How to Use Greeting Body Language in Your Writing

Fist bump in an office

How do the characters in your story greet each other? Is there is specific rite or greeting they perform? Do they use words or nonverbal cues?

It may depend on the setting in your story and the culture that surrounds them. If you are creating a new world, you could even invent new ways for your cast of characters to greet each other.

There are many types of greeting body language that people use that your characters can use. We will explore a few types below.


It is said that you can tell a lot about a person through their handshake. Although, that may depend on many factors such as their personality, their mood, and the type of day they are having.

Firm Handshakes

A firm hand grip in a handshake shows confidence.

Limp Handshakes

A limp hand grip shows timidity. Although, many may use a lighter grasp in hopes the receiver will not crush their hand!

Double Grip Handshakes

The double grip handshake where the extender shakes the receiver’s hand while gripping their elbow or encompassing their hands between both of theirs, shows dominance.

However, there are several people, who while shaking the hand of someone they are truly grateful to will encompass the person’s hand in both of theirs to show sincerity.

Extended Handshakes

Extended handshakes where one person makes it difficult for another to end the greeting is also a sign of dominance.

If you pay attention to photographs of politicians, or of people in authority positions, they will take handshake photos with the individuals standing shoulder to shoulder with their arm/hand stretched out across their front to greet the other hand. The dominant person will stand to the left of the other person, shaking with the right hand, so that when they take a picture, it is the back of the hand that appears visible in the picture.


Other greeting signs thought to be a gesture of dominance are shaking another hand with the palm down, whereas the palm up shows submission and the palms sideways show equality.

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High Fives

Another form of greeting through hand body language is the “high five” where two people slap hands in the air, tapping the fronts of fists, or touch as a person walks by another to show acknowledgment.


Other forms of greeting body language show honour, such as the salute where the hand is brought up towards the forehead or a brim of a hat and back down to the side again.

The Military use salutes to show respect to those in higher ranks. The Boy Scouts also have their own special salute.


Bowing can also show honour or it can show appreciation or thanks such as at the end of a performance. In Japan, if you do not bow at a greeting it is disrespectful. Also bowing or a curtsy is common with royalty.

Hugs and Kisses

Hugging and kissing are also other forms of greeting body language. Beware that greeting a person you do not know with a hug or a kiss could wind you up in a world of trouble.

In some cultures, they expect to greet another with a kiss, such as the cheek-to-cheek kiss done in France and in some cultures, it can be socially acceptable and expected to be done by either gender to either gender.

Greeting kisses are short like a peck on the lips or the cheek of another individual. Greeting a friend may involve a hug while administering a kiss to the lips or the cheek. Any kiss of any length and on the lips, with open or closed mouth, a romantic kiss, no longer a greeting.

Secret Greetings

A secret signal passed between individuals to show a type of unity is a type of greeting body language.

For instance, many gangs have a secret handshake ritual or hand gesture used to show their commonality. Grade school children often have their secret little club handshakes as well.

Reading Facial Expressions

When a person approaches another, reading facial expressions can give insight into what the other person is feeling.

A frown would be a good indicator that something is wrong, whereas a tense face with a clenched jaw should indicate that the person is quite upset or angry. A smiling face will suggest that the person is happy to see another whereas a blank facial affect can indicate the person could care less about them or their presence.

Greetings from Other Cultures

Everyone knows waving at another person is a greeting in North America, but different cultures have different greetings. It is best to explore the culture your story exists in so you don’t make inaccurate portrayals. Here are some examples of greetings in other countries.

  • Stick out your tongue (Tibet)
  • Bump noses (Qatar, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates)
  • Air kiss on the cheek (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Latin America, Ukraine, and Québec, Canada)
  • Rub noses (New Zealand)
  • Shake hands (Botswana, China, Germany, Zambia, Rwanda, and the Middle East)
  • Clap your hands (Zimbabwe and Mozambique)
  • Put your hand on your heart (Malaysia)
  • Bow (Cambodia, India, Nepal, Laos, Thailand, and Japan)
  • Sniff faces Greenland and Tuvalu (Oceania)
  • Greeting your elders before younger people (Asia and Africa)
  • Press your hands together and slightly bow (Thailand)
  • A kiss and a slap on the back (Greece)

Greetings from Other Cultures to Avoid

There are greetings we use in North America that are offensive in other countries.

  • Thumbs down (Iran)
  • Backwards peace sign (UK)
  • Pointing with your index finger (Malaysia)
  • The OK sign (Brazil)
  • Touching someone on the head (Thailand)
  • Using your left hand (India and many Middle East countries)
  • Flicking your hand outward, palm up, brushing your chin with your fingertips (Italy)
  • Pointing at the moon (Taiwan)
  • A beckoning motion (Philippines)

Last Words on Greeting Body Language

In this tenth installment of the body language series, we discussed using greeting body language that people use that you could incorporate into your characters.

How do you use body language in your writing? Let me know in the comments. Be sure to come back in the next few weeks for more body language tips for your novel.

Take Care



Feature photo by Tumisu​ from Pixabay.



Body Language Series

Missed any segments in the body language series? You can catch up here:

Body Language

Open and Closed

Aggressive and Defensive


Dominant and Submissive

Relaxed and Ready


Attentive and Evaluative





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