Offices & Resources

Introductions, Greetings, and Personal Space

It is customary and expected that when you are introduced to someone you will shake hands them, this applies to both men and women. If you are uncertain, you can wait to see if someone extends a hand to you and you can then respond. An appropriate response to an introduction is “It’s nice to meet you.” If you want to introduce yourself to someone, extend your right hand for a handshake and say “Hello, my name is...” Some Americans greet each other with a hug if they are well acquainted. If you do not wish to be hugged, extend your hand quickly for a handshake.

People may also say, when introduced, “How are you?” The common responses are: “Fine thank you and how are you”, or “I am well, how are you?” When Americans part they might say “good-bye” or they might say “see you soon” or “see you later.” This does not necessarily mean that there is an intention to see you again; rather it is another way of saying “good-bye.”

The average personal distance varies from culture to culture. Americans tend to require more personal space than in other cultures. If you try to get too close to an American during your conversation, he or she will feel that you are “in their face” and will try to back away. Try to avoid physical contact while you are speaking, since this may lead to discomfort. Touching is a bit too intimate for casual acquaintances. Don’t put your arm around their shoulder, touch their face, or hold their hand.