How do you greet people? Maybe you nod at them, maybe you shake the other person’s hand, maybe you bow or do a curtsy. Everyone is different and every culture has different norms regarding greetings.
In Singapore I couchsurfed with a local girl. She was also hosting a girl from the Czech Republic who spent many months, maybe it was years, here in India. When I met her, she put her hands together in front of her chest, smiled, and bowed her head slightly. It was her way of greeting, one I knew was common in India, but one I felt was very awkward and out of place outside of India.
I guess I felt awkward because what was I supposed to do? I normally shake hands, but if her hands are both together, I’m left hanging with no way to greet her “my way.” I didn’t feel like it was rude or anything, just awkward.
In Thailand it’s the same. Called a wai, they also greet others by clasping their hands, bowing, and saying “sawasdee.” Sawasdee means “well-being.”
In India, “namaste” is said. Namaste literally means “I bow to you.” The more formal version, namaskar, literally means “I bow to your form.” Both namaste and namaskar stem from the belief that each of us was created by the divine and retain a spark of that divinity. So namaskar is generally said to mean “I salute the divinity within you” and ones’ hands are placed first on the forehead to touch the third eye, and then the chest to touch the heart.
I don’t know about you, but these convey much, much more respect than a nod of the head and saying ‘sup.
Here in India I’ve embraced this style of greeting. And once you get started, it’s easy to feel the power of this greeting. I really feel like I an transmitting much more respect and love by getting people in this way.
Sadly, in India I feel like this style of greeting is dying out in favor of the more “modern” handshake. When I greet Indians with clasped hands and a namaste or namaskar they find it very endearing. Maybe it’s “cute” for them. I don’t know.
I didn’t think I’d adopt the traditional style of greeting so quickly, but I could feel its appeal. I feel like shaking hands, though skin-to-skin contact is made, is much, much more impersonal.
Instead of touching the other person’s hand, I’d rather transmit love, respect, warmth, and salute the divinity within them.