View Comments
Prince Charles, right, greets with Tawhiri Karetai with a hongi as part of a traditional Maori welcome during a visit in 2005.
AP Photo Prince Charles, right, greets with Tawhiri Karetai with a hongi as part of a traditional Maori welcome during a visit in 2005.

Globetrotting travellers may come across strange customs to which they might not know how to respond. This can cause embarrassment so it's wise to become familiar with greeting customs before travelling.

To this end, online accommodation website Hotels.com have compiled a list of 10 welcoming customs from around the world.

• Visitors to New Zealand will likely be greeted at some stage by the traditional Maori welcoming custom known as the Hongi. This custom is hundreds of years old and involves the rubbing or touching of noses when two people meet. The nose rubbing is referred to as the 'ha' or 'breath of life' and is said to come from the gods. Once this exchange has taken place the participant is no longer considered a manuhiri or visitor and becomes a tangeta whenua, or one of the people of the land.

• In Tibet the act of sticking out one's tongue is not considered rude but instead is a traditional welcome. During the 9th century a vicious Tibetan king Lang Darma had a black tongue and the people feared he would be reincarnated. They greeted each other by sticking out their tongue to prove they weren't evil. This gesture often includes the person placing their palms down in front of their chest. Hotels.com advises not to use this gesture if you have been eating liquorice.

• On the Polynesian island of Tuvalu, visitors are welcomed with a custom that involves pressing one's face to the other person's cheek and then taking a deep sniff.

• In rural Mongolia, unknown visitors are brought into a home with a hada. This is a piece of silk or cotton and is usually white or light blue or yellow. If presented with a hada the visitor should grasp it with both hands and bow slightly. This custom is an act of mutual respect and is very important in Mongolian culture. In other parts of Mongolia the trading of pipes or snuff boxes is customary to greet visitors.

• Bowing is an important aspect of Japanese culture and is used to welcome guests. A bow can range from a nod of the head to a 90 degree bend at the waist. The longer and deeper the bow, the more respect is being shown. If welcoming takes place on a traditional Japanese tatami floor people are required to get on their knees to bow. A small nod is common with young Japanese people to represent informality and most Japanese don't expect foreigners to know bowing rules so a nod of the head is adequate.

• For the Masai tribe in Kenya, welcoming visitors involves warriors performing a vibrant jumping dance known as the adamu. The dance starts by telling a story then the dancers form a circle and compete to see who can jump the highest. The dance is used to show visitors the strength and bravery of the tribe. A blend of cow's milk and blood is often offered to guests as part of the ceremony.

• In Greenland the Inuit people, or Eskimos, use a kunik especially to greet family and loved ones. This greeting is performed by pressing the nose and upper lip on the other person's cheek. This custom is the original Eskimo kiss where two people rub their noses together. Do not to use this greeting with a runny nose because the Arctic temperatures can cause a person to get stuck to the other's face.

• The Kowtow is a welcome custom from China and involves the folding of hands and bowing. If performed by a woman it is called a wanfu and involves folding the hands then moving them to the side of the body. The kowtow was first performed during the time of Emperor Xuan Yuan during a ceremony or wedding. The kowtow is not common today but the folding of hands is still commonly practiced and respected.

• The wai is a common Thai tradition for welcoming and involves a slight bow of the head and body with one's hands pressed together in a prayer like fashion. The person says 'sawadee' while doing this. The higher hand position is used to show more respect. This custom was originally used to show the absence of weapons and is still widely used in Thailand as a show of respect.

• Visitors to the Philippines will witness a greeting custom between a young person and an older person. The young person will bow slightly and grab the elder's right hand with their right hand. Their knuckles touch the older person's head and the young person says 'mano po'. 'Mano' means 'hand' and 'po' means 'respect'.