As the COVID-19 is spreading, Western contact greeting like handshaking or hugging are considered as a risk factor. So, people around the world are changing to lower-risk gestures such as foot bumps and air high-fives. But actually, in some cultures, non-contact greetings already exist and are the result of deeply rooted traditions.
1.The ‘Wai’ in Thailand
The Wai is the standard greeting across Thailand. It involves a gentle bow of the head with your hands pressed together in front— influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism. The history of the Wai also comes from the greeting to show that you are very open, you do not carry any kind of weapon, and you come in peace. In addition, the Wai can be used to worship, to apologies, and even to beg for something. The meaning of Wai is flexible. Normally, Thai people Wai and follow by saying ‘Sawatdee Kha’ or ‘Sawatdee Krab’ (depending on your gender). It is a polite ways of greeting. When you need to show more respect to someone, you can bow deeper and place your hands higher, for example, placing your hands at chest level for a standard greeting; face level for a colleague, elder, or a superior; hairline level for a monk. And since the Wai doesn’t require contact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the Thai wai as an acceptable alternative ways of greeting.
2.‘Namaste’ from India to Nepal
“Namaste” originally comes from India and Nepal. It is similar to Thai Wai with your hands pressed together in front, but do not require much bowing of the head. The history dates back several thousands of years, it came from the Sanskrit term meaning “bend or bow to you”. You will bow the head slightly while doing Namaste to another person to signify that ‘the divine within you bows to the same divine within that person you greet.’ It is considered to be a sign of respect and gratitude. However, these days, the symbol of Namaste can be seen in Western pop culture. For example, it is unceremoniously plastered on bags, T-shirts, beer, or yoga classes.
3.Bowing in Japan
Bowing is a normal greeting way in Japan. It has been the symbol of humility for more than a thousand years. Bowing was introduced to Japan in the seventh century. It was initially confined to the noble class and became more prominent among the samurai warrior class from around the 12th century. It didn’t permeate the commoners’ class until the 17th century. And now bowing is the most widely recognized non-verbal greeting of Japan. The degree you bend communicates your message, for example, to say hello, you should be bent from the hips about 15 degrees, to honor someone superior or to greet a client, 30 degrees, and to show your deepest sorrow, respect, or apologies, 45 degrees.
4.Cup and clap in Zambia
Shaking hands is commonplace in Zambia. But you can also communicate without physical contact by doing ‘Cup and Clap’. To say a simple hello, cup your hands together and clap a couple of times while saying “Muli Bwanji” (means “hello,” used any time of the day) or “Mwaka Bwanji” (means good morning). To be more formal, you can squat down low and clap in this position. Lowering your body while greeting conveys greater respect. If you want to greet elders, you can place a hand on your chest and stomach and bend your legs slightly, almost in a curtsy. Although, Zambia is home to more than 70 ethnic groups, these gestures are passed down through the generations and understood by all Zambians, from rural villagers to business people in cities.