Al-Salam Aleekum. This is how we begin to greet people in our culture, translating to “peace be upon you.” The way people greet each other differs from one culture to another. Even within the same culture, there are different ways to greet people. These ways differ in regards to age, gender, and relationship to one another.
When focusing specifically to the Qatari culture, each house or family member has his or her own way of saying hello. Within my nuclear family, the way I greet my family members is very informal, and is different every time. This differs when greeting others. For example, personally, I usually answer phone calls saying “Al-Salam Aleekum” instead of hello. However, in face-to-face communication, the way I greet a person that is my age is different than an elderly person. Out of respect, we kiss the head of those elderly people of the same gender, even if they are not related to us. However, if they were my female and are my age, I would either shake hands or do the cheek greeting, or even hug them.
Let’s talk about the male/female differences in greetings. It is socially unacceptable and is considered deviant to do the cheek greeting with the opposite gender. If it was any of my brothers, my uncles, or father, then it is socially and religiously acceptable. For other males, I would usually just greet them by eyes or by a handshake, even though handshakes are religiously unacceptable. However, since a lot of people do it now, it is not seen as an act that deviates away from the norms to some people.
Also, it is important to note that we usually greet people differently depending on the occasion or the place we are at, on the people we are with, and on their social status. In weddings for example, it is more formal. Therefore, we usually stick to either the handshake or the cheek. In a birthday party, we usually hug each other, as the place is informal.
Another way of greeting people that is very common in Qatar among the guys is the nose greeting. Men tend to greet each other by the nose. It sounds funny, but it happens a lot here in our culture, and is seen a normal behavior.