First impressions are often shaped by the way we say hello, but the preferred method of greeting can vary widely across different regions and generations. A recent survey conducted by language-learning platform Preply sheds light on Americans’ diverse perspectives on greetings, revealing intriguing insights:

  • Preference for Distance: The majority of respondents (60%) express a preference for maintaining a certain level of physical distance when greeting strangers, with handshakes being the most favored gesture. Additionally, 47% of participants indicated that they prefer to greet with a smile, highlighting the significance of non-verbal cues in initial interactions. Notably, 20% of Americans admitted to feeling uncomfortable with physical contact when meeting someone for the first time.
  • Regional Contrasts: The survey identified notable regional differences in greeting customs. States such as Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Louisiana were deemed the most welcoming, while Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Missouri ranked lower on the friendliness scale. Interestingly, South Dakotans tend to prefer avoiding interaction with strangers altogether, whereas Delaware residents resort to simulating a phone call to sidestep greetings.
  • Generational Variances: Greetings preferences also diverge across generations, with distinct comfort levels regarding physical contact. Baby boomers, for instance, exhibit a higher propensity for hugging as their preferred greeting, while Gen X individuals express the least comfort with physical touch. Surprisingly, nearly 30% of Gen Z respondents find physical contact awkward, opting to feign a phone call to evade greetings. Millennials, on the other hand, typically opt for handshakes in greeting scenarios.
  • COVID-19 Impact: The ongoing pandemic has influenced attitudes towards physical contact, with over a quarter of respondents from a Fast Company-Harris Poll expressing a willingness to forgo handshakes permanently.

Language expert Sylvia Johnson underscores the importance of recognizing cultural and individual differences in greeting customs, emphasizing that diverse communication styles contribute to the richness of interpersonal interactions. Ultimately, the way we greet one another reflects the intricacies of human connection, transcending linguistic barriers and enriching our social experiences.

By Impact Lab