Global Handshakes – What You Need To Know

While you may be familiar with the use of a handshake for business meetings or when introducing yourself to people, others around the globe from different cultures and identifies may have other customs that are different from yours. Therefore, in a global economy, it is important to understand about different customs around the world. Let’s take a closer look at how to greet others in different countries.


The traditional Western handshake is not used in some regions in Asia, while in others, it is now used in business settings in particular.

Bangladesh, Pakistan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka

In these nations, you can expect to find handshakes, particularly in the business world, however, the handshake itself may not feel as firm as you are used to. When shaking hands, giving gifts or receiving anything from others, do not use your left hand as this is customarily not used. Instead, always lead with your right hand.


In India, however, any kind of physical contact between men and women is avoided unless between close family members – this tradition comes from the Hindu culture. Instead, a greeting often used in the country is the phrase Namaste, which is said while placing the palms of both hands together in front of the chest. While you say Namaste, a slight bend of the head is also expected.


Japan mainly greet others with a traditional bow, perhaps sometimes with a very light handshake if in the business world. If you are bowed at during an introduction, it is expected that you bow back, as this is seen as good manners and a sign of respect.

South America

In many countries throughout South America, individuals may hug each other as a greeting, known as an abrazo. Additionally, it is common for women to kiss each other on the cheek. This commonly occurs in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia. Within the business world, men will often shake hands with a firm handshake and brief eye contact.

In Brazil, handshakes are more likely to linger, and women may air kiss. You may also notice that people stand closer together when talking, with less personal space.

United States

Within the States, handshakes are used often and are expected within the business field. There is no difference between genders here, with men and women offering handshakes first.

European Countries

In most European countries, women instigate greetings in social or business settings if the interaction is between the sexes. Handshakes are common, with most European countries having a light handshake with eye contact. These include Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France. However, in France and Italy, you may also receive a kiss on the cheek or top of the hand as a standard greeting.

Firmer handshakes are used in the Scandinavian countries, as well as Austria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland. In Germany, in particular, ensure both hands are out of the pockets as this is the high of rudeness in their eyes.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom does not see itself as European and certainly do not include a kiss on the cheek as their main way of greeting people. A light handshake is standard within business, but at social events, it may not be as commonly used. When it comes to gender, generally, a man will follow a woman’s lead when it comes to greetings.

The Middle East and Africa

Arab countries

Within many of the Arab countries in the idle East and North Africa, men and women will not interact closely unless they are family. Men may shake hands lightly or kiss each other on both cheeks, but it is best to follow the locals’ lead in this situation. Businesswomen who have spent time in the West may instigate a handshake, but again, follow their lead.


Nigeria is renowned for having a large number of different ethnic groups, so traditions vary across the country. A general rule would be to look for the most senior person in the room to initiate a greeting.

South Africa

South Africans tend to be comfortable around each other and are talkative and friendly. They use handshakes often when greeting each other, alongside friendly backslaps.

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