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It’s important to be polite, why else were we taught not to put our elbows on the table and to clear our plates. However, would what Americans find to be good manners people from other nations find impolite? Would shaking someone’s hand and saying hello be the right way to meet someone? Here are some examples of what is considered polite and impolite in other cultures.

Past and Present Greetings and Etiquette From Around the World


When using chopsticks one should never stick them directly upright into a bowl of rice. Traditionally this is what is done with chopsticks at funerals and may be seen as an insult to elderly individuals at a table. Tapping a bowl or plate with chopsticks is also seen as rude.


Generally people greet by shaking hands while making eye contact and smiling. They use what is known as they “standard Arabic or Islamic greeting” which is asalaamu alaikum (peace be with you) and then the respondent says “wa alaikum salaam” (and peace be unto you). At times good friends of the same sex greet with a kiss to each other’s’ right cheek followed by the left.


Parts of Ethiopia have a tradition called gursha. Gursha is when people feed each other with their hands. The host may start and feed everyone around the circle one at a time. Then the person who was first fed will feed everyone in the circle ending with the host. This will continue until everyone has fed one another.

Sri Lanka

Different groups in Sri Lanka tend to have different greetings. Elder Sri Lankans say “Namaste” while placing there palms together in a sign of prayer by their chin and bowing. The ethnic Sinhalese tend to say "ayubowan" which means “may you be blessed with a long life”. Ethnic Tamils will say "vanakkam” which means “may you be blessed with a long life”. In informal settings one may hear "kuhomadu" which is “how do you do”. The youth tend to shake hands. Women generally refrain from physical contact with men from outside of their family. Males generally wait to see if the woman gestures first, which indicates that it’s appropriate to make physical contact and shake hands.


When greeting someone the phrase in Bhutan translates to “is your body well” in English.


In Kazak culture formal handshakes tend to be done with both hands simultaneously while the greeters smile at one another. Some men prefer not to shake hands with women due to certain religious interpretations. Close friends will abandon the handshake and hug upon greeting.


Relatives will kiss their elders on their right hand and place their forehead to this hand as a sign of respect when greeting.


“In any greeting between men and women, the woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should bow his head in greeting.”


Handshakes are the common way to greet people in Kenya but the way to shake hands changes when meeting someone who is an elder or of a higher status.


Exchanging conversation during a greeting is very important in Senegalese culture. Even if an individual see someone later in the day that they have already seen they are expected to greet. Lengthy inquiries concerning the other individual’s health or family is important especially before one begins a discussion concerning business or another topic. It’s considered very rude to breeze through these questions.


In some parts of Oman, after men shake hands they may kiss each other’s cheeks or rub noses.


There’s a slight difference between the greeting in the north Cameroon and south Cameroon. In the Anglophone north there’s a common handshake between close friends. When they finish shaking hands they pull back and snap the other person’s middle finger with their thumb. In the Francophone south, close friends hug and brush cheeks while kissing the air and shaking hands.


Guests are treated very well. They should eat first and the most food. Also, they should be seated furthest from the door.


Information mainly retrieved from:


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