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How To Greet a Person In Asia

This week, I want to focus on something a little lighter yet regarded as quite important if you were to move to an Asian country – The Greeting.

Often when TEFL teachers land on foreign shores and start teaching english abroad, they are taken aback by the sheer cultural differences they encounter. This is magnified if they come in unprepared, because in many Asian countries, your actions are closely looked upon and any slight of disrespect is held against you for a long term. Nothing can illustrate this more than the greeting we offer when meeting someone one. While in the west, a casual handshake is the defacto greeting, in many Asian countries, honor and respect are accorded to such actions and by sticking to the country’s traditional greetings, you can navigate cultural pitfalls and keep yourself in good standing. So here’s how you can greet a person in different Asian countries.


Bowing is the traditional form of greeting among the Japanese and there’s a lot of protocol/complex rituals around it. For instance, the deeper the bow, the more respect you accord to the other person. Even if you don’t know the intricacies, just bowing will garner you respect among the Japanese, who will appreciate your gesture. If you feel really uncomfortable with bowing, then you can just extend your hand. However, be wary of introducing yourself. It’s considered extremely impolite. Rather, you ought to wait for someone else to introduce you.


Although the Chinese are quite at home with the western handshake, eye contact is seen as mark of respect. Most Chinese people will look down while greeting a person and you’re advised to do the same. Similar, don’t get too cosy despite any cordiality or chumminess until they themselves extend such a privilege. For instance, you shouldn’t call a person by their first name unless they expressly say otherwise. Stick to titles and last name to be on the safe side.


The Thais follow a distinct firm of greeting that they call “the wai”. This involves keeping your hand in front and bringing them up to your chest while bowing your head a little bit. Usually, someone who is younger or from a lower social class performs it first and you return the greeting.


Although people shake hands often, it usually involves both the hands. So don’t be surprised if someone catches hold of your hand and bows lightly. When it comes to meeting someone older, then just a bow is deemed appropriate. People also say “xin chao” often, which is sort of a greeting yet can mean something different in different contexts. However, if you can master its pronunciation and greeting, you’ll be regarded highly among the local populace.

South Korea

In south Korea, you bow first and then depending on your relationship, shake hands with the other person. If you really respect someone, or want to show your cordiality, then keep your left hand under your right forearm, as if you’re supporting it. It is a gesture of respect to the other person.

Come to TEFL MADRID now! and enroll in one of our TEFL courses, we will help you find a job you will love anywhere in Asia.

Exam Madrid Team
Exam Madrid Team
Articles: 134

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