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While on a business trip to India last week I saw two different gestures of greeting. Most people greeted me with the traditional Namaste greeting, with the hands held together, as below.

enter image description here

However, there was one man at the hotel who consistently greeted me with a different gesture. This was the main man who welcomed/opened the car door at the hotel entrance. He was also dressed slightly differently to the other staff (he's the guy in the middle in the image below, with the blue and gold waistband and head gear).

enter image description here

This person always used a gesture with one hand held vertically down the face, right in front on his nose, with his thumb stuck out sideways. He also had a stern expression on his face instead of a smile. He did not greet me as he is shown in the image.

Who is this person and does he have any particular symbolic role, or is he just a greeter in a smart outfit?

What does the one handed greeting gesture mean? Did I do anything to merit special treatment?

  • The description of the gesture you are asking about is unclear. It might be a salute of some kind which is not uncommon in India. And yes, the smartly dressed guy is only a "greeter" as you put it. – ammo Jun 27 '16 at 11:35
  • "one hand held vertically down the face" isn't clear enough. Could you draw an image of it and post it as an update to your question? Was his palm facing you? Were the 4 fingers touching each other? If yes, then it's just a "Hi" gesture. – Nav Jun 28 '16 at 7:57
  • Did it look something like this? If yes, it was probably just a form of the "salam"/salute gesture. I've often seen men receiving this gesture while women get the namaste gesture. – Dhara Jun 28 '16 at 8:50
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The greeting which you included is the "Namaste" (you are right!). This is a very formal greeting, which is shown towards guests and elders.

The greeting which you haven't included, looks more like a vertical salute. [Couldn't find a picture. Maybe, I'd include one of my guard if I can click it.]

It is more like an informal namaste(and conveys the same meaning as the "Namaste"), which is generally used by Indian men (very commonly used by security guards).

(If he bends while doing it, then it shows respect. Else, it is a "Hello")

Did I do anything to merit special treatment?

No, unless and until specially instructed to use the "Namaste" gesture which you included in the post, security guards tend to use the single hand vertical salute, which is most frequently used informal greeting in India (used by men).

Sometimes, it is also done by a vertical salute with the palm facing towards you, and the thumb stuck out.

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You are probably witnessing the adaab hand gesture. This is a secular greeting used in India, Pakistan and other countries where Urdu is spoken.

Here are two people demonstrating the gesture. The lady is doing the namaste and the man is responding with the adaab (credit: aaghazedosti.wordpress.com):

enter image description here

The hand is raised higher to the face in a more formal setting.

  • (+1) To note: My answer is not about Adaab though. Mine talks about a gesture in which the hand is vertical, rather than horizontal, unlike Adaab! – Dawny33 Jun 27 '16 at 16:32
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    I don't think it was this gesture. The palm was not facing inwards. – Qwerky Jun 28 '16 at 8:03
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    Adaab is not a secular greeting in India. It is namaste. – Rolen Koh Aug 2 '17 at 5:47
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Does the gesture he made look similar to the one in the photo below, but without the other hand raised and the mouth open?

One hand namasthe

If yes, then it is sort of an informal Namasthe practiced among the town folk and some city folk who migrated from the towns or villages. It is polite and indicates that the person doing it is humble. You will rarely find a man of respect doing this unless he is carrying something in his other hand. Also, while using one hand, they usually go all the way up till forehead with the index finger instead of stopping at the collar bone and the thumb sticks out.

The person in the middle with headgear and large moustache you said was doing the gesture is the doorman and his only job besides opening the door is to salute the guests. You can find such person at many places in India and about a decade ago, he used to make decent money on tips too. Given that these guys have to hold the door with one hand and also because they keep doing the Namasthe, they tend to use only one hand so they can switch.

Also, searching for Google images of "Indian Doorman" will show you lot of pictures, but none with this gesture though.

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    I did a lot of Google image searching and your image is the closest I have found (just ignore his left hand). The hand shape is very similar, but it was held right up to the face, almost touching the nose. – Qwerky Jun 28 '16 at 8:05
  • I also tried to find an image on Google search but found none. Not even close. The above image is from a local movie I remember that sort of has this part gesture among others. But yes, like I explained in the post, the tip of index finger will go till the forehead. – Sundeep Jun 28 '16 at 9:14
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Agree with what Sundeep says. Here is my 10 cents to it.

Normal Hi

Across the world, people say hi by raising their hands with palm facing you. This is mostly between acquaintances and friends. So no respect factor is involved in this. It is more of a friendly gesture.

Namsthe

Formal and traditional Indian way of welcoming somebody to a new place, mostly with a smile, to show their happiness about your presence.

The one hand gesture

It is another way of saying "Hi". Here the palm will be turned 90 degrees inward when compared to the normal "Hi" gesture. This gesture means just a "Hi" in a polite way. Simply it adds a politeness and respect factor to the normal "Hi". Normally they expect you to reply with a normal "Hi" or same gesture.

PS : I live in the southern tip of India and there might be slightly different meanings to this in other parts of the country as it has many diversified cultures.

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