Americans are culturally diverse people. People in America are very friendly and sociable. You can greet any random stranger on the street and they will respond with the same enthusiasm unlike in many countries where people never look at another stranger and greet them randomly.
American greetings are usually informal in social settings. Whether you’re meeting a friend or attending a business conference with a room full of strangers, there will likely be some type of greeting exchanged between you and at least one other person. Pleasantries like “hi, how are you?” are considered proper etiquette. But in most cultures, greetings are much more than that. It’s not just your words, but your body language as well.
It is not unusual for young Americans to hug you when you greet them.
Greeting rules you should comply with when you are in America or meet an American
- Smile. Smiles are basic signals of politeness, a non-verbal way of being friendly.
- Handshakes are usually brief. Firm handshakes are appreciated and show confidence rather than light handshakes.
- Eye contact is important when shaking someone’s hand.
- Americans like their personal space and stand about 2 feet apart when talking. Physical touching when in a conversation usually makes Americans uncomfortable.
- American greetings are generally quite informal. This is not intended to show a lack of respect, but rather a manifestation of the American belief that everyone is equal.
- While being introduced you should stand. Only the elderly, the ill and physically unable persons remain seated while greeting or being introduced.
- It is good to include some information about a person you are introducing. Example: “Daine Riggenbach, I’d like you to meet Scott Barnden. He designed the brochure we are using for this campaign.”
- Use professional titles when you are introducing people to each other. Example: “Dr. Richard Harisson, meet lawyer John Catherine Crawley.” If you are introducing yourself, you need not add a professional title.
- Although it is expected in business situations, some Americans do not shake hands at social events. Instead, they may greet you with a casual “Hello” or “How are you?” or even just “Hi.” In larger groups, many may not greet you at all. In social situations, Americans rarely shake hands upon leaving.
- The only proper answers to the greetings “How do you do?” “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” are “Fine,” “Great,” or “Very well, thank you.” This is not a request for information about your well-being; it is simply a pleasantry.
What Americans generally do
- Most people shake hands firmly and briefly when they meet for the first time or in a formal situation.
- When people are good friends or family, they will sometimes hug each other to say hello.
- Kissing as a greeting, however, is usually only done between relatives and close friends (on the cheek) or between lovers (on the lips).
- A common greeting between male friends is the fist pump. Although the fist pump is most common among teenage boys grown men do it as well. There are various takes on this, including the fist pump and hand explosion. Fist pump between a male and a female is rare though.
- Americans generally use first names in initial introductions.
- When meeting people, Americans often describe themselves by their occupation.
It is very common in the US that if you see a person and make the eye contact when you are walking down the street or anywhere in a building, or in closed public places, it is very common to say a friendly phrase:
“ Hi! How are you doing?”
Typically you smile and then say the phrase. This is a very common and most important way to greet people. Irrespective of if you know the person or not, you always ask the person “How are you doing?” It is common etiquette in America. If you are a student, you greet the professor in the same way but add ‘Professor’ before.
If you do not say, “How are you doing or smile”, you just nod the head down just as a gesture to acknowledge the other person. You may say “Hi” and then nod the head down. In other cultures, you may not say Hi to random people on the street and it is socially considered intruding someone’s personal space, but in the US it is very common and it is the way you do it.
Few other ways to greet people in the USA:
“Hey! What’s up?” or “What’s up man?”
It is very common to say “What’s up?” Other countries are picking up the western lingo and most of the students know this.
If you know the person or if the guy is close to you, you may say
“Hey, Dude! What’s up?”
You may continue the conversation if you know the person by basic questions like,
- “How are things with you?”
- “How is life treating you, buddy?”
- “How is work?”
If you greet someone, they would respond
“I am fine, Thanks! How are you doing?”
People use Thanks or Thank you a lot here in the US. It is common etiquette to thank someone.
Therefore, people in America are very casual and greeting etiquette plays a big role in the US. So don’t be surprised if you meet an American and you’re unaware of their greeting system. These were some tips and ways to understand American’s system of greetings and hope they will be useful for you to apply them and understand them better in order to create a harmonious relationship.