Gestures of Welcome from Around the World
May’s Curiosity of the Month brings us around the world and introduces us to the unique gestures of welcome in various countries. Join us in this learning adventure!
Vocabulary to Share with Learners
(words are bolded throughout)
Beverage: a liquid for drinking.
Ceremony: a formal act or event that is a part of a social or religious occasion.
Custom: an action or way of behaving that is usual and traditional among the people in a particular group or place.
Generous: freely giving or sharing money and other valuable things.
Gesture: a movement of your body (especially of your hands and arms) that shows or emphasizes an idea or a feeling.
Hospitality: generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.
Muslim: a person whose religion is Islam.
Reincarnation: the idea or belief that people are born again with a different body after death.
Toast: an occurrence in which words are said that honor someone, express good wishes, etc., and people take a drink to show that they agree with what has been said.
Tradition: a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time.
How would you welcome someone if they came to visit your house? Would you offer them something to drink? Ask them to make themselves comfortable in your living room? Play them your favorite song? Make them a meal? Offer the guests a bouquet of flowers?
There are many ways to greet guests and welcome them into your home. People of different cultures do this in different ways. In Our Minnesota Community: A Big Shared World Activity Book, Nessib and his wife Kassech welcome guests with coffee that they prepare through a special ceremony. “An invitation to attend a coffee ceremony is considered a mark of friendship or respect and is an excellent example of Ethiopian hospitality.” The ceremony can take several hours, but it is meant to be a relaxing and pleasurable experience that will give you plenty to see (ornate dispenser and cups), smell (roasting beans) and hear (conversation!).
Today we are going to look at several welcome customs of cultures around the world.
If you were a guest in India you might be greeted by a floral carpet called a rangoli. This special and beautiful carpet is often found in the entrance of homes in India is meant to honor guests.
If you were a guest in China, yours hosts will offer you the dinner seat with the best view (often looking out a window) and also give you the best selection of food. China has a tea tradition that goes back over 3,000 years. It is likely that during your visit you would be offered a cup of the important drink. They may even say a toast in your honor.
If you were a guest in Kazakhstan you might be served black tea and a loaf of warm bread. You might even be treated to a special tea ceremony. Hospitality is very important to the Muslim people in Kazakhstan so you will definitely be treated well. Your host, in return for the food and beverage they have given you, may ask you to sing or play a song to entertain all that have gathered.
If you were a guest in Tibet, your host will probably greet you by sticking out his or her tongue! Many people in this country believe in reincarnation. A long time ago monks in this country would show they come in peace by revealing their flesh colored tongue to prove that they were not the reincarnation of a cruel king known to have a black tongue. The welcoming ritual spread and is now commonly used today as a way to say “hello and welcome.”
Ancient Greeks believed that turning away visitors would result in some kind of punishment from the Gods. Therefore they hand out invitations generously. If you are a guest in Greece, do not be surprised to be invited to stay late or join the family for their next event.
Russians often greet guests in their home with a beverage and a toast in their honor. Guests will also likely be served bread and salt. This may seem like an odd combination, but in ancient Russia, these foods symbolized prosperity and health, and by offering guests these foods, Russian hosts are wishing them well.
Brazillians wish for their guests to be relaxed and comfortable and provide a casual environment for people who visit their home. They will often offer guests a cup of cafezinho, black coffee. If you attend a Brazilian dinner, be prepared to talk a lot, before, during and after the meal, as this culture views meals as a social event! If you wish to say thank you for their hospitality, a gift of chocolate or flowers is always appreciated.
If you are a new guest or a cordial friend of a Mongol you should feel very special if presented with a hada, a light colored strip of silk or cotton. This scarf or ceremonial sash is an outward sign of respect. Hosts often serve milk tea and a plate of cheese, bread and cookies. Yum!
If you are adventurous enough to travel to Kenya, the Maasai will welcome you with a dance! It is called adamu, the jumping dance. This welcoming gesture starts with the telling of a story and end with dancers jumping in a circle. Everyone tries to jump the highest! Through this dance the Maasai want to show their visitors that they are strong and brave. After the dance, visitors are served a cup of a mixture containing cow’s milk and blood. Check out this video showing both women and men’s versions of this welcoming song and dance.
Thank you for traveling around the world with us today as we discovered different ways people welcome guests into their home. We hope you learned a lot and inspired you to be kind and generous to those you meet, no matter where they come from!
Here is how you say welcome in 7 different languages!
Czech – Vítej
Danish – Velkommen
Fench – Bienvenue
Hmong – Zoo siab txais tos!
Portuguese – Bem-vindo
Spanish – Bienvenido
Swahili – Karibu
Find more at: Omniglot
Questions for Discussion
- How do you welcome guests into your home?
- What did you learn about gestures of welcome?