The greeting is a sign of recognition or welcome, it can be both verbal and non-verbal depending on the type of relationship the people have with each other. When greeting a family member or close friends, the greeting can extend from simple hugs to kiss on cheeks. Similarly, if you are meeting someone new for the first time or making a business deal the simple hand-shake gesture used to suffice.
However, after the outbreak of COVID-19 from Wuhan, China, and the pandemic it has created the world has become considerate about the ways they used to greet each other. One of the most common ways of transmission of disease from person to person was seen due to the physical contact they made with each other, so, the countries across the world which needed physical contact in the greeting culture have now switched to new greeting forms to control the spread of the virus.
How did people greet each other before the outbreak?
Argentina: The men in Argentina greet each other with the kiss on the right cheek. They will lightly press the cheek against the person they are greeting and offer a light kiss.
Tibet: It may come as a surprise but the Tibetian monks stick out their tongue to greet people pressing their hands together in front of their chest to show that they come in peace. The tongue sticking out tradition was practiced by the monks to prove that they are not the reincarnation of a cruel king from the 9th century who had a black tongue.
Nigeria: Nigerian practices a unique way of greeting each other; the natives snap their fingers in the process of a handshake. The special way of greeting is quite hard to follow unless a Nigerian person teaches you to snap fingers while shaking hands.
New Zealand: The greeting practiced in New Zealand is known as ‘Hongi’, the natives press their nose and forehead with the person they are greeting at the same time.
France: The most common way of greeting people in France is with a cheek kiss. Generally, it will be two kisses greeting but the number can vary depending on the region.
Ukraine: Like France, Ukrainians also have a custom of greeting with a kiss on the cheek. The natives kiss three times on cheeks to greet; left-right-left.
Malaysia: Malaysians have a tradition of stretching out their hands and touching other person’s fingertips then bringing hands to their hearts. This greeting shows that the natives are greeting from their hearts.
Philippines: The Philippine follows the greeting tradition ‘Mano’ where they press their knuckles against the forehead of the person they are greeting as a sign of respect.
USA: People greet each other with handshakes, kissing men on the cheek is unusual, a smile and hello is also just fine.
England: The British greet each other with simple ‘hello’, however, social kissing just a peck on the cheek is also into practice between men and women who know each other very well.
World’s New Greeting Styles
After briefing the possibility of greeting cultures in aiding the spread of the virus, the governments of many countries have decided to adapt to the new way of greeting styles. Although the beauty and meaning of the unique set of greeting customs practiced across the world may not hold the same level of integrity, it is best considering the current situations.
1. The Wuhan shake
The shake may be the most notable greeting style that emerged after the outbreak of coronavirus from Wuhan, China. In this new way of greeting, the participants tap the insole of their feet with each other; this greeting was named the ‘Wuhan shake’ as it originated in China to control the spread of the virus. Further, the Russian energy minister Alexander Novak and Tanzanian President John Magufuli performed this greeting style publicly, to encourage the new custom as a perfect way to follow the safe greeting protocol. The Wuhan shake was created to mimic the social interaction ban but it became a famous greeting style within a short period and people started following this greeting for its playful and cheerful nature to cope with the difficult times.
After the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the WHO, the natives of New Zealand were suggested to stop making physical contacts. The prime minister of New Zealand further requested the nation to stop doing handshakes, hugging and following their traditional way of greeting’ hongi’. It was advised that the casual lift of chin and eyebrows be practiced as a greeting as the new greeting culture to acknowledge each other.
This tradition has also become quite popular across the world as a form of recognition to friends and colleagues. Unlike the Wuhan shake, this greeting style will also help people follow the social safe distancing protocol issued by the WHO. The people greeting each other can maintain the required distance and greet each other; this is also expected to be another great trend of greeting in the post-lockdown state.
3. Formal bows
There are many countries out there who practice bowing as the form of greeting. This custom is very popular especially in Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and China. These Asian countries have been following this greeting culture from ages as a gesture of respect and gratitude to the people. Similarly, outside Asia countries like Tanzania also follow this tradition as interdependence and understanding of the hierarchy in the society, the younger people offer a bow as a sign of respect and greetings to the elder people in the society.
In the current situation, where physical contact is prohibited, this beautiful custom could take the spot as the next top greeting culture in the world. The greeting style which is all about respect and honor helps people to show gratitude for each other in the most pleasant way.
4. The wave
The countries which practiced close greeting forms like kissing cheeks, rubbing the nose, and hugging, have started to suggest their people start safe ways of greeting among which ‘the waving’ is most effective. Just like nodding, this style of greeting also follows the safe-distancing method where you don't have to get closer to the person and make any kind of physical contact. The countries like the UAE and Qatar have already advised their citizens to practice the wave-way of greeting instead of their nose-to-nose greeting custom. In countries where nodding can be taken as a sign of disrespect, the waving can be a perfect fit, people can use it for saying ‘hello’ as well as to express a ‘bye’.
5. The ‘Thai Wai’
‘Thai Wai’ is the beautiful greeting custom practiced in Thailand where people greet each other by putting their palms together. In this greeting, the fingers of both hands are touching their counterparts and the attached palms are put in the middle of the chest, and when making a slight bow the index finger of both hands touches the nose. Although, it is yet to gain recognition like other forms of greeting, this is another safe-distancing greeting style with no needs of physical contact. The ‘Thai Wai’ might not meet every necessity marked by the WHO as a person makes contact on his face with his hands during the greeting, it is still one of the best ways of greeting with no physical contact at all with another person if you pay heed to your self-hygiene.
6. The ‘Elbow Bump’
The Elbow bump is another greeting custom created by the spread of COVID-19 which resulted in a cutback of other close greeting customs. Although the coronavirus has affected the traditional and cultural greeting style of many countries across the world, it has also similarly created the new creative methods of greeting and parting accordingly. The elbow bump falls on that creative category where the two parties bump their elbows like the fist bump. This greeting style cuts off the unnecessary touching and just a simple gesture for ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. The Vice-president of the USA, Mike Pence who was appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the USA’s response on the coronavirus, greeted Gov. Jay Inslee with an elbow bump, making the new creative greeting tradition’s presence stronger.
However, as people can carry coronavirus on different kinds of surfaces and even on clothes, this may not come as a top choice in the list because there will be brief physical contact while making the elbow bump.
The word ‘Namaste’ comes from Sanskrit and means “the divine in me salutes the divine in you”. This is a polite form of greeting and farewell gesture used by the Hindus where they put their palm together and greet people bowing down slightly. Countries like Nepal and India with the majority of the Hindu population have been practicing this custom for centuries. The beautiful greeting style with non-physical contact has been quite popular after the outbreak of the COVID-19, even the Israeli Prime minister suggested the people to adapt to the greeting style ‘Namaste’. So, the greeting custom with deep meanings and an ideal option to avoid any kind of unnecessary physical contact is a top choice in the changing form of greetings to adapt to the post-coronavirus lifestyle.
8. The hat tip
The hat tip is one of the British’s cultural expressions that is done to show respect, gratitude, and to greet. Also, in Western societies, this form of greeting was quite popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although it might not be quite possible to find the stylish hats of that generation and raise it to greet people in style, it can still be accomplished with a simple baseball hat. This greeting style will require the person to be wearing a hat almost all the time which might not be impractical, but, this way of greeting is the most convenient option out there. You won’t even have to exchange a verbal greeting in the hat tip greeting, just raise your hat with a little to greet the person in front of you or across the street, they will acknowledge the gesture.
9. The peace sign
There might be a hot debate to choose between the--live long & prosper sign and the peace sign but, the majority of the population might not get the ‘Star Trek’ reference so, it may be better to stick with the majority. The peace sign may not be a top-notch creative way of new greeting culture in the world, but it is still applicable among the colleagues and friends who can truly understand the gesture. In my opinion, the beautiful gesture implicating heartily meaning is a win-win considering the conveying of the message and the social-distance protocol followed. On the other hand, it might come as a disrespectful gesture to some age group, stick to other forms of greetings during such circumstances.
10. Miming a high five or fist bump
The high five and fist bump is the cool way of greeting in this age, however, after the pandemic of coronavirus and restriction of physical contacts with people, this greeting style isn’t that intact anymore. But, it doesn’t mean that the tradition has faded, there has been a lot of practice of miming a fist bump or high fiving from across the room without touching the skin is the new trend of greeting. You don’t have to be near the person for this greeting to work, you can greet people down the corridor or another room just by putting up your fist on the air or raise your hand on the air for a high five, and then the message will be conveyed.
11. A salute of some sort
The salute greeting which signifies the display of respect majorly practices in the armed forces considering the hierarchy of their rank. But, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go creative and adapt to this stunning greeting traditions, some other organizations and civilians have embraced this honoring greeting style. It doesn’t have to be the perfect salute exchanged at the army or police force, you can simply comfortably use the gesture to greet a person whether at a close range or a distance. The interesting thing about the salute gesture is that it can be used to say hello and goodbye with the same posture. You will be practicing safe distance without any sort of physical contact, so, there is no harm throwing your version of salute at your comrade the next time you see them.
The current pandemic situation by COVID-19 may last a while before it completely resolves, so it will be best for everyone’s interest to follow the necessary safety and preventive measures to stay protected. Even in the post-lockdown state the world will have to be precautionary and follow every guideline issued by the WHO. Similarly, when it comes to greeting the proper and convenient way should be picked, although most of the new greeting styles being created and adopted are based on avoiding any kind of physical contacts and maintaining a safe distance, it is never too bad to be extra vigilant and follow the sanitization process frequently.