EFL / ESL Teaching Tip: Culture Greeting Lesson

Here is a fun culture lesson from one of our trainers, Maria, that you can use to teach cultural greetings to your students.  You  can do it with any level, but it’s really getting the students to learn about greetings, international greetings, and then it leads into American greetings and how they can interact with that.

The first step is to research greetings from around the world; you can choose several countries e.g.  India, Maori tribes (people in New Zealand), etc.  It’s importnt to make them random enough so that your students aren’t familiar with them. 

Secondly, go over the greetings making sure, especially for Beginners, that they understand what the greetings are. It’s fun because some of them are really unknown to them—really different.  One, for example, is you pretend to spit at each other’s feet. You don’t actually spit, but you just give the gestures. Students are oftensurprised by that as being a greeting.

Then, put the countries listed and mix up the greetings.  The students work together  have to match the correct greetings with the  countries that you’ve listed.   

Once that’s done, the students can create their own greetings from their own made up country.  They talk about what they mean or what they think they might mean in this country.

Then that segues into American greetings and how important it is to have a strong firm handshake because often I find that students will shake my hand in kind of a flimsy manner and it’s not intentional! It’s just that they want to be polite, but it’s not something that we do here. And it’s interpreted in a very negative light by many Americans and I think that’s important for them to understand.  So, what I usually do in this case is, after we have done these greetings and they’ve acted out their own country, I have them talk about what they think an American greeting is and I shake their hand. Usually I will have a few where the handshake is kind of ‘flimsy’ and I say, “OK, now let’s do an American handshake.” and I give them a firm handshake and then they notice that difference. Once they have that American firm handshake I ask them to give me that handshake in return and I’ll give them the handshake that they gave me. So then they really are able to see the difference and how it feels for an American receiving that handshake and then they can really understand and are really aware of how important that is.

I think that is a really fun activity for you to do with your students and again you can do it with any level. You can adapt it with any country and it really does segue culture. And something, as American greetings, as simple as a handshake isn’t really taught in the classroom and I think it’s really really important because they are in America and they greet people every day.


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