Often times I notice a very awkward greeting between two people, and occasionally I myself end up being on one of the sides of the incident.
Usually when this happens, I immediately notice one thing, the two people who have an awkward moment like that tend to have very different mannerisms, accents, and even physical features. I am not just talking about skin, hair, and eye color either. Even people with extremely opposite fashion sense sometimes have different ways of greeting and so their “styles” clash.
It is almost difficult to watch when two people meet each other and one of them goes in for a hug and the other one just stands there with a puzzled look on their face. After I ended up doing that a few times, I adopted a general philosophy, I only say “hello” and do a quick wave unless I am well acquainted with the person or if I notice them wanting to hug me or greet me in a different way, and I try to respond wholeheartedly. I think it is a compliment to me if someone wants to greet me with a hug or whatever it is that is common to them or common in their culture.
I was actually searching for some answers about this, using Google, and I did come across a few interesting and generally helpful sites. There are also videos that show cultural greetings and issues that come up with cross cultural meetings. As helpful as these may be it is always a better idea to ask someone. For example, if you know someone who’s from Japan, or who has been to Japan, just ask them, what is the right way to greet a Japanese person.
I always hate doing the wrong thing when I meet someone, especially when it’s for the first time, or if it’s in a formal or business setting. For those of you who share this hatred with me, I hope this helps to some extent.