Lesson: Cross Cultural Greetings

Lesson: Cross Cultural Greetings
Audience: ESL / EFL learners; teenage through adult
Level: Beginner / Intermediate
Time: 45 to 60 minutes
Printable Link: Google Doc


Greetings very from culture to culture, and from person to person. Through this lesson, your students will practice their English language skills by describing how people greet one another in their various cultures and cultural situations.


  • Students will practice their English Language skills, including their skill in speaking, reading and writing, to increase fluency;
  • Students will express thoughts and sentiments that lie outside of their normal conversation range so as to push their language development.

Activity 1: Famous Greetings (from American media)
Time: 6 minutes

Prepare to show the group a YouTube video compilation of “famous greetings from Cinema, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEyGhSWwfC8. This video is about four minutes long. When your group is ready to watch, ask them (before showing the video) to pay attention to the many kinds of ways that people greet one another.

What do they notice? How do greetings differ based upon situation? Ask these questions as follow-up, and then move into the second activity.

Activity 2: Introductions in America
Time: 5-10 minutes

Go around the room quickly. Ask each student to try to come up with a way to greet someone in English. No person may use a greeting that a person before them has used. Examples: “Hello”, “Hi”, “Howdy”, “Yo!”, “What’s up”, “Word”, “Greetings!”, “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”.

Ask your students: In which situations are different greetings used? Can anyone think of a greeting they use with one person or population, and not with another person or population? An example: “Yo!” might be used with friends, but “Good morning” might be used with a teacher or adult with whom one is not well acquainted.

Prepare your learners to move into the next scenario, in which you will ask them about the ways that people greet one another in their own country. In this next section, the goal is to engage your learners as much as possible (to get them talking).

Activity 3: Describe greetings of one’s own culture and country
Time: ~15 minutes

Move around the room; you may, at option, ask everyone to respond either verbally and/or in written form. If in written form, ask your learners to also (try) to sketch their greeting on a piece of paper. While unconvention, it’s also fun (and funny)!

Questions to ask of your learners:

  • What are some of the greetings in your own country and/or culture?
    When are the greetings used?
  • What should outsiders know about whom to greet, when, and how?
  • Are there any things that outsiders should never do when greeting someone for the first time?
  • Examples:
    • Never greet someone (or give someone) your left hand in Saudi Arabia; this hand is considered unclean.
    • In Mexico, people who are familiar with one another may greet one another with a kiss on one cheek.

Activity 4: Reading and critiquing
Time: 20 minutes

Ask your students to load Greetonomy on a device of their choice. Using the site, they should select one of the greetings to read more about. While reading, ask them to identify words they may not know. They can look up definitions for words using a dictionary in the room, or using their devices. This is an essential skill to learn!

When finished, ask for their reactions. What did the entry make them consider, or think about?

Activity 5: Homework – Create a video case study

Let’s finish with some humor! As an example of the way (not to) greet someone with a cheek kiss – perhaps some of you have seen this – show your learners this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwe5KDJYxTM

So, what’s the right way to greet someone in your country? Create a very, very short sketch video to show at class next time. Yes, embarrassing, but oh-so-funny!