Handshakes, hugs, air kisses and pecks on the cheek are on hold while we practice social distancing during the pandemic. While for most of us Westerners, it feels strange to greet others without physical contact; in most Asian and some African countries, this is the norm.
As you go about your socially distanced day-to-day, here are four no-touch ways to say hello from around the globe.
Namaste (South Asia)
One greeting that you may already be familiar with if you practice yoga is this South Asian tradition of namaste. The greeting is commonly used across Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, but is also used throughout South East Asian countries.
Bring your palms together at your heart center and give a slight bow of your head while saying, ‘namaste’ at the same time. In Sanskrit, ‘nama’ means bow, ‘as’ means I, and ‘te’ means you. So, once you put it together - it means ‘I bow to you.’ Not only a respectful way of saying hello among Hindu communities, the namaste is also believed to protect you at the same time.
The Wai (Thailand)
The Thais have their own very similar version of namaste - known as the wai (pronounced like the word “why”). ”The wai is used as both a greeting, as well as a way of apologizing, saying thanks, and giving respect to an elder. Traditionally, this symbolizes that you come in peace and are unarmed.
To do this, bring your hands together at the heart center and bow your head until your pressed index fingers touch your nose. However, rather than saying namaste, you will say hello in Thai. For women, this is pronounced ‘saw wah dee khaa’, while men say ‘saw wah dee khrap’. Typically, Thai women will also bend their knees a little while men only dip their heads.
For someone who is particularly revered (such as monks), you should bend your head further down until your thumbs to touch between your eyebrows.
Stick your tongue out (Tibet)
In 9th century Tibet, there was a cruel king called Lang Darma, who was known for having a black tongue. Tibetan Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and so after Darma was assassinated the people feared he would come back. Ever since his death, Tibetans have practiced a greeting whereby they stick out their tongues. This is to show that they are neither unkind like Darma was, or the reincarnated king!
Cup and Clap (Zambia & Zimbabwe)
In these two southern African countries, some ethnic groups use the cup and clap greeting in place of the more commonplace handshake. Cup your hands together and clap two or three times while saying ‘muli bwanji’ which means how are you in Chichewa. If you want to show more respect, you can follow this by placing one hand on your chest, the other on your stomach while bowing.
Zimbabweans have a similar greeting, although it usually follows the initial handshake. You can clap twice while saying ‘makadii’ - how are you in Shona. A woman will respond by clapping her cupped hands at an angle, while a man will clap with cupped hands and fingertips that touch.
While it’s not quite the same as traveling to these countries, adopting some of these greetings might make you feel like you’re exploring the world culturally.
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