Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack
Podcast Number 113 – Greetings in Australia
Greetings are usually a little different from one country to another. What might be considered acceptable and polite in one country may not be considered to be polite in another. In this podcast, I would like to tell you a little about some of the ways Australians greet one another in daily life.
Perhaps the most important greeting is when you meet someone for the first time. In Australia, a handshake is the normal thing to do, both for men and for women, while at the same time looking the person in the eye, smiling and saying – ‘Pleased to meet you’ or ‘Nice to meet you’. A more formal thing to say, and not used very much these days, would be – ‘How do you do’. You might hear this from older people. While this is actually a question, it is not meant to be answered. It’s just an older way of saying that you are pleased to meet them. It would be perfectly acceptable to say in return, ‘How do you do’. Sometimes you are unable to shake someone’s hand because at the time of the introduction, you are busy cooking, cleaning or perhaps doing a messy job. For example, you might be preparing food or have grease on your hands from working on a car, in which case you would say ‘I won’t shake your hand right now, because my hands are not clean’. But importantly, you would then immediately say – ‘Pleased to meet you’. It would be considered impolite to shake hands if your hands were wet or dirty.
Greetings amongst friends are of course different. Amongst most Australian men, a handshake is also the way male friends and acquaintances will greet each other whenever they catch up, and also sometimes when they leave after their catch up. This has become quite common today, although when I was young I don’t recall using it so much.
A point about the handshake for men – most Australian men have been taught (me included) to shake another man’s hand with firmness, rather than a soft or limp hand. The idea is that it conveys a strong character and a sincere greeting. However, obviously it should not be so firm that it hurts the other person. This is especially important when shaking the hand of a women, where it would be more appropriate for a man to have a softer handshake.
When Australian women meet as friends, it is very common for them to politely embrace while kissing each other just once on the right cheek. Often this becomes only a slight touch of the two cheeks rather than a proper kiss. Of course when two women friends are really close and they haven’t seen one another for a long time, the embrace might be more vigorous and be called a proper hug, in which case the kiss on the cheek is sometimes omitted.
When an Australian man catches up with a woman friend or acquaintance, it is usual to give a polite embrace and a kiss on the right cheek. I find it interesting that, while men would shake each other’s hand, the man’s greeting to a woman friend is different. But I think this is changing, especially amongst younger Australian men. I have noticed in the last few years that young male friends will not only shake hands but will also give what is called a ‘man hug’. It starts with a handshake but progresses to half a hug, generally with the left hand reaching around the right shoulder of the other person and giving a pat on the back and lightly touching your chest up to the chest of your friend. I notice that my youngest son does this with his close friends and I must say, it feels sort of special when I give him this type of handshake and half hug which I have started doing recently. Of course, women have always been into this hugging business, so I think it is great that men are now also showing more outward affection for their male friends.
Also of interest are the greetings which Australians give when they are out walking for recreational purposes on say a hiking track, next to a roadway or on a suburban footpath. The key point here is that the walkers are doing recreational walking. These greetings don’t seem to apply in other types of walking or other situations. This recreational walking seems to bring with it an expectation that you will greet strangers who are doing the same thing. Not to greet someone can be seen as being unfriendly, although not every Australian takes this view. I have quite a bit of experience in recreational walking and I must admit to feeling a little rejected if someone fails to give me eye contact and greet me when I am out walking. After all, life is too short not to be friendly whenever you get the opportunity, even to strangers.
Let’s assume you are out for your morning or evening walk and there is another walker or a couple coming in the other direction, obviously also out for a recreational walk. The first thing that happens as you approach the other person is that you get eye contact. As you pass, you will smile and use one of several typical greetings, such as ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘G’day’, ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Evening’ or sometimes just ‘Morning’ or ‘Evening’. There is no correct way to greet somebody in this situation, so any of these greetings, or any other polite greeting, will be fine. Some people even like to make a quick comment about the weather. For example, some people might say ‘Great day for it’, meaning the weather is perfect for walking.
While Australians have certain greetings, the overriding point is that you should approach the greeting in a positive and friendly way. That way, even if you say something which is unusual or not expected, the fact that you are positive and friendly will be obvious and will hopefully help build a friendly atmosphere.
If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. Or, you can send me an email at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you. Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my Slow English podcast. I will write back to you, in English of course. If you would like to take a short quiz to see if you have understood this podcast, you will also find it on my website. Goodbye until next time.
Podcast 113 Quiz - Did you understand the podcast?
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Question 1 of 10
True or False? – One of the most common ways to meet someone for the first time in Australia is to make eye contact, smile, shake their hand and say ‘Pleased to meet you’.Correct
Question 2 of 10
True or False? – ‘How do you do’ is an older way to introduce yourself to someone.Correct
Question 3 of 10
True or False? – If your hands are wet, it is impolite to shake someone’s hand when you first meet them.Correct
Question 4 of 10
True or False? – Male friends in Australia will usually shake hands when they meet to catch up.Correct
Question 5 of 10
True or False? – Rob thinks it is fine to shake hands softly with a man when he meets him.Correct
Question 6 of 10
True or False? – Women in Australia usually embrace and do not often kiss each other on the cheek.Correct
Question 7 of 10
True or False? – Younger men in Australia will often use a man hug to greet their male friends.Correct
Question 8 of 10
True or False? – When out recreational walking, it is usual to give friendly eye contact with others also recreational walking.Correct
Question 9 of 10
True or False? – When greeting strangers while recreational walking, it is okay to use any expression as long as it is positive and friendly.Correct
Question 10 of 10
True or False? – Rob believes that greeting strangers while out walking is very important.Correct
acceptable = when people accept or agree with something
acquaintances = people you know who are not really friends
actually = really
affection = when you like somebody and you show it
amongst = between
approach = (here) the way you plan to do something
approach = to go towards someone
appropriate = correct, right
assume = you imagine something
atmosphere = the overall feeling
catch up = when friends meet
character = (here) the good or bad things about a person’s personality
cheeks = the side of your face
close = near
considered = thought to be
conveys = sends a message
couple = (here) two people, usually a man and a woman
dirty = has dirt on it
expectation = you think that something will happen
experience = when you have done something before
eye contact = when two people look at each other
firmness = how strong something is
formal = (here) when things are done according to strict rules used by officials
grease = a thick black or brown liquid used in a motor of a car or truck
handshake = when each person puts forward their right hand and shakes the right hand of someone else – a way to show friendship and respect
hiking = walking for fun and for fitness away from the town or city
hug = when you put your arms around another person to show love or affection
hurts = feels pain or causes pain
immediately = straight away, now
impolite = unfriendly
introduction = when you meet someone for the first time
kissing = using the lips to touch another person, to show affection
limp = when something is not strong and can easily bend
male = men and boys are males, women and girls are females
messy = not clean
not meant = (here) not required to be, not designed to be
noticed = seen
obviously = when something can be easily seen or understood
omitted = left out
opportunity = when you can choose to do something
overriding = the main or most important
pat = to touch with your hand in an up and down movement
perfectly = (here) fully
point = (here) a piece of information
polite = friendly, nice
proper = correct
purposes = the reason you do something, your goal or objective
recall = remember
recently = not very long ago
recreational = just for fun (not part of your job or work)
rejected = when someone says no
several = many
sincere = true
situations = when something is happening
soft = when something is not strong or hard
sort of = (here) very
suburban = is located in a suburb of a city or town
typical = something that you see many times
view = (here) opinion
vigorous = when something is done strongly or actively
wet = has water on it
working on a car = repairing a part of a car