Welcome to TRU! Whether you’re a first-year and experiencing campus for the first time or a fourth-year in your last school semester, the TRUSU Equity Committee is pleased to see you! We hope you had an awesome summer. With a new year comes many new faces from Canada and beyond! We understand that it can be difficult adjusting to a diverse place like TRU; especially for those who are coming here for the first time. With all these different people from around the world, greeting folks for the first time can feel like navigating a social minefield. After all, first impressions are very important!
To highlight the diversity of our community, we have put together a short primer about some of the rich cultural greeting customs you will see throughout your time at TRU.
- In many parts of India and during formal occasions, it is common for people to greet with the traditional Hindu greeting of “Namaste”, which translates to ‘I greet the divine within you’. If the person you are greeting has a higher status, the greeting is typically accompanied with a nod or a bow.
- A common gesture when greeting is pressing the palms together with the fingertips facing upwards (i.e. in a prayer position). This greeting can be accompanied with a slight bow.
- It is generally appropriate for men and women to shake hands. However, it is advisable to wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Some Muslim or Hindu men and women may not wish to touch a person of the opposite gender.
- Men may shake hands if they are of equal status. This handshake tends to be held quite softly.
- Respect is expressed after a handshake by placing one’s right hand over one’s heart.
- Women and men rarely shake hands with one another.
- A ‘wai’ is a gesture that is often accompanied with a greeting in many southeast Asian countries. The wai consists of placing two palms together, with fingertips touching the nose. One should also bow their head with their palms pressed together to show respect with the depth of the bow indicating the level of respect.
- In an international context, a handshake is an acceptable greeting. However, a male may only shake a female’s hand if she extends it to him first.
- Handshakes are the standard, casual greeting. The grip tends to be lighter than the Western handshake and is also sustained for longer.
- It is considered impolite to greet a friend with a comment that could be perceived to have negative connotations, such as “You look tired”.
- Japanese people often greet with a casual bow. The bow is a slight bend from the waist and a dip of the head while keeping the back straight. Deeper bows, those that are approximately 45 degrees or at an angle from which the head would have to stretch upwards to look into the face of another, are reserved for expressions of sincere gratitude or apology.
- Many Arabic-Muslim populations frown upon unsolicited touching, especially from those of opposite genders. Always be sure to respect that a person may not wish to be touched by you.
- Arabic-Muslim men may shake the hands of other men but not women. A handshake between men may lost longer but be less firm than is custom in the West.
- As a non-physical form of contact, some people may place their hand on their heart and slightly bow. This is a respectful greeting, or a way of thanking someone.
- Women may hold and kiss each other’s hands when greeting as a sign of friendship or respect.
- Handshakes are the most common greeting.
- Men usually wait for a woman to extend her hand first.
- It is typically impolite to rush a greeting; spend time to inquire about the other person’s general well-being.
- The common greeting is a firm handshake with the right hand. This may linger for longer than you are accustomed to. Some Zimbabweans may slide their hands up to grasp each other’s thumbs during the handshake.
- Greetings should be followed by a brief enquiry into the other person’s well-being before proceeding with normal conversation.
- Kissing is very common in Latin countries. Standard practice is for men and women to greet women with a cheek kiss to the left. Men usually greet other men with a standard handshake.
- Between friends and family, the handshake can be accompanied by a hug between men and a hug and a kiss to the right cheek between women.
- The Secwepemc people are the local First Nations, on whose territory Thompson Rivers University is located. In Canada, many Indigenous cultures are verbally predominant and therefore many greetings are spoken.
- To greet a Secwepemc person, you may say ‘Weyk-t’, pronounced [way – t – k]. This is generally used to greet one person.
- It is also custom to introduce yourself to someone with your name, but also the names of your parents and where you are from. This establishes whether you have mutual friends or family.
- In western European countries it is common to greet someone with a light hug or a kiss near their cheek, often one on each side. Unless it is a close friend or family member, your lips will not make contact with a person’s face. This is casually called an ‘air kiss’.
- In many European countries, men will great each other with a firm handshake every time they meet and leave each other.
- As a general rule of thumb, women are usually given the power to dictate how close they want to be to someone. If you are a man, allow her to decide her proximity to you.
Canada and Western Countries
- In Canada and other Western countries, it is common to formally greet people with a firm handshake and a verbal introduction.
- In friendly contexts a light hug or a pat on the upper back is also considered an acceptable greeting.
- It is not uncommon for Canadians to refer to strangers as “friend” or “bud” when conversing.
- In Western Countries it is considered taboo to heavily invade a stranger’s personal space, especially in uncrowded spaces.
Though these greetings are largely based on cultural customs, it is important to recognize that these greeting customs are generalizations of what you might see! How people chose to greet and be greeted involves other factors like personal preference or religion. For example, within the Muslim community, men and women strangers generally do not touch each other. Because of this complexity, when interacting with someone new it’s best not make any assumptions about how you think they would like to be interacted with. In these situations, it is easier to wait and see what greeting that the other person shows you, and reciprocate. Finally, one of the most important rules to always keep in mind when greeting folks is to never touch or kiss others without their consent.
We are very fortunate to attend TRU; it is a diverse place with many different people! Our community and educational experience is enhanced by these diverse perspectives and experiences. We hope that this guide cuts down on some of the anxiety that comes with interacting with new people!
If you want to learn more about different cultural greeting customs, please check out these links:
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About the Equity Committee
The TRUSU Equity Committee is a group of eight elected and appointed students who work to raise awareness about the systemic oppression of marginalized groups in society, and to challenge that oppression on campus.