India – Namaste
The Indian Namaste is probably the first one for everyone to think of. “Namaste” means “I bow to the divine in you”, and is spoken with palms pressed together, eyes closed, and a slight bow of the head.
Japan – Bowing
The Japanese act of bowing also expresses deep respect, and in the business world it has three forms, depending on the hierarchy and level of formality between the people involved.
Eshaku is the first type of bowing: with an inclination of 15°, and eyes fixed on the floor in front of one’s feet it’s the most informal form of bowing, performed between colleagues of the same status, or informal situations, like running into someone on the street.
Keirei indicates a higher level of respect. This is the most commonly performed one, accepted in formal meetings, or greeting one’s superior. It’s a 30° bow, and the eyes are fixed on the ground, but closer to one’s feet.
Saikeirei means “the most respectful gesture”, and it is what it says. It is performed when greeting a very important person, apologizing, or asking for a big favour. The inclination can be as deep as 70°, and when performing it, one is expected to stay still in the position for a longer time.
Tibet – Sticking Out Your Tongue
It might sound very disrespectful after the Japanese bowing, but in Tibet people do greet each other by sticking out their tongue. It expresses respect, and it has its origins in Tibetan folklore: it is said that there was once a cruel Tibetan king, and his tongue was black. So people now stick out their tongue to show that they are not like him, and neither are they his reincarnation.
Malaysia – Salaam
Right hand placed on one’s heart, accompanied by a slight bow.
South Asia – Adaab
Is practiced by Muslims in South Asia, and it implies deep respect and politeness. Hand raised toward one’s face with the palm inward and fingertips close to the forehead, accompanied by a slight bow.
China – Bao Quan Li
Used in China: wrapping one fist in the palm of the other hand, accompanied by a blight bow. It has its origins in martial arts.
Thailand – Wai
Just as Namaste: palm pressed together, and a slight bow. The higher the hands and the lower the bow, the higher respect it represents.
Global And Beyond – Vulcan Salutation
And let’s not forget about Mr. Spock’s greeting, the Vulcan salutation! Hand raised, palm facing out, thumb extended, and fingers parted between the middle and ring finger. Totally safe!