Saturday, June 13, 2009

Greetings of Different Cultures

It's been a while since I last blog. School is starting again in 2 days time. Time really flies fast. Anyway, I was reading today's newspaper The Star. There is a section that talked about how different cultures greet people and often, other culture might uncomfortable by the way they are greeted.

We all know that although Earth might be a small world but there varies of cultures that many of us do not know. There some popular cultures like India and Japan and there are also many remote places where cultures still stand strong despite being in this modern century. It is not which country you come from that based on how you greet people but your cultures. For example: In Malaysia there are 3 main races which are Malay, Chinese and Indian. The Malay would salam when they meet each other while the Chinese usually shake hands or bow down slightly as a respect for the elderly.

Muslims have a way of greeting people. But they have their boundaries too. If they are related, the Muslims would salam their guests as they say assalam mu'alaikum which means may peace be upon you. Salam means the way by greeting someone by taking their hands and bring your forehead down to touch their hands. Although that is the way how Muslims greet their guests but they are not allowed to salam any opposite sex who are not in their blood line. To many non - Muslims, they would ask, Why? The truth is I have no answer it to myself but in the al-Quran, God has stated in there.

But everyone feels in the need to greet someone you meet, right? That time when some relatives came over, my dad salam his male cousins but when it came to their wives, my dad just nod at them and smiled. In return, they smiled back and nodded. So that is how it is done. But for the young kids who has not reach maturity, they are still allowed to salam anyone including opposite sex in the sign of respecting the older people.

There some people who greet each other by kissing on the cheeks, air kissing or a hug. For the Europeans, Eurasians and Latinos, kissing on the cheek have been the way of greeting people whether they are young or old, man or woman. It is a sign of showing 'I'm very please to meet you'. I remembered once I was strolling in a mall in Malaysia and was eating at a local restaurant where all the customers were local. Then, appeared a couple Caucasians who came in and went up to the table where a couple of Malays were seated. The Malay couple stood up and smiled at them. The Caucasians couple said a friendly 'hello' and lean in and kiss them on both cheeks. I saw everyone in the restaurant staring at them with widened eyes. You see, it is not our culture to greet someone like that but I was okay with it. The Malay lady looked a little taken back but settled down and they started chatting happily. But in other ways, an unmarried person shouldn't have a direct contact greeting to a married person. It is nothing sensitive but that is how is done. When you come to think of it, it may sound silly.

When I was studying in a Chinese school, respecting others is a must. No matter how much you despise your teachers, you have to greet them like your own parents. I remembered everytime any teacher comes in, everyone would rise up. Then, the class monitor would say, 'Rise, everyone. Bow.' We bow down to our teacher and say 'Good morning,...' But we were not allow to sit until the teacher says we can. It may sound harsh but it made me the person I am today who would not tolerate anyone who is disrespectful. Even right now in a government school, we still greet our teachers except that we don't bow to them like the Chinese school does but I still wish I could bow. Why? Well, let's say I respect them very much for killing their time to teach us and spend their time marking our papers when we, students go for vacations - even though I don't like some of my teachers.

The Chinese have another way of greeting people. The older you are, the higher ranking 'name' you'll get. Right now, everytime I meet my Chinese family, I have to greet each and every one with different titles. For example: Grandpa, Grandma, Big Uncle, Small Uncle, Sixth Auntie, Master Shang...etc. It doesn't sound as bombastic as it is because I'm translating them. But if it's in Chinese, you'll get what I mean. When the Chinese meet other people, the most common way to greet is by shaking hands. Very formal. Followed by the names of the guests but if they don't know their names, they would say 'Hello, Mr./Miss.'

The way we greet here is simple by saying 'Assalam mua'laikum dan selamat sejahtera' which means May Peace Be Upon You to my Muslim friends and Good Day to my non - Muslim friends. Nobody knows who came with it or how it came about but I believe it's because we understand each other difference and instead of building a wall between us, we built a bridge that connected us.

Whether it's a hand shake, a hug, kiss on the cheek or a simple 'hi', I think everyone can accept the way they are greeted as long both parties can accept it. Every time I see my friends, I would hi or give them a hug. As for my male friends, I would smiled and say hi to them which even them - non Muslims are able to understand why. But instead of asking why, they just continue to be my friends which is more than I could ask.

But everytime before I go to a foreign country for a vacation, I'll google the country to find their culture and customs. I prefer not to do anything that might offend them in any ways. But to me, a warm hello and a happy smile are the perfect greeting to other cultures.


Shanya said...

Yes i am FIRST! after a long time hehehe! btw QM i read th epost to and like it says gosh its complicating but one thing everyone around the world can share is a hello! RORY's so need to learn this fact!

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Assalam mu'alaikum! I know we're of opposite sex and not blood line, but hey - I'm greeting my Muslim young lady friend with the traditional blessing salutation anyway. Shoot me. :)

Wonderful post and life observation, QM. I think if more people would take time to investigate cultural and religious backgrounds and practices and learn to adapt and respect each others' customs more, this would be a far better world to live in, eh?

Did I tell you my daughter is a converted Muslim? Yep. So I have a Christian wife and one daughter who is a Christian, a son who follows the Way of Buddha, and I myself am a non-religious "spiritual" or "Gnostic" Christian with a strong background in Zen Buddhism.

In the end we're all the same, and there is only One God - all these different religions and interpretations of God should not leave us hating and killing each other. We should love and respect each others' beliefs and customs.

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

Angelynn said...

: ) Hello! Wonderful subject. You are a bridge that connects...and this is a role that more of us should take...young/older
rich/poor, religious, cultural, and male/female differences are so small...compared to what we share... let's celebrate our differences and not all the superficial stuff that separate's us.
Build a bridge...not a fence.
Love and Light my friend.

QM said...

Yeah! I wish people would stop wars that happened just because of different religions and different cultures. It is stupid, honestly.

But I believe God made us different on the outside for a reason. We just have to find that right reason and none of this idiotic racism things would be happening.

A. K. said...

Wow! THat was informative. I guess you must have spend quite sometime researching.

In India, people touch they feet of the elders while greeting them, that is in respect.. While people of same sex normally hug or shake hands.

A. K. said...

Amen to Marvin's comment. In the end there is only one god. The only difference is the way we call our god and the way we worship. But there is really only one GOd. Why cant we just get along with everyone.

This is totally an awesome post. i never expected this from someone of you age. I believe that one day you will grow into a very wise women..

Rock On..

Thousif Raza M.B said...

Its great, as simple and as nice as it can be,

i loved the whole but i liked the last para very much, cause nobody takes a special interest in greeting others, but you taking a special interest is truly unique

keep going girl,;)

take care and keep writing.......

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