a lot of times, there was room - but it did happen sometimes, particularly around rush hour. The local trains (no subway) that I usually took typically didn't seem to have this problem, at least whenever I was on them. (Maybe people who used them to commute in the morning experienced it.) In Tokyo, it was much more noticeable on trains/subways. Jan 12, 2021 at 14:00
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    And really, this is likely for the same reason as Covid. Japan has had a long history of serious epidemics, so they've been taking disease spread prevention seriously for quite some time. Facemasks have been basically required for anyone with even just the common cold, and sneezing in public is a fineable offense in some places. Jan 13, 2021 at 14:38

In the Arabic world, for example Egypt, you can place your right hand on your heart and bow your head slightly.

In Arabic you can also say "Tasharafna" (it's nice to meet you).

The "hand on the heart" gesture conveys well meaning, even if the other person doesn't know this gesture from before.

It's also very practical in times of Corona, and much more polite than the "corona elbow" or "corona foot tap" gestures.

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    I do remember the cleaning lady doing the hand on heart when I was on an internship in Tunisia, along with a greeting.
    – Clockwork
    Jan 13, 2021 at 11:57

One of the most unique ways of greeting others that I have ever seen is the Sudanese way of greeting.

Each person will gently touch the other person's right shoulder using the right hand. A handshake usually follows this.


There is the Narmaskar or Namaste greeting in India: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namaste#:~:text=Namaste%20or%20namaskar%20is%20used,his%20or%20her%20generous%20kindness.

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    Namaste is already in the list in the first answer.
    – Willeke
    Jan 15, 2021 at 10:28

In the answer by @Franck Dernoncourt, the elbow bump has been mentioned.

It's very common, between friends, where I live**, since Covid19

I've even seen and used the "air bump"! The people making the greeting stand apart and move their elbows as though to touch without actually making contact.

** South of England

  • The excuse to get your faces at less than a single metre distance, do not do the elbow bump!
    – Willeke
    Jan 15, 2021 at 10:29
  • @Willeke - I recommend the air bump, which can be done from a distance as long as the participants can see each other clearly. Jan 15, 2021 at 10:33
  • I agree, air bump is good.
    – Willeke
    Jan 15, 2021 at 12:05

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