How to (physically) say goodbye to people from different cultures

In the past, I found myself embarrassed because don’t know how to say goodbye to someone, and it happened a lot of times.

If you travel a bit you know that people say hello, bye and goodbye in a different manner depending on their culture.


I’ll give you a few examples:

  • In the south of Italy, men kiss on the cheeks in every occasion, doesn’t matter if they are very close or not. They don’t do that just on very formal occasions or for the first time they met (and sometimes even in these cases they do). Among women and women with men, they give a kiss in both cheeks.
  • In the north of Italy men shake hands on formal occasions or if they don’t see each other on a daily basis and women give a single kiss on one cheek. Men and women give a kiss on one cheek as well.
  • In Lithuania, men shake hands everytime they saw (once a day) and on formal occasions, women just say hello or give a fast hug. Between men and women sometimes there’s a hug, but just if they are very close. I saw also kiss on the lips between close friends, after a bit of alcohol 😀
  • In France and Belgium between men, there’s the shake of the hands and sometimes three kisses on the cheeks, depending on the relationship. Among women, there are three kisses on the cheeks, same between men and women.

And so on and on…

Flags countries jason-leung-unsplash.jpg
Every country has a different culture

As you can see is very different and can be tricky guess how to introduce yourself, to say hello or a goodbye in a new country. These are some general kind of greetings but can be different for example with people of different ages or in other particular situations.

In the last two years, I met so many different people from all over the world, and with whom I had a different kind of relationships. From the most superficial one to the deepest possible imaginable.

When you travel you met so many people, someone for just some minutes and someone else for days or weeks. An important thing I understood is how it’s possible to have a very deep relationship with a complete stranger in just a few hours. If you don’t believe me, well, before these travel experiences I had, I thought it was impossible as well, so, I understand you.

Sometimes, also, happen that for you the relationship is more profound than the other person thinks about the relationship with you, or the opposite. When you present yourself there is a shake of hands in most of the cases (not always). So, obviously, the major problems arise when you have to say goodbye to people you have met for some hours, also if you had a very good connection at the moment of the farewell can be difficult guess how the other person wants to do it, because you think “I just met him/her”.

Photo by from Pexels agreement shake hands.jpg

So as you can see there are A LOT of variables: different cultures, people, relationships, and situations.

For all these reasons, I found myself in front of a person and have no idea what to say and do. I hate, like everybody else, these kinds of embarrassing situations. So what to do?

Be natural

After a while, I found my way out of embarrassment, simply and sincerely ask: “I don’t know how people say goodbye in this country” or something like that. Doing this, the other person will feel empathy and probably laugh and smile, a thing that will relax everybody, making everything more natural; and probably she/he will tell you how to do it, too ;). It’s an extremely good solution, especially if you have really no idea what to do.

After, I just started to hug people, at least with people of my age, of any sex. It’s simple and it is accepted in most of the countries and cultures in most of the situations. I do all the time with people who I barely know and people who I have a deep relationship with. Obviously the deepening of the hug change, I give and receive the kind of hugs you’ll never forget because they are so meaningful, and hasty hugs, emotionally meaningless. The only situation I don’t do that is within the workplace, I think.

At the moment I mostly use this last one and try to guess the situation and how to act in consequence of that. It’s rare that I use the asking trick, but maybe I should start again because it was really funny 😀

Another little point is about what to say. Also here, be natural, if you’re brain blocked and have no idea what to say, say it! If you want to say how much you care about her/him, do it, if don’t, after, you’ll regret it.

And remember, leave always with a big smile on your face, also if you’re crying, because who knows, maybe you’ll meet again 😀

What do you think? Do you have other stratagems? Let me know 🙂

Always curious, keep exploring, Wo/a\nder


I believe in credits when I don’t use my things, so here it is. Pictures in order, by:

Geralt on Pixabay

Jason Leung on Unsplash from Pexels


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