Don’t Forget to Say Hello!!!

23. March 2020

This admonishment accompanied almost every one of us in childhood. So, we know we must say hello. But maybe there are situations where you ask yourself how and whether you or the other person should say hello first. Though we may have certain customs where we live, very often things can be quite different when travelling. So, I will try to reveal a few rules for better orientation. I’m sure you’ll forgive me if, to begin with, I cannot leave out the familiar lesson my grandmother drilled into my head: “To greet someone is common decency, to answer a greeting is a duty.” Simply put, but true. Thank you, Grandma!


Why we use greetings such as “Hi”, “Hey”, and “See You”

Did you know that the Czech greeting “ahoj” probably comes from the English nautical term “ahoy”, or “hoy”?  I suppose you can guess the origin of the word “ciao”, also commonly used in Czech. Few of us know, however, that in what was then Czechoslovakia, it began to be used only in the 1950s as a kind of revolt against the regime. The government had allowed the Italian film “Grande Strada Azzurra” to be broadcast, peppered throughout with “ciao”, and so people started using it instead of the compulsory čest práci (honor to work) greeting. On the contrary, “Nazdar” is a typical Czech greeting. It is a composite of the first two words of the phrase written on money-boxes people used to make contributions to the construction of the National Theater. The whole phrase was “Na zdar důstojného Národního divadla” (To the success of a dignified National Theater). This just for a bit of trivia…

Who Should Greet First?

This is a key question. According to the rules of etiquette, it should always be the socially less-important individual, that is, a man greets a woman first, the younger person greets the elder first, the subordinate greets the superior. If you’re greeting group, then you first greet the older women, then the younger, followed by the men, first greet strangers and then your friends. The first one to greet is the person entering a room. And if you’re not sure, always be the first to greet.

How to Greet Properly

Say hello only when you have the feeling that the person you are greeting sees you. Do not greet from a distance, ideally only from 3-4 steps. If you want to give a warmer greeting, you can add, for example, “I hope you have a nice day” and the like. When saying goodbye, we also add the words “It was a pleasure meeting you” or “It was nice to see you again”. When you say hello, gently bow your head. When greeting more people at the same time, extend the greeting. Always say hello before you start talking. Do not repeat the greeting if you meet someone you have already greeted a short while ago. If you meet the same person on the same day, just considerably later, greet him with a nod of the head and add a smile. When entering a room, always greet aloud, not just by nodding your head. When you leave a public room, we greet those we have been in contact with and the person who in some way represents the company. If you are in random company, where you have been talking to numerous people over a long period of time and are leaving, say goodbye, at least with a motion, if you cannot take your leave with everyone all at once as a group while ensuring everyone can see your parting.

How to Greet Acquaintances

If we are greeting good acquaintances, the greeting is warmer, and we smile and shake hands. If someone passing by on the street greets the friend we are with, we also add our own greeting. If we meet a friend on the street who is not alone, we greet him, but do not stop with him unless we are asked to do so. When we meet a friend accompanied by a woman who is not our friend, we do not greet him with a friendly greeting, because the greeting should be given to both. But we can greet each separately. If we meet a friend with his parents, we greet them first. Among close neighbors, the first person to greet is the one who has the first opportunity to do so.

Greeting in Public Spaces

In public spaces, we greet people when entering smaller enclosed spaces. In the building we live in, it is best to greet all tenants. In a restaurant, we return the greeting of the waiter, which means that through him, we greet all the guests. For example, we do not say hello if we come into a bank with a large number of workers with whom we will not come into contact at all, but we certainly greet everyone at a small local post office where we know all the employees. We do not greet in the subway, tram, plane, but do not forget to say hello when boarding or exiting the car. If the train car has only enclosed seating boxes, we greet the passengers in the box where we want to sit and ask if it is free. If we engage with them during the journey, we say goodbye when leaving. There are no rules for greeting local people we meet on excursions, like when walking through a village that is not our hometown. Whether we say hello is decided based on the immediate situation. The purpose is to show respect not to a specific person, but to the environment in which the person lives (municipality, region, parish). This can be compared to greeting the parish priest in the church, whom we greet not because we want to get to know him, but rather to greet the church community there.

Greeting Abroad

  • In Bali, people kiss when they say hello, stand very close to each other, and inhale the scent of each other by gently moving their heads.
  • In India, always use your right hand when meeting
  • In Indonesia, they nibble each other’s eyelids during a kiss called “mitakuku”.
  • In Japan, the handshake is considered unhygienic and is replaced by a bow.
  • In the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France – women kiss men and women, while men prefer to shake hands, and leaving kissing for greeting a father or close friend or meeting a friend they have not seen for a long time.
  • In Greece, a handshake is considered an extraordinary show of friendship.
  • In the Middle East – kissing between a man and a woman is considered inappropriate, except between married couples or relatives. A kiss on the face is common when greeting a member of the same sex.
  • In Turkey, when people welcome or greet each other, they embrace, kiss and express interest in how one’s family is doing and how work is going.
  • In the USA, near kissing is becoming increasingly popular, that is, a kissing gesture close to face of the other person, whether touching or not.


I think that in this case it applies that more is sometimes better. If you become lost in the rules of etiquette, simply greeting everyone, and even multiple times, is better than to forget one time!